QUITO – Devils, crucified men, footprints on uphill climbs and hands expressing support are among the works of art created by patients from a Quito psychiatric hospital and displayed in an unusual exhibit entitled “Entretejidos” (Interwoven) in which the artists present their views of their complex existence.
The exhibit is on display at the Cultural Center at the Catholic Pontifical University of Ecuador (PUCE) and provides an intimate look at the worldviews of patients with psychiatric illnesses, mostly schizophrenia, although there are others suffering from other problems, including addiction.
“It’s the first time that it’s been done in this country and it’s been done very little on the world level,” said Arianna Moyano, the coordinator of the exhibit, who also holds a degree in clinical psychology from the university.
The project includes artwork by about 100 patients at Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart) Hospital in assorted styles. They are of all ages and some of them are permanently interned there, but others are only being cared for on a temporary basis.
A devil with gray shadows and a type of mask was for one of these exceptional artists the key being affecting that patient, “sustaining him and preventing his illness from advancing,” psychoanalyst Isabel Durango told EFE regarding the creator of the work.
In another work of art, a sketch in various colored pencils, a person kneeling in front of a man nailed to a cross makes the artist’s impotence in the face of his schizophrenia clearly felt.
In two self-portraits, a patient addicted to drugs is reflected with a smile and, at the same time, with a cold, almost angry look and with his hair over his face, a representation of his double life.
“Through art,” Moyano said, “discourse is interwoven, it’s given form and is transformed into something that allows (the patients) to keep themselves stable and so it’s a substitution for their psyches.”
The unusual collection of art and talent was organized to provide patients with the opportunity to connect their subconscious with multiple dimensions, with giving their dreams, thought and memories – some of which are, to be sure, confusing – form.
That is the case with a simple charcoal sketch which presents a complex silhouette of a women embracing herself and forming a heart, an ambivalent indication of the patient’s love and loneliness.
The exhibit also reflects the harsh reality of some patients who are trapped between two worlds in which the combination of colors and elements clearly point to the type of illness from which each suffers.
The schizophrenics draw in a disorderly and chaotic way, with tangled styles and without any agreement of colors.
On the other hand, the addicts follow a main theme and their colors are more uniform.
The project is the initiative of six young clinical psychologists at PUCE who decided to use art as a point of departure in their professional practices and present something where the illogical takes form and acquires meaning.
In the exhibit there are also written contributions by patients reflecting their anxieties and feelings.
As she hangs one of the pictures, Moyano said that the exhibit does not attempt to interpret the art of the patients but rather “to give them a way or a subject so that they can sustain themselves in art.”
It might be a “subject” that only makes sense to the creator, who, upon creating the work, is intending to make known the multiple facets of his personality, his problems and his illness.
“Entretejidos” will be open until the end of February.