Hite Art Institute hosts art show that examines mental health
By Niki King
While it might seem sleepier on campus through summer, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do or see.
You might meander over to Schneider Hall Galleries, for example, to peruse Hite’s current exhibition: “Mental Misconceptions: The Art of Self-Care.”
The show, which runs through Aug. 30, investigates mental health and the healing process known as post-trauma growth, the sense of well-being after a traumatic event.
It features 10 local artists, many of them UofL alumni, and was curated by two Hite students, Sara Cissell and Diana Dillman. Cissell is graduating with her BA in Art History and Humanities this fall, while Dillman graduated last year and now works at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
The idea was born in their Art History Capstone class. The two began talking about mental health and how to facilitate healthy, open dialogue about the topic.
“When people think about mental health, most people think of the term as negative. Sara and I wanted to shine a more positive light on these issues. We want to spark positive conversations around mental health. By including artists in our show who share their own experiences with trauma/mental health, it encourages others to spark recovery in themselves,” Dillman said.
Cissel said the topic is particularly close to her as she has depression and anxiety.
“Mental health is one of those topics that no one knows how to talk about. Even though this is a topic I know very well from my own experiences, I don’t know how other people feel. How do you go about breaking down those barriers in a constructive way?” she said.
After conceiving of the show, they reached out to local artists they know and admire and asked for submissions.
Many of the featured artists have experienced their own trauma and used art to document healing or progression. For example, Megan Bickel, a Hite MFA candidate, created a piece that suggests illusions surrounding truth through mimicking patterns and textiles that cause discomfort and confusion.
Other artists focused on the soothing effects of healing. Andrew and Simon Cozzens’ visual and sound installation piece “Mind Full Change” shows the visual effects of the brain, as if the viewer were looking at a CT scan. By manipulating color pigments to move along the platforms with a binaural beat, the red color eventually becomes blue, which symbolizes calm.
Then there are artists who embrace both the chaos and reflective qualities of mental health. Brianna Harlan and Tammy Richardson’s installation piece “Living Room” creates a cozy, safe space with a couch, lamps and photographs of both public and intimate spaces void of human life.
“I’d had Sara Cissel and Diana Dillman in classes before this one, so I already knew that they were smart, hard-working, knowledgeable and perceptive. Having said that, the show that they co-curated stunned me with its excellence on multiple levels,” said Benjamin Hufbauer, assistant professor of art history. “Sara and Diana created a show that is so rich and rewarding visually, but also connects emotionally and conceptually in different ways with different people… I recommend everyone interested in the topic go see this show by these amazing and generous talents, who did all the work involved as a public service.”