Drawing from the DSM

Alexa de Ferranti

These drawings are selected from a group of approximately 150 works made over five years, in direct response to the content of the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). They are informed by personal experience and are an attempt to explore and mediate the implications of clinical language in relation to the mind and imagination. They form part of an ongoing body of work.

The series began in Rome over a concentrated period of one month during which I chose disorders at random and finished one drawing a day. After returning to the UK, the periods of production became sporadic and the evolving visual language began to lead the direction of the drawings as much as the names of the disorders.

The drawings are

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for the most part made with ink, pencil and pen on paper, sometimes using collage, cut outs and stencils.

The first edition of the DSM, published in 1952, contained diagnostic criteria for 106 mental disorders and evolved from collecting census and psychiatric hospital statistics and from a US Army manual. Recently published in its fifth edition and containing over 300 disorders, the DSM is one of the most frequently used and cited clinical reference manuals for mental health professionals worldwide.

DSM image 1DSM image 2

Alexa de Ferranti graduated from Goldsmith’s Fine Art BA in 2001 and has shown her work in the UK, Japan and the US. Alexa lives and works on a farm on the Somerset, Devon and Dorset border, producing meat, vegetables and fruit for sale locally and for the farm’s permanent residents and visitors. A residency program is in development for artists, writers, researchers, farmers, and others interested in exploring the relationship between farming and the wider culture. She is currently an Associate Lecturer in Fine Art at Southampton Solent University.


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