Paula John

I don’t know why this happened, but it did.

Multi-media textiles
46 x 50”
Not for sale

I don’t know why this happened, but it did is an autobiographical piece exploring my experience of mental illness. When I was fifteen years old I suffered a major breakdown and was subsequently diagnosed with severe clinical depression. The work consists of a handmade quilt, pieced together from silk-screened documents from my adolescent psychiatric file. Quilts are distinctly feminine art forms, and are comforting objects that you wrap around yourself to keep warm. As strange as it may sound, the evidence contained in my medical records is validating and comforting to me. These primary documents give one perspective of what I went through and serve as evidence that says, “this happened”. Embroidered along the top of the quilt are the words: “I don’t know why this happened, but it did.” a sentence that echoes the validating message of the psychiatric documents, while pointing to the indiscriminate, and often unexplained nature of mental illness. Sewn across the front of the quilt are plastic quilted letters filled with pill capsules that spell out a statement from the diary that I kept as a teenage psychiatric inpatient “ART IS MY THERAPY”. The pills that fill the letters conjure up a number of connotations related to my depression: overmedication, overdose, and the frustrating struggle to find the right “cocktail” of medication.


Paula John
is a queer feminist artist and scholar who works across a variety of mediums. She is currently completing her PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies at York University, and teaches in various university and community settings. Paula lives in Toronto with her daughter.

Artist Website:

Paula John will be exhibiting as part of the Diapause group show May 17 - 31. 


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