Kelly Bjork’s Serene Spaces Advocate for Mental Health in Queer Communities

Kelly Bjork’s Serene Spaces Advocate for Mental Health in Queer Communities

Mixed-media artist Kelly Bjork creates snug, homey spaces where half-nude figures hide out from the modern world. Created with a combination of paint, pastel, and pencil, the artist’s illustrative figure work focuses on vulnerability, privacy, and small moments of hard-won contentment.

Bjork’s recent series Anima Rising is a visual journal that documents her self-discovery and evolving queerness. Of sharing this work for the first time, Bjork says, “This was a pivotal moment […] where I extended the loving tenderness I give to my subjects to myself, as I depicted awkward moments of self-reflection in intimate and private spaces, becoming a voyeur of my changing identity.”

‘Anima Rising’

Rendered in delicate colors with “selective simplicity,” Bjork’s work is intentionally soothing. The artist uses eggshell white, face-mask green, and fuzzy-blanket blue to create intimate, stripped-down spaces. Emotional wellbeing through intimacy and acceptance remains a touchstone for Bjork, who often creates vignettes of the queer community—a demographic especially susceptible to mental illness. She notes: “Narratives of intimate relationships are important for displaying the peace and support that everyone strives for in their homes and in their heads—peace and support that so often we are lacking. My paintings intend to bring that support in our surroundings.”

Bjork highlights the importance of tending to your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing by depicting moments of relaxation and bliss. Her work “is a means of advocating for mental wellness by acknowledging [her] own struggles with it,” and is a reminder that snippets of serenity are available, even within an increasingly noisy world.

‘Please Don’t Be Surprised if You Find Me Dreaming Too’
‘Wash and Balance Me’
Just Hold Tight, ‘Cause I Love You’
‘The Quiet Principal’
‘Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow’
‘Self-Portrait in Desert Mirror’

Kelly Bjork: Website | Instagram | Purchase Work | Patreon

All photos published with permission of the artist.

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Jenna Eberhardt

Jenna Eberhardt (she/her/hers) is NOT REAL ART’s associate editor. Jenna is a writer and working artist from Asheville, NC, who specializes in watercolor botanicals and dreamy moonscapes. A true night owl, Jenna enjoys a minimum of two cups of coffee per day and isn’t afraid of the dark when she’s up late painting. As a registered yoga instructor with a background in health and wellness, Jenna believes in the brain-boosting power of a regular mindfulness practice, regarding rest and relaxation as a necessary part of the creative process.