What I have learned (fill in the blank)


  • Chanika Svetvilas Artist-in-Residence, 2022-23, Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, African American Studies, Princeton University




mad pride, Asian American, disability culture, disability justice, intersectionality, lived experience, bipolar, mental health, art practice, drawing


My artistic practice focuses on the intersectionality of my lived experience of mental health difference as a Thai American woman who has contended with the impacts of the stigma and inequities in mental health care and access.  Having been diagnosed with bipolar, I explore my way of being through my art and seek to assess and illuminate my lived experiences through the lens of disability justice and mad pride. My “archive” consists of medication guides, prescription bottles, historical and psychiatric resource materials, and medical texts that discuss mental health conditions. I use these texts and artifacts in my art and investigate systemic and historical legacies to find strength in vulnerability.

In my large scale drawings, I use charcoal because of its transformative origins from solid matter and to  acknowledge that its activated form absorbs chemicals after a stomach is pumped following an overdose. The smeared charcoal emphasizes  outlandishness and an unwillingness to conform, as I resist containment and being categorized. In affirming freedom and individuality, I  reveal the human touch behind the marks and processes that spill off the page and ignore the margins.

Created during the pandemic, my large scale series of over 80 drawings, “What I have learned. (Fill in the blank.)” on oversized lined paper, 36” x 24,” questions how we learn, who is the “educator” and how do we unlearn harm.  I mine interactions, relationships and responses to my being from micro aggressions, to stigma, racism, and ableism as well as reflect on current anti-Asian violence.

By sharing these texts and images, I allow others who might identify with these experiences to enter a safe space and connect to others to build a community in pursuit of disability justice.




How to Cite

Svetvilas, C. (2023). What I have learned (fill in the blank). Disability Studies Quarterly, 43(1). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v43i1.9665



Section I: Reorientations