December 8, 2019

Is Anybody There?

Donna McGlynn, 47

The effects of social isolation and loneliness is something I have been exploring in my work. In Scotland, it’s a public health crisis – among other things it increases levels of stress hormones in the body and leads to poor sleep, a compromised immune system, and, in the elderly, cognitive decline. It can affect anyone, at any age and stage of life. What does this say about us? Like all other social animals, meaningful connection to our own species is essential to our health. Prolonged periods of social isolation can affect even the toughest among us and in the absence of actual human contact, our brains may even manufacture social experiences in an attempt to preserve our sanity. People experiencing loneliness, coupled with high levels of stress and unchanging sensory stimulation in isolation can experience a “sensed presence”—a feeling that another person is with them. The vividness of a presence can range from a vague feeling of being watched, to seeing an apparently real person, a deceased loved one, a spirit, even a god. This painting attempts to combine the mundanity of the everyday with elements of the darker and more complicated side of the human condition.

The Visitor, 2019Oil on board