Artist Cristina Paulos depicts bipolar disorder at Blackbird Studios exhibit

Paulos’ “Smoke and Mirrors” (acrylic and oil on wood)

Cristina Paulos’ drawings commonly portray innocent and adventurous young girls with a somewhat devilish streak, as if they’re scheming little geniuses acutely aware of themselves and the world around them. That multilayered element, common in Paulos’ superbly illustrated work (regardless of medium, subject or approach), is often what makes her art so compelling.

In her solo exhibit, Help Is on the Way at Blackbird Studios,the Las Vegas artist uses cartoon characters and the same spirited vigor to portray mental illness, particularly her own experience with bipolar disorder. Her stream-of-consciousness approach to the art results in mixed-media drawings and paintings depicting the peaks and valleys, “gleeful mania,” fear and “dark depression” of the illness via appealing characters. A fine artist, animator and illustrator who received her BFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Paulos says the cartoon element creates accessibility for viewers broaching the heavy subject, allowing the story to unfold.

Help Is on the Way includes her recurring Mirror Twins, reflecting ideas of perception and ways mania can alter what you see. Characters with leashes represent the tethering by medication when emotions run amok.

Help Is On The Way July 5-29; opening reception July 5, 6-10 p.m. Blackbird Studios, 1551 S. Commerce St., 782-0319.

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