Artist's exhibit reflects upon bipolar disorder
WESTPORT, Conn.—In the midst of a turbulent relationship with someone suffering from bipolar disorder, Sherri Wolfgang's artwork saved her soul.
Waves of anger, sadness and stifling depression would wash over her as she poured her heart out through her paintbrush, creating a series of art that depicted her pain as she watched a loved one succumb to the ravages of bipolar disorder.
"It was my way of dealing with it ... to push it out," Wolfgang said. "There was a lot of heartbreak. I was purging through my drawing."
Through her pain came the project, "Crazy Making", an existential series of paintings about mental illness, which will be on display at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan on May 18. The exhibit, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Connecticut, is titled "Art Talks" and will feature works by and about those with mental illness.
Having completed the project last August, Wolfgang said she could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The pain had left her body and taken on a new life, one that could help others understand the struggle those with mental illness face.
"It was definitely a catharsis," Wolfgang said. "There were days when I would put my kids on the school bus and I would just paint and paint all day. They would come home and I would still be painting, I just had to get it out."
Prior to her heartbreak, Wolfgang had an award-winning illustration business in New York with the person she prefers not to name who is now the subject of her artwork. The Dynamic Duo Studio Inc. produced everything from the covers of the New York Times Magazine, Forbes and Barrons to ad campaigns for
However, in 2004, everything began to crumble around her as her loved one's illness began to affect and infect her and her young daughters. While she eventually closed her studio in 2006, she became free of the relationship and in turn began the powerful journey toward emotional clarity.
Along the way, word got out about her series and it appeared in a solo exhibit at City Lights in Bridgeport. From there, she became involved in NAMI to an effort to give back and raise awareness.
Inside Wolfgang's Westport home, self-portraits expressing both her and her daughters' pain adorn the walls. Expressionless faces, hollowed out eyes and sallow skin reflect their emotions, while another work shows a body with light reflected around the brain and dark swirls of paint depicting the person's feelings.
"We were depressed by his illness, by his behavior," Wolfgang said about her former relationship. "One in four families are affected by mental illness. It's becoming more and more common. We need to bust the stigma of it and bring attention to it."
Wolfgang's exhibit will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on May 18. A talk titled "Breaking Through: Retraining the Brain for Recovery" will be given by Morris D. Bell, a psychiatry professor at the Yale School of Medicine.
Information from: The Hour, http://www.thehour.com