Lena Howansky

Zorya Fine Art presents Manic Cat

Artist statement

Manic Cat is born at Oberlin College in Ohio when Lena Howansky is twenty years old. During her junior year, Lena suffers an acute manic episode, causing her to “lose her mind” and be hospitalized. When Lena returns to campus to finish her Studio Art requirements, the shock and shame of that experience lingers. She relies on her art classes to deal with the new diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. Coping with a confused and heavily-medicated state, Lena creates an alter-ego cartoon character named “Manic Cat” (whose name refers to Bipolar Disorder’s alternative name, Manic-Depressive Illness).
Two years later, at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California, Lena continues to incorporate Manic Cat into creative story-telling throughout a graduate program for Children’s Book Illustration. Her final thesis narrates the personal experience of Bipolar Disorder as a circus-like world. Manic Cat is its “looney” clown: wearing a made-up face and costume, riding exaggerated, emotional “ups” and “downs,” and on a tight-rope of medications, remedies, and delusion.

Via Manic Cat, Lena examines the pain of mental illness, the challenge of recovery, and the stigma experienced by her and others struggling with Bipolar Disorder. To this day, Manic Cat continues exploring these themes through its comic strips and circus storybook, acting as a cartoon protagonist who is an original metaphor for psychiatric disease