GROUNDED OUT­LET

Ev­ery­thing is shape and form and per­spec­tive. The sim­plest el­e­ments can be put to­gether to cre­ate beauty, even when all you have in front of you ap­pears to be waste. I think that’s why I strive to cre­ate beauty and to see beauty ev­ery day. Other­wise, the

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS -

ou’ve seen cave paint­ings?” Nick Tim­brell asked Pasatiempo dur­ing an art class at the Santa Fe Club­house. “I al­ways ask my­self, Why? Why did we do that? Why did we go down into a cave un­der­ground, un­der­wa­ter, crawl up here, crawl down there, get all our paints ready, and paint that? It’s be­cause we have to.” Tim­brell, a par­tic­i­pant in the art pro­gram at the Club­house, also as­sists in teach­ing the classes. He has a mas­ters from the Col­lege of Art, Ar­chi­tec­ture, and Plan­ning at Cor­nell. Most of the other par­tic­i­pants in In­side Out, an art pro­gram for peo­ple that suf­fer from men­tal ill­ness, have no art train­ing at all. The Club­house is part of The Life Link, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion for the home­less, the men­tally ill, and those with sub­stance-abuse is­sues. Par­tic­i­pants in the class, taught by Michele Al­tenberg, have been pre­par­ing for a year for their an­nual ex­hibit In­side Out: The Art of Men­tal Ill­ness. “This is a group of peo­ple that’s stig­ma­tized,” Tim­brell said. “This is a group of peo­ple who do not have the same eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties in life. This pro­vides them with a lit­tle bit of an out­let.”

The class meets reg­u­larly on Fri­days at the Club­house and on Tues­days at Ware­house 21. Stu­dents are taught prin­ci­ples of mak­ing art, they make trips to gal­leries and mu­se­ums, and their work is se­lected for the cu­rated ex­hi­bi­tion, which takes place this year in the Rai­l­yard, at the site of James Kelly Con­tem­po­rary, which closed in early Septem­ber. The show runs from Thurs­day, July 29, to Oct. 1, and 50 per­cent of the art­work sales go to the artists; the rest ben­e­fits Com­pas­sion­ate Touch, which pays for art sup­plies, fram­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing, and re­lated ex­penses.

Most of the art stu­dents in the In­side Out pro­gram suf­fer from one or more men­tal ill­nesses such as clin­i­cal de­pres­sion, post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, bipo­lar dis­or­der, schizophre­nia,

and schizoaf­fec­tive dis­or­der. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness, close to 44 mil­lion Amer­i­cans ex­pe­ri­ence men­tal ill­ness in a given year — a stag­ger­ing num­ber that makes eras­ing the stigma sur­round­ing men­tal ill­ness im­per­a­tive.

In­side Out is spon­sored by the Com­pas­sion­ate Touch Net­work, which gives a voice to the men­tally ill through a series of cre­ative pro­grams. “I came to the ser­vices at the club­house about four weeks af­ter I got to Santa Fe, and I met Michele Al­tenberg and started this class,” said Cas­san­dra Kirk­man. “I have al­ways been good at art. My fam­ily has al­ways been telling me to do it. I have one in the show of the mayor.” (Sev­eral peo­ple painted Santa Fe mayor Javier Gon­za­les’ por­trait while he sat for the class. In ad­di­tion to Kirk­man’s por­trait of Gon­za­les, four oth­ers are in­cluded in the ex­hibit.) Kirk­man showed Pasatiempo paint­ings — some of them works in progress — that in­cluded col­or­ful Merk­aba stars, vari­ants on the Star of David that are as­so­ci­ated with Jewish mys­ti­cism and sa­cred ge­om­e­try; an in­tri­cate thun­der­bird de­sign; and nu­mer­ous de­pic­tions of the archangel St. Michael. “I did all that in the last five or six days,” she said. “St. Michael is my fa­vorite angel. I call on him all the time.”

Be­cause the show is cu­rated, there is no guar­an­tee that an in­di­vid­ual par­tic­i­pant’s work will be se­lected. Un­like last year, when classes were asked to do self-por­traits, this year’s ex­hi­bi­tion has a more open-ended theme. “There’s a strong em­pha­sis that [the work] re­flects the per­son­al­i­ties of the peo­ple in­volved,” said cu­ra­tor Bruce Velick. “My pri­mary in­ter­est is not in a well-done paint­ing; it’s in what the paint­ing says. The artists are pri­mar­ily com­ing from the Club­house at Life Link; Casa Mi­la­gro, which is a res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity; ArtStreet, which is in Al­bu­querque; and Ware­house 21. The peo­ple at Casa Mi­la­gro are at the more ex­treme end in that they’ve got around-the-clock su­per­vi­sion. The Club­house is more of a drop-in cen­ter. Ware­house 21 has the most in­de­pen­dent peo­ple who are able to func­tion some­what nor­mally.”

