Sad is Beautiful

Contemporary artist Amber Morrison explores the complexity of femininity
Story Rachel Jackson

The DIY mentality never goes away, but instead passes in waves from underground to the mainstream in response to people’s need to make, mend, and share.

Amber Morrison is an emerging contemporary artist from Nanaimo, BC, who is pursuing her need to create. She graduated from Vancouver Island University with a bachelor of arts in visual art and creative writing and is now the managing editor, graphic designer, and publisher of her own online art and poetry magazine, Sad Girl Review.

Morrison released the first issue of Sad Girl Review on July 5, 2018, after a two-month submission, editorial, and design process. She says, in retrospect “I had the skills to create it but I lacked a proper workflow,” so there were a “few sleepless nights.” Morrison wanted to make something that “elevated women’s content” and was not “reductive about the complexity of the feminine experience.”

“I knew I wanted to work with other artists and writers, but I found [my] local arts community was very limited,” Morrison says, while an online magazine “could reach out to creative people on a much larger scale.” The format allows her to present work on very specific themes.

The second issue of Sad Girl Review.
The second issue of Sad Girl Review features hand-done visual and literary works.

Sad Girl Review explores all aspects of being, which Morrison thinks are not tackled in popular media. “When I was younger, I really wanted to like magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vanity Fair, but I couldn’t,” she explains. The pursuit of feminine complexity is reflected in her magazine’s content, which ranges from memes, to poems about love and sex, to explorations of mental health and trauma. Melancholy, delight, boredom, and rage are explored; nothing is off the table. “I’m looking for work that does something different, has an element of surprise, and is generally approachable,” she says.

Morrison cites artist Francesca Woodman as “foundational to the concept of Sad Girl Review. She’s both the subject and object of her own photographs,” and she “chooses how you get to see her.” When Morrison looks at submissions, she says she is “keenly aware that the female-identifying people that submit are, to a greater or lesser extent, presenting themselves through their work in a similar way. They see and are seen in turn.”

Morrison finds the design process satisfying, as she says it allows her to make “shapes fit together in some new and thoughtful way.” Her own art shines in the first issue. The bright saturated hues of her unusually edited photos, which are
aesthetically hard and soft at the same time, act as the backdrop for submitted poems and art. It is truly the collaboration between artists that Morrison envisioned.

The second issue of Sad Girl Review features handwritten content. Morrison lets the work stand on its own merit, with a simple design and bylines written out on kraft paper. It includes collections of photos and scans of poems, lists, notes, diary entries, art, and collages; they are all done by hand to “strike a balance between the private act of writing and the public act of display.”

Morrison feels lucky that Sad Girl Review has “resonated with writers, artists, and readers from the start. I tried to create a beautiful, girly platform that I’d feel at home in, and it turns out that other people wanted that too.” She would love to expand into print, have merchandise available for sale, and publish poetry chapbooks and zines.

The theme of the current issue is failure. The theme of the next issue will be crush (both physical and emotional). The magazine is available to read on Issuu and to download from the magazine’s website, sadgirlreview.com.