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What fear looks like, part 1.

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:15pm

I've been collecting graphical depictions of fear, anxiety, and panic, and have decided to start running the occasional "what fear looks like." Some funny stuff, some provocative stuff, some harrowing stuff. Hope you enjoy.

First up, the artist everyone points to when discussing paintings depicting anxiety and panic: Edvard Munch.

The classic depiction of panic has to be Munch's "The Scream," which depicts a man midway across a bridge, lost in the whirl of anxiety. Ask the people you know who suffer from panic disorder. Chances are this scenario makes perfect sense to them.

Munch's "Evening on Karl Johan Street." Eerie; horrific. Look at those eyes! These people look like they're all about to explode with anxiety, like they're all trapped in their minds, gripped by fear. At the same time, they look utterly alien, like monsters we'd never be able to connect with or understand -- like the blank, faraway faces the agoraphobic sees all around him when he's in a crowd of "normal" folks. Who's the agoraphobic, here? Who's on the edge of panic? The people in the painting -- or you, the viewer?

Don't know anything about this image, only that I like the way it depicts its anxious subject as being trapped -- in his own head, in the frame of the image, and in the gazes of others. Fear of how you look to others while you're in the grip of panic can be a big issue for some sufferers.

Warhol. I think it's Janet Leigh from the shower scene in Hitchcock's "Psycho," but I'm not sure.

Again with the "trapped" theme.

Kinda funny, largely because this makes fear seems like such a ridiculously exaggerated emotion, but pretty much the way someone who's having a panic attack feels -- alone, tossed about by forces outside himself, far from safety, and in mortal danger.

That's it with the images for now. More to come.



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