PDN Photo of the Day

Four Artists Picture Mental Illness

From August 18-September 25, four artists looking at mental illness will be featured at the Davis Orton Gallery in New York. In Picturing Mental Illness, Tamara Staples, Kholood Eid, Talya Arbisser and Deyva Arthur use photography, mixed media, installation and audio to address concerns of polypharmacy, diagnoses, coping with stigma and society’s historical relationship with mental illness.

“Side Effects May Include” by Staples is a photography-based installation that explores the disconnect between mental health challenges and medications, specifically polypharmacy (the simultaneous use of multiple drugs by one person). The project was inspired when Staples’ sister took her life with a cocktail of pharmaceuticals after suffering from bi-polar disorder for many years. Following her sister’s death, Staples collected the contents of her medicine cabinet and used them in her project.

After being diagnosed with depression in 2013, Eid began talking to people about the side effects of antidepressants. In the course of the conversations she learned how individuals choose to cope in different ways. And she learned how common mental illness is. For Eid, the physical act of advancing the film after each frame, and the chance to quietly connect with those she spoke to, was a cathartic experience. She recorded the conversations with each person and they can be heard in the gallery alongside her photographs in “Diagnosed.”

In Yiddish folklore, a dybbuk is a malicious spirit or demon that holds you back from being your best. Like a shadow, psychological issues come and go during the course of a lifetime, but they are always a part of that person. The goal of Arbisser’s series, “Dybbuks Exposed,” is to destigmatize talking about mental health issues. “Dybukks Exposed” allows individuals to speak through their shadows – in their own words and handwriting.

“Worcester Insane Asylum” by Arthur is a series of collages made from photographs Arthur took at the Worcester State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts, which hastily closed in 1991, and glass plate images of its patients. The images tell stories of schizophrenia, depression, and paranoia. They also speak to imprisoned and ostracized people, and abuse by a culture that labeled them not with an illness but as an illness.

Picturing Mental Illness
Tamara Staples, Kholood Eid, Talya Arbisser, Deyva Arthur
Davis Orton Gallery
August 18-September 16, 2018
Opening Reception August 25, 5-7pm

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