Psychiatric art show depicts what words cannot say

Penticton Art Gallery hosts Psychiatric Art Show until Oct. 6.

  • Sep. 20, 2012 5:00 a.m.

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 fifth annual Psychiatric Art Show: What words cannot say. 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,” said Sharon Evans, president of South Okanagan Mental Health. “Whether it affects us as being the person who is having difficulties or it affects us by being the loved one, the coworker, the spouse or the child, it’s part of the human condition.

“It’s not necessarily something to be frightened of,” she added. “It can be frightening, but its not something to be frightened of. It can be treated, and people are not defined by their illness.”

The exhibition, which generally sees around 15 pieces of work, all come from those who have been touched by mental illness; either suffering it themselves, or watching a family member or friend go through one.

Valerie Wood, the show’s volunteer organizer, said viewing the artwork can give a greater insight into the mindset of the artist — a mindset that might not be shown through spoken words.

“It can be very revealing at times,” said Wood. “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.”

The art show will be on display at the Penticton Art Gallery until Oct. 6.