Ellen Dieter Returns to the Swift

Ellen Dieter Returns to the Swift
The Bay Park Paintings give a beautiful taste of home

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recovering the Artist: Our 8th Annual Expressive Arts Month Show Opens Friday

The time of year has arrived again when we at the Swift present art that is in many ways closest to the heart of our mission statement. That is, the Annual Expressive Arts Show.
Tonika Garrett- Geometry Acrylic on Fiberboard
 Given that the gallery is associated with the Expressive Arts Institute displaying the art of artists who are in recovery from mental illness is clearly in line with the gallery's mission to bring art of social and emotional relevance to the community of people we serve as helpers. For the past seven years, we have given the clients who work with our students a place to show their art, and to demonstrate the powerful work that art making can bring forth. But this year's show is quite different... this year, for reasons I will discuss in following essays, I felt it necessary to broaden our reach, and to go into the community at large, in search of artists in recovery from mental illness. To that end, the Swift has partnered for the first time this year with two venerable organizations for arts and mental health.
Downstairs by the main entrance, the magic begins with images by
(l-r) Derrick Avalos, Ashlyn Johnson and David Webb
The first one I'll mention is a name you might recognize: NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). The San Diego chapter is well known for, among other things, hosting a high profile annual walk which serves as a way for people to show their support for better mental healthcare, while fighting the artificial barrier which seperates those with mental healthcare needs from patients with other chronic illness needs. 

It's entirely possible that the second organization might have escaped your notice. The CAC (Creative Arts Consortium) is an all peer run organization which has a mission to support artists with mental illness in their efforts to do a broad outreach into the community, helping both those in recovery and their families through the arts. The CAC sends teaching artists throughout San Diego to work in visual arts and creative writing with other's who also face the challenges of mental illness.
Detail: Lynn Marco, The Gift Within Acrylic on canvas with canvas applique
You might expect such a show to be full of soul-searing, raw, emotional art about despair. The show is not without emotional content, but you might be surprised to know that there is as much joy, and reverence for the gift of life depicted as there is suffering and sorrow. This was not by design. This is the art that showed up, but it is a beautiful illustration of why we wanted to have such a show in the first place.

Recovering the Artist is a show about art...not illness. Artists come from every walk of life and make their images in every concieveable media, style and tradition. Those with mental illness are no different. Yes, suffering comes up, as it does in all artists who truly create from the ground of their own experience. All artists use art to contact their imagination, and explore the possibilities offered by the world. And as with any artwork, both the commonalities and differences in our experience make the art an engrossing and finally satisfying experience for the viewer.  

Recovering the Artist opens Friday, November 4th and runs through January 7th 2012.

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