It wasn’t just a dream…I really was selected for a grant and exhibition by the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation! For one night I got to be an artist superstar. The opening night at the Zolla Lieberman gallery was definitely the fanciest and most high-profile art event I have ever been a part of. I wore an “artist” ribbon (that they gave me, of course ) so people could come ask me about my art, and some did. A professional photographer snapped photos (including a photo of me with the photo inspiration and photographer responsible for photo inspiration). There was food that was so fancy and artistic-looking that I actually didn’t know how to eat it, and there were folks pouring your wine and circulating around asking if you needed refills and a special toast to all the artists. Ooo la la!
Of course, as impressive as all that was, the most special thing about the INSIGHTS V exhibition is that it was designed to highlight artists who live with bipolar disorder. I got to meet Dusty Sang, who co-founded the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation with his wife to honor the memory of their son Ryan, who died at the age of 24 from complications with bipolar disorder. Some of Ryan’s art and sayings were hung in the gallery alongside the other artists. I got to tell Dusty how honored I was by this exhibit after my own struggles with bipolar disorder, and he told me everyone in the room had their struggles too. That was one of several times I teared up during the evening. The fact that this exhibit exists to celebrate creativity and the bipolar brain, to me, shows a huge leap forward in terms of awareness, breaking down stigma, and celebrating the accomplishments of individuals who live with a serious mental health diagnosis.
I’m glad I’ve gotten so much mileage out of this painting as well, because it occurred to me later it’s the only thing I’ve painted all year (specifically to try to enter the competition, which had to be a painting of a person or place important to you—I had planned on painting four more pieces to submit the max of five and never found the time). It belongs to the foundation’s permanent collection now, and I couldn’t be prouder. It’s definitely time to get back to the old easel though, especially since school break’s coming up.