A couple of months ago my friend and conceptual art photographer Claudia Ammirata mentioned me she was working on a new project very personal, that included her family’s struggles, and she could not give me any hints.
I knew the condition of mental illness her son was bravely battling. I had never asked the details. I myself have also been struck with mental illness surrounding my life, changing it forever. Long ago I was taught not to dwell into what you have no control but concentrate into what you can actually do. And make the best of it.
Support, listen, and empathy, knowing you are not alone is a big step. As well as learning to talk about it as normal as it can be, heals and creates awareness.
The families and friends surrounding mental illness suffer a double whammy, it is the struggle between the illness of a loved one on one side and how to confront how it affects your own life on the other side. In addition, how to deal with the social stigma.
No matter how much you can address the subject society fears vulnerability. Vulnerability is key. Being vulnerable is not welcomed, it contradicts the self-esteem optimistic popular approach. We are bombarded daily on how to boost our self-esteem. No one teaches us about the effects of vulnerability, mistakes or wrong choices are tools to learn the right and wrong. It is part of the real process of understanding what is right.
We are also not taught about our brain being another organ, just like any other part of our body as simple as that. There is everything to teach how to take care of your body from the right foods and daily exercises that will make your life shine. Yet how to take care of your Brain is never a subject on the table. And, even though today there is much more awareness, the lack of connection prevails making it hard to feel authenticity.
If a loved one suffers from Cancer or Aids the world and universe overflows with attention, your life becomes a race searching for the best treatment and the best doctor to fight it. But if your life gets struck with mental illness there is No race, scientifically you are not dying. But yet there comes a long road to try to understand the ununderstandable. A Road that for most can become the living hell, they are not dying but you see them living dead alive. For others, it becomes a long road of healing for both the sick and the families, they abandon the life of ’The Normals’ to adopt a journey. While the sick battles the illness, the loved ones need to heal the Gap or the lack of connection. It becomes a road that changes your goals, triumphs or successes. It becomes the quest and a long journey between struggles to embrace and understand the strength of vulnerability and the lack of connection.
But going back to Fix Me the exhibition day arrives and as I join her, the first image are those doors. It was a deja vu, those doors that mean you know something is wrong and it is as if you are the one to blame as no one dares to tell you what happens, the Law is there for that and you have to wait and that is how it usually begins.
As I stepped back, then talked to friends, and then a deep breath to see each piece of Claudia’s photographic & video series the first round I was just getting all the flashbacks and connections of my own experiences with having mental illnesses surrounding me.
On a second round, I had to go back to see the series, this time prepared to detach. And be able to connect to Claudia’s expression on every single picture and how her eye thru the lens compose it. Images that seem so simple but yet so charged with emotions. Emotions that are so hard to express, so hard to talk or ask, and so hard to listen to.
The Door….the room as it was left…the bag with the personal belongings…the long never ending treatment pills… the ambulance… the candles of hope…the encounter with her son… The hope …The video & his statement…. his Awareness…
Her work’s power is on her subtle and precious expression of the difficult and painful. The strength and poise mark the untold or unsaid. Every image is so common and yet they speak in a million words.
The most important part of her work to me is her ability to use her photography something she loves and makes this powerful yet subtle statement. How she includes it and uses it to express her need to heal, and expression. There is so much detail and care of each moment of the experience lived.
If you understand the power of expression and healing or if you are on the road to find it, and you live in Miami do not miss the opportunity.
Thanks, to ArtMedia Gallery in believing on Claudia’s work and this powerful statement to create mental illness awareness. Visit the exhibition and experience your own self Claudia Ammirata photography and video series Fix Me.
Dedicated to those in the quest of the healing journey.