Youth Spotlight: Eleanor Chenoweth

A photo of Eleanor Chenoweth outside

“You will get to a point where you are happy in your own skin.”  

I’m currently in year 12 and it has been difficult to adjust with the pandemic. One of the biggest challenges, for me personally, has been the lack of social contact with my friends. I’m an extrovert so I gain energy from being with others. COVID has taken away the social gatherings that ultimately helped get me through the week and you need those outlets. There’s not much to look forward to or motivate you at this time. But I am very productive in that I like ticking things off and getting things done. I’m very much rewarded by finishing things and I get my work in on time for that reason. I also have a Zoom dance class every Wednesday. It’s hip-hop, lyrical, contemporary and a bit of jazz, and I really enjoy it. 

I participated in the VCE Creative Showcase at the start of the year. I was there for the opening night and it was fun getting to look at everyone’s work. I also volunteered to do some group tours and I presented my work to some Year 12 studio arts students. I got to talk about my artworks and final pieces, and I took them through my folio. I also gave them my tips on how to hack the exam; I got an A+ so I was very happy with myself.

Eleanor Chenoweth's artwork

My final pieces for studio arts were two self-portraits painted onto mirrors. I used oil paint for them both. They were basically two contrasting mental states – someone who looks in the mirror and loves themselves, and someone who looks in the mirror and hates themselves. It’s a full-length mirror, so I depicted this through the body posture, the colouring and the clothes I was wearing. I also added the element of having flowers come through the skin that were either flourishing in the person that showed love and self-care, or were dying and wilting in the reflection that was self-hating. 

I struggled with mental health and self-esteem from around year six to year eight or nine. I struggled with depression and had an eating disorder, and it was such a negative and self-deprecating mindset. I was going to therapy, taking medicine and really had to train myself to be loving and positive towards myself. So I had this personal connection to the theme of my artworks, looking at what would happen if you stayed loving yourself from the inside. The paintings are called The Flora Within, meaning that if you had flowers coming out of you, how would they show? It’s about making the decision to look after yourself and have positive flowers if they were a natural extension of your body. I’m totally fine and happy now, but it’s about the journey from self-hatred to self-love.

When I was going through all of that, it felt like it was never ending, like that was who I was and would always be. But if I could go back and tell my year eight self one thing, it would be that it gets better. I know that it feels like the end of the world and that you deserve to feel like this, but just know that it does get better and you will get past this. It will still be a part of you, but it won’t affect your daily life anymore. You will get to a point where you are happy to be alive and happy in your own skin. You will be confident in your own body.