It’s an honour to once again partner with the Penticton Mental Wellness Centre to explore parallels between creativity and mental illness and through this annual series of exhibitions we hope to raise awareness about mental health, foster open conversation, and promote effective coping strategies, self-care, resilience and hope throughout our community.
In exploring this topic online there are no shortages of resources, support groups, definitions, studies and endless pages exploring the parallels and correlations between creativity and mental illness. One of those pages Wikipedia states: “…it has been proposed that there is a particular link between creativity and mental illness (e.g. bipolar disorder, whereas major depressive disorder appears to be significantly more common among playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists.) Association between mental illness and creativity first appeared in literature in the 1970s, but the idea of a link between "madness" and "genius" is much older, dating back at least to the time of Aristotle. The Ancient Greeks believed that creativity came from the gods, in particular the Muses (the mythical personifications of the arts and sciences, the nine daughters of Zeus). Romantic writers had similar ideals, with Lord Byron having pleasantly expressed, "We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched".
Each and every one of us has been directly touched by mental illness in some form and each of us has found inspiration in the work, art and creativity of those who have suffered from some form of mental illness. Some of the better known artists include painters like Paterson Ewen, Emily Carr, Georgia O’Keefe, Henry Darger, Edgar Degas, William Kurelek, Francisco Goya, Vincent van Gogh, Lawren Harris, Edvard Munch, William Blake, Paul Gauguin, Daniel Johnston, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Michelangelo, Joan Miro, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Tom Thomson; musicians including Mozart, Beethoven, Glenn Gould, Sinead O’Connor and Tchaikovsky; and writers like Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemmingway and Leo Tolstoy.
When asked to contribute some background information on the exhibition, Valerie Wood, the exhibitions volunteer organizer sent in the following excerpt from an article by Gayle Bluebird entitled, Using the Arts to Recover Mental Health, published in the Mental Health Recovery Newsletter 1.3, Copyright: Mary Ellen Copeland, 2000.
“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.”
I would like to personally thank all the artists who have opened their souls and shared their creativity allowing us a window into their lives, their struggles and their triumphs. Once again I am indebted to Valerie Wood, this exhibitions volunteer organizer, and Sharon Evans President, Mental Wellness Centre, BC Schizophrenia Society-Penticton Branch without whom this exhibition would not have been possible.
I would also like to personally invite you down to the gallery on Wednesday September 28 from 2 - 3 pm for our next Topics & Tea featuring Sharon Evans who will be speaking on the topic of Art As a Catalyst for Healing.
In closing, if you or someone you know is in need of help or requires someone to talk please call the Penticton crisis line 24 hours a day seven days a week at 1-888-353-2273.