Alice Measom - illustrator
Alice Measom (b.1981)
About the Artist
Measom’s artistic practice explores a variety of media including embroidery, drawing, printing and digital work. Her art primarily focuses on the personal and autobiographical, exploring themes such as mental illness, self-identity, but also wider issues surrounding feminism, the empowerment of women and modern pop culture.
Her fondness for fluid and fast-paced continuous line drawing followed by meticulous mark-making is both instinctive and considered, an attempt to, as she describes, ‘find order in the chaos of creativity and emotion’.
Measom, originally from Bradford, moved to Hebden Bridge in 2017 after spending many years living and working in London. She holds a BA in Arts Practice and Theory from Lancaster University, and later trained as an archivist. She continues to work primarily with the archives of prominent artists, musicians and writers, and also works as a tour guide at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
At the start of the Covid-19 lock-down, Measom started uploading videos of poetry readings from her home, which can be found on her YouTube channel https://bit.ly/2XxBOdW . She is also the co-producer of feature length documentary The Ballad of Shirley Collins (2017) now available on DVD and currently streaming on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/370832479 . Images of her art can be found on Instagram @Measeart.
The ‘mad woman in the attic’ is a fictional trope that I have long been familiar with. When I first read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), the character of Bertha Rochester stayed with me; it is no surprise then that I devoured Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), keen to learn more about this mysterious woman’s back story.
I only recently discovered The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), a short story written by American writer and activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). I was immediately struck by the similarities to Brontë’s masterpiece (a wealthy woman who suffers from mental ill health, confined to a room by her husband), but also the contrasts. In Jane Eyre, Bertha’s story is filtered through her husband’s words, in his justification to Jane of her imprisonment. The narration of The Yellow Wallpaper is the reverse. The story comes directly from the prisoner, it is her stream of consciousness, her words, her truth. This is what makes The Yellow Wallpaper such a radical story, especially when we consider Victorian attitudes both towards women, and also those struggling with mental health issues.
By immersing myself in the story I am reminded how, even now, patients struggling with mental ill health (and other illnesses for that matter) are often not listened to or taken seriously. The strength, energy, and cohesion required to communicate our truth and our needs when we are unwell can be overwhelming, so often it seems easier to relinquish control to those who claim to ‘know better’.
The narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper is not always a reliable one, but the beauty of the story is that this doesn’t really matter. As much as this is the tale of a woman struggling to regain control of her life, it is also a wonderful journey into the gothic, the supernatural; into the surreal and psychedelic imagination of Perkins Gilman.
During the present time of self-isolation and heightened anxiety The Yellow Wallpaper feels eerily relevant. I personally find the story to be deeply haunting, but also, in a strange way, hopeful. The narrator’s eventual escape from her room may be terrifying to those around her, but the triumph of her physical and psychological release rewards the reader with a sense that a true and free spirit can never been contained.
Each Day, Alice will be reading from The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.