At Chandler: Celebrating Creativity In Mental Illness & Recovery

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Arts / Dec. 29, 2016 10:03am EST

Art Review
By Dian Parker


“Angel,” a-sculpture by Brian Carrier, is part of the current art show in the Esther Mesh Room at Chandler. (Provided / Dian Parker) “Angel,” a-sculpture by Brian Carrier, is part of the current art show in the Esther Mesh Room at Chandler. (Provided / Dian Parker) Sometimes I feel invisible/and need the world to let me know they see me. (Please tell me I’m not alone).

These lines are from a poem written by H.L. Hood, one of 50 artworks currently on exhibit in the Esther Mesh Room at Chandler in Randolph.

Featuring “work from friends of mental health,” this show is not to be missed. There are abstract and representational paintings, pencil and charcoal drawings, sculptures, poems, fabrics and many other works of art on display. It is a moving tribute to those that grapple with mental illness, as well as their family and friends.

“Celebrating Creativity in Mental Health Wellness And Recovery” is the brainstorm of two women from the Clara Martin Center in Randolph—Heidi Allen Goodrich and Dawn Littlepage. Last fall, they put out a call to artists for submissions. The guidelines stated that this show was to provide a supportive platform for participants and celebrate creativity, as well as raise awareness for mental health and its stigma.

For the last 50 years, the Clara Martin agency has been devoted to providing high-quality community health services in Orange County and the greater Upper Valley. There are many people of all ages in our communities suffering from mental problems, with nowhere to turn in their disorientation and pain.

Clara Martin offers services at multiple sites, schools, and homes so those in need receive the care they need as they carry on with their lives in their own community. This important agency is committed to advocacy in our region, ensuring that these rural areas are not overlooked and have access to services.

It is a stroke of genius by Goodrich and Littlepage to put out a call for submissions of artwork to the participants in these services.

Art is a powerful vehicle to channel and express deeply held issues that often seem insurmountable. Here was an opportunity to be seen. A committee of six Clara Martin employees with art backgrounds made the final selection for the show. Each piece selected holds a distinctive presence.

The beautifully detailed charcoal portraits by Klaryssa Roman “see” you, gazing straight on and without artifice. There are two richly colored paintings by Michelle Jacobs Betourney—her Killington looks like a Japanese woodblock print. “A Survivors Christmas” by Patricia Harrington is a tree constructed out of thin strips of wood, splattered with paint, nearly collapsing.

Brian Carrier, who has been making art for the past 13 years, has three pieces in the show; two acrylic paintings as well as a sculpture, “Angel,” which could be the symbol for this art show. Large wings in full flight rise out of a mannequin, the core of the body bound in iron.

Alan Jacob’s three, untitled oils on canvas—large black and white abstracts—display energetic and forceful mark-making. “Freddy’s Bay” by David Piper is a delicate rendering of boats in a bay. The skillful black-and-white drawing by Truman Brackett would make a wonderful inclusion in a graphic novel. Lisa Backhaus’ triptych photograph richly displays the “New Beginnings” of a robin on her nest—gorgeous turquoise eggs, and finally, four hungry babies. Eleanor Mears sewed a lively quilt along with a quirky, happy giraffe perched in a bag.

Chris Sayer offers a haunting pen and ink drawing. Another wonderful drawing, this one by Kohl Comtess, is of a man in a suit and tie and fedora kicking up his heels. Alongside are these words: “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane/By those who could not hear the music.”

We can certainly hear the music in this show. There are also a number of poems that speak of the challenges in mental illness. Writing, as well as art, is a powerful opportunity to plumb the depths of mental disorder and to rise up. The artists and writers in the show are singing to us. We need to listen.

Student Exhibit

Along with the work in the Mesh Room, downstairs in the lower gallery is a selection of art created by students, grades 3-12, from the East Valley Academy in East Randolph. This independent, licensed alternative school partners with Clara Martin to provide services to youth with severe emotional and behavioral challenges, in a natural school setting, focusing on prevention and early intervention.

Each of the works of art from these students (no names were used) has an artist’s statement. One read, “I used mixed media to make my piece. I was inspired by the political corruption in the world.” Another titled “The Monsterers,” reads “I used watercolors to make my painting. I was inspired by stuff and/or things in my head.”

That about says it all. Art has the power to bring solace and clarity to broken hearts and minds. Please see these two shows. They help us to understand. They are important. They are essential.

January 7 Concert

The ME2/Orchestra will give a performance on Saturday, Jan. 7 in Chandler Music Hall. Me/2 is the world’s only classical music organization created for individuals with mental illnesses and the people who support them. Ronald Braunstein will conduct.

The art show reception and selected readings start at 6:30 p.m. in the Mesh Room. The Me/2 orchestra performs at 7:30 in the music hall on the last day of the art show, January 7. Tickets can be bought in advance by calling 728-6464 or at the door.

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