PALM BEACH, Fla. — The word “bipolar” is often shrouded in stigma, but two parents are hoping to lead a shift toward understanding through a traveling art exhibit.
About 3 million Americans are living with bipolar disorders.
At the John Surovek Gallery on Palm Beach, you can see the work of 25 bipolar artists in a juried exhibition.
Daniel Pichney is one of the artists who was selected to share his work. His self portrait in pencil portrays one of his first major depressive episodes, when he was in his 20s. The struggle he was facing at the time is portrayed in his eyes.
“It’s both sad and uplifting at the same time. And it certainly was encouraging to me to keep going and to improve my art, and not to be embarrassed about admitting that I am bipolar. And tell other people,” he said.
Pichney is using the show as an opportunity to share his perspective with the world, as well as his closest friends, many who are learning about his diagnosis for the first time.
“I’ve had like three major depressions in my life that - I lost - I wouldn’t say that I lost, but almost the same as losing years of my life. But I never gave up, I found some good doctors, I take my medication. That’s what I would recommend to anybody who is bipolar. Stick to those medications."
The hand-selected artists each receive a grant, and their pieces join a permanent collection that tours the country through the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation. The organization was founded by the parents of Ryan, Joyce and Dusty Sang. They describe their son as extraordinarily creative and courageous. He passed away while facing bipolar disorder.
“He was artist and a musician and a writer. And we always knew he had a body of work. He was like a brain on fire and after he passed away, Joyce suggested we start the foundation so that other parents wouldn’t have to be us and other kids wouldn’t have to be Ryan,” Dusty said.
Now, the Sang family wants to support research for developments that would offer earlier detection.
“The artist should not be identified by their illness, there’s much more to a person than their illness,” Joyce said.
The exhibit features large planks with handwriting, Ryan’s contribution to the display.
“After Ryan passed away we found in a little small book he had written these things and there’s an artist in West Palm beach who helped to create these planks,” Dusty explained.
“In his handwriting,” Joyce added.
“And it’s fascinating to watch people respond to them,” Dusty said.
The show, titled, “Insights IV: An Art Exhibition of Creativity and the Bipolar Brain,” continues through April 30. It is free to view at 349 Worth Avenue, 8 Via Parigi, at the Surovek Gallery. None of the artwork is for sale.
The next competition for artists is underway now.
“This has been a thrill ride all the way through,” Pichney said. “I just feel so humbled to have been accepted, I mean these are really exceptional artists. The other 25 or so people here are just unbelievably good.”
There is a large variety of work included in the exhibit.
“You have to recognize that we have to remove the stigma from it. And it was quite a stigma for me too,” Pichney said.
The hope is that all who visit will gain a better understanding, while also seeing incredible work from creative minds.
“To know that when you are with people, they might be relatives, they might be friends, you might know that they have bipolar disorder. But to realize that they are exceptional people and to accept them and love them. And know they have a big contribution to make to the world,” Pichney said.
Learn more at the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation.