Nova Scotia·Artist Profile

'Larger than life': How depression and anxiety influence this artist's work

Vanessa Furlong's circus art is focused on inclusivity.

‘I want to normalize having different minds and bodies in the art,’ says circus artist

Vanessa Furlong has been living with anxiety and depression since she was young. (Rajnesh Sharma for CBC)

Vanessa Furlong knows depression and anxiety well — she's lived with both for years.

As a child, bullying was often the root of her depression.

"The thought that these kids would make fun of me for just being me, that was too much."

Furlong took the situation into her own hands.

"I would purposely make myself as big and as odd and as wild as possible," she said. "So that when the kids we're making fun of me, It was because I gave them that reason to make fun of me."

That sense of expansion shapes her life, and her art.

"The stilt character is that literal [version of] me being larger than life."

Furlong's art is focused on inclusivity.

She co-founded LEGacy Circus with Erin Ball, who wears prosthetic legs.

"I want to normalize having different minds and bodies in the art, period."

Vanessa Furlong and Erin Ball are the duo behind LEGacy Circus. (Rajnesh Sharma for CBC )

Acceptance is a big part of that. 

"A lot of the times people view disability ... as something that you have to overcome, or that you have to have victory over."

That's not Furlong's view. 

"It's just something that I can accept, live with, and learn to love myself for."

With files from Rajnesh Sharma for CBC