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What Words Can Not Say | Mental Health Exhibition

Bird of Paradise

In an interview from the Penticton Western News from 2012 Valerie Wood talks to the reporter Steve Waldner about the importance of this exhibition stating:

“When it comes to mental illness, sometimes words aren’t enough to express the breadth of emotion that one can experience.

The feelings of loneliness and depression can linger on in a person without a means of escape, creating a prison of isolation.

It is with this isolating effect of mental illness in mind that the Penticton Art Gallery and South Okanagan Mental Health and Addictions Coalition is holding their annual Psychiatric Art Show. Through this open exhibition, organizers hope that the artwork will give a voice to these otherwise voiceless feelings.

This is about combatting discrimination, this is about saying mental illness affects us all, whether it affects us as being the person who is having difficulties or it affects us by being the loved one, the co-worker, the spouse or the child, it’s part of the human condition. It’s not necessarily something to be frightened of, it can be frightening, but it’s not something to be frightened of. It can be treated, and people are not defined by their illness.”

It can be very revealing at times, you can see they were having a rough time through that artwork, and then you’ll see very soft stuff, and you’ll say, ‘Oh, they were in a good place at this time.’ It’s sort of encouraging to see that growth in the artist.”

In considering this year’s exhibition, Valerie Wood draws inspiration from
Gayle Bluebird’s article Using the Arts to Recover Mental Health from which she pulled out the following quote:

“Many people express the importance of art and creativity as integral to their recovery. 

Writing, music, painting, dance, and other arts are pleasurable activities but are conduits for expression of the self which is hard to express in any other way.  Art is a powerful healing tool to explore deep emotions - the sorrows, the struggles, and joys.  It has the ability to transform us by awakening parts of ourselves to recover and heal from earlier traumatic memories.  Through artwork, people can develop their own personal vocabularies for a fuller identity.

Persons who are creating with the arts have things in common to talk about; they can meet over a cup of coffee, critique each other's work, discuss reviews of professional artists and writers, and attend performances together.  The inspiration that can be derived from other people's performances and works can lead to the development of their own art. For example, performances by local musicians who are sensitive and expressive may serve as inspiration for their own song or poem.

Art and creativity can be used by anyone - that is what is so exciting.  It does not require being taught or require a therapist to help one be creative.  Some may want to be observers or dabble in a "fun" experience. Art for some may be writing a journal, creating a garden, or making a recipe.  Others may take photographs of something that is particularly inspiring to them, or draw cartoons.  Some artists may want to perfect their art - to "plumb the depths" so to speak - which takes practice and "doing."  There is a place for everyone.”

Quotes from: Using the Arts to Recover Mental Health
Gayle Bluebird, published in the Mental Health Recovery Newsletter 1.3, Copyright: Mary Ellen Copeland, 2000

Special thanks to all the artists who have shared their creativity and allowed us a window into their lives and to Valerie Wood, the show’s volunteer organizer, and Sharon Evans President, Mental Wellness Centre, BC Schizophrenia Society-Penticton Branch without whom this exhibition would not have been possible.

Clay Cloutier

Earlier Event: September 18
John Schoonderwoert | Ethereal Okanagan
Later Event: November 13
Under $500 Christmas Sale & Exhibition