Stigma and Survival
Normalizing the Discussion Surrounding Opioid Abuse
Stigma and Survival is a traveling exhibition which focuses on substance use disorder and the stigma that surrounds it. My sister died of an opioid overdose. I wonder if she would still be alive if it were not for the stigma. Stigma suffocates discussion, blocks action, causes pain.
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.
People respond and promise action. Some thank me simply for acknowledging them - I exist. I am not alone. Others talk of finally starting 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 is scalable. At the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, this exhibit occupied approximately 230 linear feet of wall space with 30 paintings. In Atlanta at the Bill Lowe Gallery, 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 seven-foot paintings and a multi-media presentation on approximately 120 linear feet. At the University of Michigan my digital art was presented on a full-size movie theater screen.
With a significant inventory of large-scale paintings and more than 50 digital-hybrid paintings presented as projections and on digital monitors, Sigma and Survival is expandable beyond 700 linear feet. Alternately, a small core of key paintings along with projections and monitors can be displayed in as little as 40 linear feet. This exhibit is flexible and can be installed quickly and easily in a non-traditional space if current gallery capacity is unavailable.
These exhibitions and related activities have received considerable national and international media coverage including NPR Morning Edition, NPR Atlanta City Lights, BBC, ABC/Scripps network including Denver 7 and more than 100 other local stations plus many more publications, podcasts and interviews.
About the Art
I consider myself a traditional artist now incorporating technology into my practice. I paint acrylic on canvas and I also do my hybrid-digital work. In 2010, I began to seriously draw on my iPad. My digital-hybrids are repurposed high-resolution images of my own large-scale unfinished paintings, in-process work, and original digital drawings which I re-process with various digital tools. I add a range of new elements and enhancements which may include various marks, masks, graphic overlays, animation and sound to the base image which I then reproduce as an individual image or video. They are prepared for HD display on TV monitors, as on-line presentations or as projections as large as theater screens.