The par­tic­i­pants are sup­port­ive and en­cour­ag­ing of one an­other. They cri­tique each other’s work and get to learn some of the nuts and bolts of what goes into mount­ing a full-scale art show at a pro­fes­sional venue. “By hav­ing the work framed, hang­ing it in an en­vi­ron­ment that is pro­fes­sional as any gallery in New York, they can be very proud of it,” Velick said, “and they get the feed­back from the com­mu­nity and their peers.”

“It’s pretty fun,” said Va­lerie Web­ster, who has bipo­lar dis­or­der. She has been fill­ing her sketch­book with im­ages of zom­bie fairies. “You never know what’s go­ing to get picked. Last year I didn’t make it. I was in the psych ward and was so de­pressed.” This year, she’s in­clud­ing Hope­less,

con­tin­ued on Page 30

a sim­ple paint­ing of a fig­ure sit­ting in a plain gray set­ting. “I drew this sea of dark gray. It’s about how you’re just stripped down and you’re noth­ing and you’re hope­less and you’re get­ting ready to dis­solve away some­where. Be­ing bipo­lar kind of sucks some­times.”

Fifty-five artists are in­cluded in the In­side Out ex­hi­bi­tion this year, a tes­ta­ment to how far the pro­gram, which was started with lit­tle back­ing or sup­port and a hand­ful of par­tic­i­pants, has come in four years. “We’re reach­ing out to more and more peo­ple in drop-in cen­ters, res­i­den­tial cen­ters, as well as in­di­vid­u­als that find out about us through our web­site,” said Michele Her­ling, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Com­pas­sion­ate Touch. The or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­ates three pro­grams: Break­ing the Si­lence New Mex­ico, a mid­dle-school and high-school pro­gram that com­bats stig­mas around men­tal ill­ness and sui­cide; Minds In­ter­rupted, where par­tic­i­pants de­velop mono­logues based on their ex­pe­ri­ences with men­tal ill­ness and share them in front of a live au­di­ence; and In­side Out. “I’ve sat in on a lot of art classes this year and I’m blown away by the build­ing of com­mu­nity I see among peo­ple be­cause they cri­tique one an­other’s art and they’re taught how to do that,” Her­ling said. “It gives them a venue to ex­press them­selves.”

Car­men Con­tr­eras has been in the In­side Out pro­gram for three years. Her still-life Una Con­suela de

Azul y Rojo Maez is fea­tured in the ex­hibit. “It’s an oil paint­ing,” she said. “This is my first time do­ing oil.” One of Con­tr­eras’ paint­ings de­picts a mum­mi­fied fig­ure in an ab­stracted back­ground, bound tight by her wrap­pings. “It’s about be­ing tied up, caught up. You feel like some­times you can’t breathe be­cause you’re bound by cer­tain things in life. This par­tic­u­lar one was not se­lected, which is up­set­ting to me, be­cause I feel like it re­ally says some­thing.” But Con­tr­eras ad­mits that the class has been a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence over­all. Her­ling, Velick, and Al­tenberg stress that In­side Out is not art ther­apy, al­though it can be ther­a­peu­tic for those in­volved. “It’s not an­a­lyz­ing their dreams or forc­ing them to get some­thing out that they don’t want to get out,” Velick said.

Con­tr­eras said art helps her with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. The Club­house is a place where she can come and find some re­lease by get­ting it all out. “I have a lot of de­pres­sion and grief is­sues that I have not dealt with af­ter all these years. When I put it on pa­per, I can look at it and reeval­u­ate what’s re­ally go­ing on there.” Alex Sul­li­van, an artist in the show who works with found ob­jects, adds his own per­spec­tive on the value of art. “Ev­ery­thing is shape and form and per­spec­tive. The sim­plest el­e­ments can be put to­gether to cre­ate beauty, even when all you have in front of you ap­pears to be waste. I think that’s why I strive to cre­ate beauty and to see beauty ev­ery day. Other­wise, the dark­ness can take over. Art saves lives.”

The par­tic­i­pants are sup­port­ive and en­cour­ag­ing of one an­other. They cri­tique each other’s work and get to learn some of the nuts and bolts of what goes into mount­ing a full-scale art show at a pro­fes­sional venue. “By hav­ing the work framed, hang­ing it in an en­vi­ron­ment that is as pro­fes­sional as any gallery in New York, they can be very proud of it,” cu­ra­tor Bruce Velick said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.