Under the Microscope is a custom-built light box booth of over 3500 printed microscope glass slides lined side by side adhered to metal lined white walls using tiny magnets completely covering the enclosed space. The booth measures 7’x 3’ – similar to phone booth – and can be dismantled easily for travel to other venues. The intimate space is pertinent for the viewer to receive the full effect and urgency of the messages. Each slide (3” x 1”) in the current model version has been printed with black laser ink onto vinyl transparent sticker paper then cut and attached to the slides.
The content is of graphics and text of writings and drawings from my own personal journals written and maintained over many years of living with and caring for a family member living with co-occurring disorders of mental health diagnoses and substance use disorder. These journals are a place where I yell, scream, and work out my feelings, thoughts, and frustrations of the lived experiences and obstacles encountered while watching my son (like his father before) struggle for his life w/in a broken criminal justice and mental health care system.
Under the Microscope also delves into American politics and its history of punishing people with mental/behavioral health. Instead of first recognizing the need for treatment before committing a crime, our current system relies upon first committing a crime before obtaining access to treatment making prisons the largest providers of mental health care in our country.
The booth also explains why someone can refuse or leave treatment even if court ordered. Spearheaded by the New York Civil Liberties Union’s (NYCLU) Mental Patients’ Rights Project, the shuttered world of people confined because of mental illness and developmental disabilities was a major enclave targeted for legal action. Bruce Ennis, Director of the Project, was a prime participant in several landmark cases that became the highpoint of the civil rights movement for people with mental disabilities. In a landmark decision for mental health law in 1975, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that states cannot confine a non-dangerous individual who can survive on his own, or with help from family and friends.
For the past 10 years I have been actively using art for social change to connect with socially marginalized and oppressed people. I make art with people who are incarcerated, in active addiction and in recovery, people w/out housing, people living with mental and behavioral health, and staff and caretakers of the various facilities mentioned including police officers. My social change practice focuses on the negligence to help people with mental health and substance use disorders and the lack of support for the family and friends caring and loving those with such disorders.