Rebecca Dandridge-Walker is a self-taught artist from Camden, London. After specializing in pottery, she started experimenting with portraiture as a creative way of channeling her stress, anxiety and physical pain while awaiting major surgery for a full hip replacement during the UK’s strict lockdown. To keep herself sane and lift her spirits, she started doodling portraits and humorous parodies of public figures, friends and family members, turning it into a guessing game using quotes as clues and posting the portraits on her Facebook profile. Mental Ideas featured some of her earliest work on our platform: https://mentalideas.org/2020/05/18/portraits-by-rebecca-dandridge-walker/
Born deaf, Becky was taught to speak as a toddler by her mother, Jakki, a charismatic social entrepreneur who was determined her daughter lived as ‘normal’ a life as possible. Although Becky often felt resentful of the fact she had to work twice as hard as her non-deaf younger brother as a child, her perseverance paid off – and she has made the most of every opportunity that has come her way. As well as enjoying a successful career as an artist, Becky achieved her PGCE, qualified as a teacher and taught art to students without disabilities in London schools. As personally rewarding and inspiring as a year in lockdown has been in terms of helping her discover and develop new art forms, it has also been frustrating.
Her latest collection illustrates how the pandemic has impacted the mental health of the deaf community. For Becky and millions of other deaf people across the world, mandatory mask wearing has not only impeded her ability to enjoy people’s smiles and facial expressions, it has blocked her ability to lip read and interact with others. The impact of losing this most fundamental form of communication has been profound, leading to increased anxiety, loneliness and isolation on a scale that is not comprehendible to those of us who don’t share her disability. As someone who’s had the pleasure of knowing Becky for 12 years, I can hand on heart say you could not hope to meet anyone with more natural joy de vivre and unquenchable zest for life. The pandemic is affecting everybody’s fragmented sense of self and mental health. The best thing we can do for ourselves and each other is reach out and be kind.
Mental Ideas is proud to support Becky’s incredible artwork raising awareness of how the pandemic is affecting the mental health of everyone, but especially the deaf community. We are prouder still that Becky has accepted our invitation to be an ambassador for Mental Ideas and look forward to working with her on a range of projects exploring mental health through the lens of those who are also heroically coping with lifelong disabilities.