A line drawing in black of a Passenger Pigeon bird with wings outstretched in flight, used as the logo of the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre.
An artistic blue brick background with the exhibit title “The Aesthetics of Mental Health” designed in the negative space, used as the logo for the exhibit.

Carla Sierra Suarez

2015-2020: A 4x4 grid of clear acrylic squares sits on a scratched silver metal backing. Within each of the squares are suspended pills of various sizes and colours.

2015-2020, 2021 (part one)

Artist Statement

My artwork 2015-2020 is a visual representation of my journey and experiences with the health care system. It spans from 2015, a time where I hit rock bottom and was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, through to 2020, my current reality of growth. It documents this through the use of the different medications I was on during this time. Recording the difficulties of finding balance with medication, but also aesthetically representing it in a way that is easier to accept and rationalize, allows me to creatively de-stigmatize the use of medication for mental health and present it as a natural process towards healing. This work, like The Aesthetics of Mental Health, shows the transition of a harsh past of institutionalized health care into a brighter future, a future where we have the necessary space to grow and heal.

The second image is a photograph of a typed list seemingly from a typewriter. It has listed all the generic names of the medications represented in pill form in the first work.  The list reads reads:   “2015-2020   1- Fluoxetine 10 mg , Prazosin 1mg 2-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 50mg 3-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 50mg, Concerta 27 mg 4-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 50mg, Concerta 27 mg, Lorazepam 0.5mg 5-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 50mg, Concerta 27 mg, Lorazepam 0.5mg, Quetiapine 25mg 6-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 75mg, Concerta 27 mg, Lorazepam 0.5mg, Quetiapine 25mg 7-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 75mg, Concerta 36 mg, Lorazepam 0.5mg, Quetiapine 25mg 8-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 75mg, Concerta 27 mg, Lorazepam 0.5mg, Quetiapine 25mg 9-Escitalopram 20mg, Trazodone 75mg,Lorazepam 0.5mg, Quetiapine 25mg 10-Trazodone 75mg, Abilify 2mg 11-Trazodone 75mg, Latuda 40mg 12-Trazodone 75mg, Latuda 60mg 13-Trazodone 75mg, Latuda 80mg 14-Trazodone 75mg, Latuda 60mg 15-Trazodone 50mg, Latuda

2015-2020, 2021 (part two)

Curatorial Statement 

Carla Sierra Suarez's work 2015-2020 offers a stark view of the artist’s personal history within the mental health care system. The pills are presented unadorned and unmanipulated, allowing the viewer to take in the aesthetic quality of these mass-created and designed objects. The work is presented alongside a list of the medications; the artist has deliberately chosen to use the non-brand names, adding to the directness and near coldness of the presentation. The museological presentation of the two pieces allows the viewer a small window into Sierra Suarez’s lived experience. Paramount in the reading of Sierra Suarez's work is gaining a partial understanding of her life during 2015-2020. What she has chosen to show and not to show is deliberate. Each individual pill arrangement within the work represents a period of time and an experience, the details of these belonging only to the artist. 

 

Although Sierra Suarez is referencing a recent experience, the work also speaks to a major transition in the history of mental health care: the introduction of drug therapies. Psychopharmaceuticals were first adopted in mental health care in the early 1950s, beginning with the antipsychotic medication Chlorpromazine. The integration of the new pharmaceuticals into the institutions was quick and widespread. Their adoption brought both a decrease to the size of the institutional population as more patients were discharged, but also an increase in serious mental and physical side effects caused by the new pills. Viewing Sierra Suarez’s work from an historical perspective, one cannot help but see the continuation of these same themes.