Under the Microscope Sculpture Booth

“Under the Microscope” is an immersive lightbox confessional/booth comprised of over 3,500 microscope glass slides meticulously arranged and affixed to metal-lined white walls. Each slide measures 3” x 1”, creating a seamless mosaic across the booth’s interior with tiny magnets for attachment. The booth, standing at 7 feet by 3 feet, echoes the dimensions of a traditional phone booth yet is designed to be easily disassembled and transported, facilitating its display at various venues. Each slide is carefully prepared and has laser printing on vinyl transparency. This intimate space is deliberately crafted, inviting viewers to step inside and experience its messages’ immediacy and importance in an upfront, and personal space.

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See Video https://youtu.be/5biW4HJ4Y08?si=vvi_kl_G2gNRhDJs

The content is graphics and text derived from my personal journals. These writings and drawings are a visceral outpouring of my journey—living with and caring for a loved one battling co-occurring mental health issues and substance use disorder. Within the booth lies a raw and unfiltered expression of my emotions—painstakingly navigating my thoughts and frustrations. The writings and drawings chronicle the harrowing challenges and obstacles faced in a relentless quest for hope and healing, against the backdrop of a deeply flawed criminal justice and mental health care system. This work is not just a reflection of personal trials but a window into the struggles endured by families grappling with the complexities of mental health and addiction, underscored by a systemic failure to provide adequate care and support.

Watch the Artist Interview Video from Art of the State 2023 on YouTube https://youtu.be/5biW4HJ4Y08?si=aLQMgyPjNPuLi3kb

“Under the Microscope” critically explores the intersection of American politics and the overlooked imperative of mental health care—highlighting a systemic flaw where treatment is often contingent upon criminal behavior. This observation underlines a distressing reality: prisons have become the largest mental health care providers in our nation, a stark testament to the system’s failure to address mental health proactively.

The exhibit further examines the complex issue of treatment refusal or discontinuation, even when mandated by court orders. This aspect is illuminated by the pioneering efforts of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Mental Patients’ Rights Project. Under the leadership of Bruce Ennis, this project challenged the oppressive conditions faced by individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities, culminating in significant legal victories. Notably, a pivotal 1975 Supreme Court decision underscored the rights of non-dangerous individuals, asserting that the state cannot forcibly confine someone who is capable of living independently or with support from loved ones, marking a critical moment in the civil rights movement for individuals with mental disabilities.

Over the last decade, I have dedicated myself to harnessing the transformative power of art as a catalyst for social change, specifically aiming to bridge connections with those on the fringes of society. My work encompasses collaborations with individuals across a spectrum of challenging circumstances: from those incarcerated to people grappling with addiction (both in its throes and in recovery), individuals experiencing homelessness, and those facing mental and behavioral health issues. This inclusive approach also extends to engaging with the staff and caretakers from various support facilities, including police officers, who interact with these communities.

My practice is deeply rooted in addressing the systemic shortcomings in mental health and substance use disorder support, emphasizing the critical need for enhanced care and understanding. A significant part of this mission involves shedding light on the overlooked burdens shouldered by the friends and family who tirelessly care for and love their affected loved ones. Through art, I aim not just to highlight these issues but to foster a sense of empathy, solidarity, and action towards creating tangible changes in how we support the most vulnerable among us.

Under The Microscope – Example of story pages

A few more things…

The microscope, as a symbol relates to deep examination, curiosity, and discovery; it is most commonly used for inspection and identification concerning science and research. The use of glass microscope slides reflects the idea of being under careful examination and as a metaphor for biology. Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is unknown, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by biological, psychological, and environmental factors. 

In 2018, I built a chandelier sculpture titled 5535-2017 to represent the 5,535 people from PA who died from heroin/opiate overdose during the year 2017. It is now part of the State Museum of Pennsylvania’s permanent collection in Harrisburg. Upon finishing that project, I wanted to know more about the laws in place regarding mental health and incarceration and how those laws came to be. I started researching government articles on the ncbi.nih.gov website about the United States’ history of mental health and its treatment of it.