Artist Spotlight: Michelle Peek’s Moody Blooms For Mental Health
In honor of Bell Let’s Talk Day, web editor Adena Leigh shares how one photographer is making a difference with her art.
Photographer Michelle Peek‘s breathtaking Moody Blooms for Mental Health prints feature florals on inky backdrops, almost as if the delicate petals are rising above the darkness. Available in her Etsy shop, proceeds from the prints go towards mental health initiatives, including her larger project, Art Not Shame, which “is about creating art in community to help build shame resilience around issues like mental health, body image, and perfectionism” says Michelle. Having lost her 17-year-old brother to depression, Michelle and her family have been raising money for mental health ever since. “This newest initiative is merely an extension of that work,” she says. I spoke with Michelle about where she gets her inspiration and what she hopes her prints will bring to people’s homes.
H&H: Dark florals are a big design trend, and I love how you’ve leveraged them to raise awareness towards mental health. How did you come up with the idea?
M: I had been chatting with a florist friend of mine, Robyn Scott from Blooms and Flora, about photographing dark florals together for some time; my studio and her shop are down the street from one another. I would stop in weekly just to breathe in the fresh scent of flowers and commiserate with her about being women entrepreneurs in highly competitive creative industries. One day I was feeling particularly stressed and anxious, but also super motivated to do something creative with those feelings, and called Robyn up to see if she had time for a photoshoot. She dropped what she was doing and she and her team put together a gorgeous floral arrangement. We photographed that first, and then started to deconstruct it. It was collaborative, it was creative, it was calming, and it was exactly what we both needed.
I kept the flower stand and backdrop set up in my studio, and every week for a few weeks grabbed blooms as they were on their way out of Robyn’s shop, and photographed them in my office when taking a break from other photography work as a creative outlet. There was something about being present with the beauty in front of me that helped quiet the anxiety I carry around.
I was simultaneously developing Art Not Shame, and it suddenly just clicked: Moody Blooms for Mental Health would help raise awareness and funds for Art Not Shame, as well as local programming dedicated to using the arts to promote mental well-being. My dream is for Art Not Shame to feature the work of other artists, too, so that it serves the dual function of promoting the arts and raising awareness and funds for mental health while building community. We just posted prints from our first contributing artist to my Etsy page, my dear friend and talented photographer Vicky Starz (above).
H&H: What type of emotion do you hope the prints evoke once they’re in people’s homes?
M: The trend toward dark florals is, to me, about holding in tension light and dark, and refusing to see light and dark as an either/or choice. I find that incredibly arresting and true to life. In photographs of dark florals, whether it is in the choice of flower or the way the light catches the curve of the bloom, there is always, by necessity (because photos cannot exist without light) an element of light. To me these prints are as much about the richness and depth that exist in the dark, as they are about the insistence that lightness and hope persist, even in our darkest moments. They are also about reclaiming those dark moments as entirely human, necessary even, and undeserving of shame. This is what I hope the prints evoke when they are in people’s homes: acceptance for the full spectrum of who we are and what we feel, without shame or apology.
H&H: They say a picture is worth a thousand words — but If you could convey one message with these prints, what would it be?
M: I have the same hope for these prints as I do for the larger project, Art Not Shame, of which they are a part: that they assert the value and beauty of our whole and broken and imperfect humanness and that they demonstrate the power of art-making in community for our collective sense of well-being.
Michelle’s Moody Blooms for Mental Health prints are available in her Etsy shop and in-store at Blooms and Flora and Blush in Guelph, Ontario. 100 percent of proceeds in the next few weeks will be donated in honor of Bell Let’s Talk Day. More information about Art Not Shame will be available on the website in the coming weeks.