Arts art gallery review

Open Mind :: Open depicts student artwork on mental health

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The gallery includes a live mural, where visitors can continue to add their art until the exhibit closes on March 2.
Photo credit: Josh Ramos

Open Mind:: Open Art
Gallery Curator and Creative Director: Jessica Artiles ’12, MEng ’15
Stratton Student Center W20, First floor
Gallery on view from Feb. 16 to Mar. 2

The Open Mind :: Open Art  exhibit, which opened  on Feb. 16,  seeks to “celebrate neurodiversity” — and acknowledge various states of the mind, including depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. 

One particularly provocative collection, by artist Gian-Carlo Filippi, consisted of four depictions of disorders.  

Body dysmorphia, unknown abilities, depression, and schizophrenia were each depicted as a morphed figure, with phrases relating to the disorder written on relevant parts of the body.  

For example, the figure expressing body dysmorphia had “distorted perception of the thighs” written across its emaciated thighs, and “seeking surgery” written across its warped stomach. Writing symptoms on a body made the symptoms of these disorders feel personal, rather than medical.

The figure representing the unknown abilities disorder was completely devoid of words, but its stomach was ripped open to reveal seashells inside. One onlooker interpreted it as feeling like a shell of a person. Another interpreted it as having a “hard outer shell.”

“I wanted these beings to be monstrous and jarring, without being disrespectful to those who suffer from the mental illnesses they represent,” said Filippi.

Another exhibit, titled “Stitched Together,” showed six squares with faces on them. Some faces looked sad, some anxious, some hopeless. Each face was made out of sewn-together fabric.  The stitched-together faces in juxtaposition relayed a feeling of falling apart and recovery.

“We hope that when you look into the expressions we portrayed, you can empathize and see that no matter how broken you may feel, that you can stitch yourself together,” said the artists, siblings Allan and Danny Gelman ’20.

The piece looked effortless and professional, despite it being their first major sewing project.  They were inspired by a piece of artwork in Russia that depicted a landscape with pieces of fabric — but, when the fabric was viewed at a distance, it looked like a regular painting.

“Up close, the faces are just a bunch of broken pieces, but if you step back, you don’t see the struggle or obstacles or baggage etched into their skin, all you see is people strong enough that made it through,” said the Gelmans.

One painting, called “By Oneself,” depicts a girl, seconds from being devoured by an oncoming wave.  Her back faces it, and her fists are clenched as she braces herself.  The near-life-size painting, thoughtful and awe-inspiring, portrayed the girl as dwarfed by the tall wave.

“Depression felt to me like ocean waves. Something small would happen: a misunderstanding, a poorly worded comment, a literal spilled glass of milk. And then an earthly wind would blow and set off the waves,” wrote the artist, who wishes to remain anonymous.  “If you’re looking at an ocean, it’s the most peaceful thing.  And when there’s not a wave there, you can’t even remember how bad it was.”

The opening night also included stations from technology companies invested in improving mental health.  The fact that companies were allowed to advertise in an art gallery, while unconventional, enhanced the exhibit with a “live” component.

One company, Martian Wearables seeks to drive down the cost of brain imaging, especially to support mental health research. The company aims to make their EEGs priced affordably so that they can, according to Ruelas, be “available to everybody so you can have quantitative data on your state of mind.”

“People suffering from mental health disorders still face an unfortunate stigma. When you say that you have anxiety, or depression, or ADHD, so many people will roll their eyes,” said Martin Molina, co-founder of Martian Wearables.   

The company wants to accelerate providing quantitative data to support research into the diagnoses of mental health disorders. They aim to do this through their device, an ultra-affordable EEG.

“There’s so much room for error with qualitative diagnosis,” said John Ruelas, the other Martian Wearables co-founder.

The Gallery Curator and Creative Director is Jessica Artiles, MIT alum. “She shoots high,” said Hannah Capponi ’17 of Artiles. “I know Jess, and she’s not the type of person to give up. If she wants something like this [exhibit] to happen again, it will happen again.”

The event will be on display in the Student Center, just to the right of the Verde’s entrance, until Mar. 2. I’d recommend that any student stop by, and check out what their peers have created, especially for anyone seeking solace in empathy from others.

More events for the exhibit, including food events and discussions on spirituality, can be found at