Kaye Rishad: The Art Sob

At the beginning of 2018, Kaye Rishad, was experiencing a traumatic event in her personal life, a laundry list of chronic illnesses meant her health was declining and, on top of that, she broke her foot. It wasn’t the best time for her health insurance to lapse.

Chronic pain treatments she depended on were forced to stop and while she waited a month for her new insurance to kick in she couldn’t speak to her psychologist. With such limited support, and housebound Kaye found herself feeling suicidal and had to look for relief – she started drawing. Soon she was finding comfort and enjoyment in art that she hadn’t found in anything else for years. “Nothing was enjoyable. Suddenly, after literally just speaking to a Suicide Hotline volunteer, I was spending hours doing something I was excited about and it enabled me to say things I had never told anybody”, she said. Finally, in June 2018, she felt empowered enough to show her drawings to other people.

Kaye was inspired to create her Instagram account, @theartsob, so she could share her art with anybody who has trying to cope with similar issues to her. Topics include feminism, racism, sex, disability, dating, self-discovery, sex work, mental health issues, trauma and chronic illness, with an abundance of pop-culture. Art Sob’s aesthetic is rendered digitally using a colorful, minimalist, hand drawn style with painterly touches.

The response has been incredible. People have connected with the honesty and vulnerability of her art, often writing to tell her how much it means to them and that they’ve found something they didn’t realize they needed; but they have also helped her. “Knowing that I’m not alone, helping others heal and connecting with an amazing community through the Art Sob has been a massive part of my recovery process and a great gift. I call it joint healing.”

 

Kaye grew up in the Pacific Northwest, which is infamously lacking in racial diversity. She distinctly recalls the feeling of always being the only person of color in a space, having to speak for all black people, and worse of all, sometimes not being considered black because of her light skin but not being light enough to be afforded the privilege of whiteness. All her art is autobiographical and based on the reality of living as a black, disabled, millennial woman. “My work is obviously very much about me and my unique experience, but what I have found is that so much of my internal dialogue outside of race is universal.”

When she’s not working on new art, Kaye spends her time with her service dog. “She’s like my child. Besides her emotional tasks, she tells me when it’s time for medication, when to go to bed, and she had very little patience for me not following the rules.” She loves comedy, reading, the desert, learning, movies, gazpacho, sleeping and imagining her dream school bus tiny-house. “It’s my dream to live in a school bus, a skoolie – they are called, and make art and heal with my dog.”

The Art Sob is a play on the term “art snob” and a not-so subtle reference to crying constantly when her depression was at its worst.  Her high-school art teacher once said she was a bad artist with sophomoric ideas, they probably wouldn’t like the Art Sob either. A

lthough a lot of her art deals with deeply painful issues, Kaye always try to see some humor in it. She says, “I want [all my followers] to know that: 1. They aren’t alone. And 2. This is all grim as fuck, but we can laugh about it (even if we cry at the same time).”

Zehra Naqvi