Photo By: Asenia Lyall

Piece of Mind is an exhibit at the Niagara Arts Centre that showcases artists who experience mental illness, as it gives them a platform to present their work, according to their Instagram page promoting the exhibit. It opened Saturday, Sept. 25 and will run until Oct. 9.

“Psilocybin Island” by Devon Hopecraft is an appropriately named painting populated by a variety of different cartoon animals sitting on huge mushrooms. In a placard beside the painting the artist described Hieronymus Bosch as an inspiration and the painting takes the shape of a surreal, animated version of “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”

It juxtaposes the chaos of reality with the innocence of childhood cartoons. The eyes of many of the characters give it a feeling of drug induced lethargy, contrasted with the destruction of a crashed and burning flying saucer. It’s outstanding by virtue of how much is going on in a relatively small canvas without feeling too cluttered.

“The Lady 1” is a striking painting by Rea Kelly. It’s a woman’s face rendered in thick, dark, colourful paint and then smeared to the left. The distortion of an already somewhat abstract rendering of a human face interrogates identity. On the placard on the wall Kelly has written that the aim of the piece is to “use the face … as a vessel for depicting the uglier, more painful, or even humorous internal experiences.” Trying to read the expression of the woman in the painting is an impossible but intriguing exercise.

A colourful mixed-media piece by Sarah Carter called “Those Were the Days” is made from upcycled material and evokes a sickly, oversaturated vision of the stereotypical 1950s housewife by repurposing materials on the canvas. 

The painting “Birch Trees Rule” by Leah Lattimer is simple but realistic. Reading the placard is what enhances this painting; the artist describes her own history and coping skills, which enriches the simplicity of the birch trees with a new depth. 

One of the pieces is a video by Emily Andrews, she looks into the camera and moves her face expressively while the colour of the video changes. Her description of the work on the wall next to it advises the viewer to laugh at her, participate in her dance of facial expressions, and overall to take life less seriously.

Michael Goodman’s “The Patient” is one of the more unflinching portrayals of mental health. It shows a man whose face is distorted into two vomiting mouths with a number scrawled over his head; it represents the person and the spirit behind a medical number. The horror and frustration of being seen as something other than human because of mental illness and dehumanization in medical institutions is so clear in this artwork, it’s haunting.

Overall, the offerings of Piece of Mind are varied and, though it is a relatively small exhibit, it is worth checking out the art in person. The exhibit is like a hidden gem in downtown St. Catharines.