Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Van Aken, Sam

Second Advisor

Wysocki, Robert


Art Therapy, Depersonalization, Derealization, Dissociation, Liminality, Sculpture

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts | Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychiatry and Psychology


I am fascinated by the state of being in-between; by the mental spaces that are somehow neither here nor there, but also somehow both here and there. At a young age, I began to experience depersonalization and derealization, and this dissociated state left me feeling trapped somewhere on the threshold of reality and non-reality. My artistic practice is concerned with the psychological antitheses of dissociation – comfort vs discomfort, safety vs danger, and reality vs non-reality, and the continuum of space between these polarities. Often through large-scale installations, I create a physical space for the viewer to enter. These spaces, like that of the mental state of dissociation, have an uncertainty about them. They are simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable. The objective of this thesis paper is to look back on my experiences living on this threshold and examine my resulting artistic practice that works to make sense of it all.


Open Access



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