Meghan Kausel (@meghan
kauselart) always wants to help people. To her, one of the best ways to do that is by embracing the difficult parts of life and turning them into something worthwhile. As a child, Kausel was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations. Since college, she’s been using her tics to make art. Now, as she’s about to turn 26, her style of art has evolved into automatic markmaking. Each line of ink is her body’s reaction to a particular person, place, or thing. When the Beverly native isn’t making art, she spends her time writing about her experiences and works as a recovery specialist in Danvers. The Globe chatted with Kausel about her art and its functions.
Q. More than anything, your art seems to be very psychological. When you sit down to make a print or illustrate, what are some of the thoughts that spark an idea in your head?
A. Well, when I was about 5 years old, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, so when I was younger I’ve always been invested in art. But for years, I focused my energy into drawing realistically, just so that no one would have to know that I had [Tourette]. When I went to college, one of my professors asked me why I chose to hide it. And I hadn’t even thought about it like that. So my art became my body’s automatic response to stimuli, whether that is a specific person, place, or event. I call it automatic markmaking. I have to sit down and think about the topic at hand before I begin, so it can get pretty psychological and personal. Each involuntary motion in Tourette’s is called a tic, so it depends on the kind of piece we’re talking about. There are some people that trigger specific tics, just because of the way they make me feel.
Q. I do notice that some of your work is named after specific people, or very specific places. For example, in your piece titled “Grandma’s Driveway,” how would you describe your creative process?
A. For “Grandma’s Driveway,” I just sat with my grandmother to have a very long conversation. It happened in the home I grew up in, and I wanted to find a way to take all my memories from that home and put them into one small piece. It’s essentially a collection of mini tics associated with the home, and it’s fascinating even to me to see where it all lands. That piece carries a ton of emotions, which is funny because many people say that my art evokes a calming feeling, but to me it can also be incredibly chaotic.
Q. As of late it seems like you’ve abandoned the use of color. What drew you to that decision?
A. My use of color essentially comes from my time in school, when I was trying to figure out what role I wanted to play in the art world. My decision to abandon color is synonymous with my decision to let go of my insecurities associated with the Tourette’s. Now my main focus with this practice of mine is to make something beautiful out of something negative. Hopefully it will also inspire people to do the same with whatever negative qualities they think they have. I believe they can always be turned around and made positive.
Q. For you, is making this art therapeutic or cathartic?
A. Tremendously. It’s so therapeutic to make, but also to just put it out there for people to see. Certain pieces, the ones that deal with heavier issues, are also my way of telling myself that it’s OK to feel these things, no matter what they are. It’s just as important to embrace the negative things in life as much as the positive. Some people have even come to me just to say that my art has made them feel connected as well. That’s all I can really ask for.