On exhibit @Miner: Mental Health Portraits by Charmaine Wheatley

Be honest.

What words came to your mind when you read the title of this exhibit?

Maybe gloomy, depressing, boring?

Well, get ready to be surprised.

Because the exhibit is intimate, playful, spontaneous, and colorful.

Charmaine Wheatley is artist-in-residence at University of Rochester Medical Center. Her goal is to shift perceptions around mental illness. Through her art, Charmaine encourages understanding and provides hope to those who struggle. No labels; no condemnations; no stigma.

Wheatley’s portraits are a breath of fresh air. Her work is informal and intuitive. Each drawing is a pocket-sized 4” x 7-3/8.” She uses watercolor, ink, gel pen, graphite, and gouache on paper.

Artist's studio

“De-stigmatizing happens through humanizing,” says Wheatley. So each portrait sitting involves an open-hearted discussion about living with the challenges of mental illness. Fragments of conversations are integrated within the portrait to create the final piece.

Sitters include people from University of Rochester, Strong Ties, Strong Recovery, Creative Wellness Opportunities, and St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center. They include people experiencing mental health challenges themselves, and/or professionals actively engaged in helping others, like psychiatrists, mental health activists, peer advocates, counselors, and nurses.

After July 1, 2017, Wheatley will shift her focus to the HIV/AIDS community of Rochester.

For more information about the project, visit bit.ly/cwartistinresidence.

About the artist: Since graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Wheatley has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts; Arts Nova Scotia; and Arts Newfoundland Labrador. During her on-going artist residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, she sat in the “Living Room” with museum patrons and employees. An installation of 104 of these portraits is on the view at the museum. Recent related portrait work includes two artist residencies with senior centers in Brooklyn in 2016 (Krakus Senior Center in Greenpoint; and the Hope Gardens Community Center in Bushwick).


Edward G. Miner Library is open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Posted by Susan Andersen

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