Stigma and Survival
Stigma and Survival is a traveling exhibition dedicated to normalizing the discussion and quashing the stigma surrounding opioid abuse. My sister Emma died from an opioid overdose on October 2, 2012. She was 57 years old and struggled with drugs and alcohol for most of her life.
I promised her that I would paint her portrait if she went to rehab. I did and she did, but she relapsed and died five years later.
My sister OD’d but, maybe to the millions affected, I can be part of a solution. Stigma is the place to start. Stigma suffocates discussion, blocks action, causes pain. I want to use my art to normalize the discussion and to help erase the stigma.
They Have Faces
Of course, it is never just one person that is impacted, and it is never simply an isolated instance. The faces in the exhibit reflect the faces of those affected.
I listen to the stories - families and communities devastated. It is all there - terror, intolerance, indifference, guilt, shame and helplessness as well as resilience, resolve, forgiveness, love and hope.
Some viewers thank me simply for acknowledging them while others talk of action; to maybe finally have the courage to start that intervention.
I want the message to flow out into the community. I want these paintings, along with associated presentations and discussions to start conversations, to cause people to respond and maybe feel the emotion and ultimately to take action before it is too late - to be part of the solution.
The Physical Exhibit
Stigma and Survival had its large-scale trial run and premier in 2018 at the Boulder Creative Collective in a large industrial warehouse. It then moved to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in June of 2019. Following this it opened in Atlanta at the Lowe Gallery and then in Colorado at the Foothills Art Center and the University of Colorado.
Stigma and Survival was booked through 2020 and into 2021 with two domestic and one international exhibition but COVID changed everything. Previously postponed exhibits at the Foothills Art Center and the University of Colorado were rescheduled and opened as concurrent and co-promoted exhibitions in the second half of 2021.
All of these exhibits vary in size but all retain the same or similar core paintings. At the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, this exhibit occupied approximately 230 linear feet of wall space with 30 paintings. In Atlanta, it occupied more than 400 linear feet with 50 paintings.
The Foothills Art Center exhibit featured more than 20 paintings, digital art and a multi-media presentation on approximately 200 linear feet and the University of Colorado - Fulginiti Gallery included 12 large paintings and a multi-media presentation on approximately 120 linear feet. These events also featured panel discussions and lectures all focused on addiction and stigma.
With an inventory of more than 60 paintings, Sigma and Survival is expandable beyond 600 linear feet. Alternately, a core of key paintings can be displayed in as little as 100 linear feet.
The Foothills Art Center exhibit closes on October 31, 2021. These paintings along with several original digital prints will be available after that date. The University of Colorado exhibit runs through November 18, 2021 and paintings will be available after that date. A collection of theme-specific digital video presentations and original digital prints are available at any time.