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Jade Anderson ’23

Jade Anderson ’23 Explores Inner Struggles Through Paintings to Spark Awareness and Compassion

Jade Anderson has always had dual interests—in art and in helping others.

Taking every art class available in high school, she knew regardless of the path she chose, art would be part of her life.

When choosing a college, she passed on private art schools to attend to Purchase, largely because of her interest in pursuing the sciences in addition to art.

Anderson is now a dual major—working toward a BFA in Painting and Drawing and a BA in Psychology, with a minor in Art History. Her majors merge in the themes she explores in the studio and in the classroom.

Imagining the Everyday

The ordinary subject matter of renowned American realism painter Edward Hopper first piqued her interest in “mundane scenes of daily life.” But her work pushes well past his style of portraying isolation into an area that’s more immediate.

While she wants to “portray people’s everyday lives,” she powerfully depicts the pain and despair of mental health struggles through intense color and oversize scale.

“I always liked portraits of people sprawled out with very exaggerated faces because I wanted realness in the painting. That’s where I started with my themes,” she says. “I kind of branched out into the human experience of what goes on in their mind, and it just naturally went that way.”
Her first foray portrayed a panic attack, followed by a visual expression of sexual abuse. In 2022, her self-described “breakout piece,” an exploration of the difficulty of just getting out of bed, was selected for the Best of SUNY Student Art Exhibition at SUNY Plaza in Albany. The piece comprises three panels and measures 3 by 10 feet, a scale that renders the subjects unavoidable.
Triptych by Jade Anderson '23
She found her time in Junior Studio to be transformative.
“That was the class where you are really pushed to do what you want. I was pushed by my advisors to experiment with what I was doing, or branch out on themes and keep experimenting with the colored figures that I was doing, but push it in some way. So that was probably the standout class for me.”

Living Inspiration

Anderson envisions becoming either an art teacher or art therapist. In a move to help decide which path to take, she spent a summer working in a children’s psychiatric hospital. The experience only solidified her interest in both.

She shadowed an art therapist and helped young people create art as a means to work through issues like depression, substance use, and eating disorders.
“I really liked teaching them how to do the projects, but I also really liked the therapeutic aspect of what it gave to these kids—just doing art and relaxing for an hour.” She found it empowering. “I want to show people that art can be this thing that relaxes you and can bring some peace of mind.”
The stories and struggles of those patients became the inspiration for her work. She also incorporates her own experiences with neuropsychiatric disorders, and those of her peers. Her motivation is empathy and education—to offer solace to others under duress and to encourage viewers to remain mindful of the invisibility of mental health struggles.
“They could be a normally presenting person, but they’re going through three wars in their head,” she says. “I wanted to be able to portray these people’s stories, without saying their names, to show what people are going through. And you need to be sympathetic and aware that people can experience horrible things that can be debilitating.”

Fighting the Fight

Because Anderson is a dual major, not a double major—she’s earning degrees in the School of the Arts and the School of Liberal Arts and Science—she’s required to do two senior projects. But she’s looking forward to both.

For her BA in Psychology, she plans to explore the therapeutic nature of the arts through a research paper.
“I want to talk about how art can help people with emotional distress and disorders that they may need to talk about, but they can’t verbalize.”
Her senior BFA exhibition, I Want to Fight This Fight, will continue her visual expression of mental health issues.
“The title pertains to how mental health can be a battle and how every day, you just have to keep going and you have to keep fighting,” she says. “I want people to look at these pieces and think, ‘You’re not the only one who goes through it.’ And every day you just have to get up and keep going. And fight however you fight.”
Anderson serves as a peer mentor in the School of Art+Design and plans to attend graduate school next year.