Art to soothe a troubled mind

‘Mind Fields’ kicks off ‘Art & Healing’ program

THE WEDGE — Ever since his head injury 13 years ago on the set of a television commercial, Dean Seal has had trouble remembering things.

“They were spinning me around on a cable, and the cable broke,” Seal said. “I dropped 14 feet and landed on my head.”

Now, even the names of people he knows sometimes escape him.

“I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but at the same time I’m going to have to ask them sometimes,” he explained. “It’s embarrassing. I used to be good at that.”

It also made his former role as producer of the Minnesota Fringe Festival a challenge.

“If you’re directing a festival and you can’t remember names or titles, it’s a problem,” he said.

So, Seal took that frustration and embarrassment and did what any self-respecting theatre person would do. His one-man play, “Dropped on My Head! The True Story of an Industrial Accident” premiered at Bryant-Lake Bowl about 10 years ago.

A live recording of that show will play at Intermedia Arts this fall as a part of its new, multiyear project “Art & Healing.”

Over the next four years, exhibitions will probe the ties between artistic expression, health and well-being — not just of the individual but the community, as well.

The first installment, “Mind Fields,” explores the diverse ways art can express an unseen, inner world damaged by injury, distorted because of mental illness or scarred by emotional trauma.

Intermedia Program Manager Marlina Gonzalez said the artists in “Mind Fields” all must negotiate their own, invisible minefield.

“[They are] almost tiptoeing around unpredictable mines that are unseen to the naked eye,” Gonzalez said.

“Mind Fields” gathers together a diverse group of artists working in a variety of mediums, from Kate Hoff’s clouded prints — Rorschach test images taken from scans of her brain — to the expressionist sumi ink portraits by Christi Furnas.

Furnas is one of a dozen participating artists from Spectrum, a South Minneapolis nonprofit that provides studio space for artists with mental illness.

Intermedia Artistic Director Theresa Sweetland said the Spectrum portion of the exhibit examines the connections between art and mental illness. The legacies of great artists like Vincent van Gogh are often viewed through the lens of mental health.

“There’s that expectation or that stigma that people with mental illness are more creative or somehow it causes their creativity, but they really want to say that they are artists first,” Sweetland said. “In some cases art does help them cope and in some cases, when they’re feeling well, it’s who they are. It’s their expression.”

For that reason, some artists with mental illness might take exception to the idea that their art is a form of healing.

Bridget Riversmith said she sees her disability as natural. Instead of an illness, Riversmith lives with “barriers” to perception, in her words.

“It’s less about healing for me,” she said. “It’s more about connecting the dots.”

That process is thrilling to watch. The Duluth-based artist’s dream-like paintings and

animation are highlights of “Mind Fields.”

“I see the things that I make as sort of clues that help me put together the big picture of what’s going on and what to do next,” Riversmith explained.

In that way, Riversmith is like many of the “Mind Fields” artists. The art may not have been created to heal, explicitly, but to cope or explain.

Seal said he wrote his one-man show because he was compelled to tell his story. It was only afterwards that he realized the telling made him feel better, too.

“It’s a healing thing for the person telling the story,” he said. “It’s a healing thing to hear it.”



“Art & Healing: Mind Fields” runs through Jan. 5 at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S. 871-4444

To register for fall classes or workshops related to the exhibit, call or visit the website.

The Art Treats lunch series does not require registration and is free and open to the public. A schedule is available on the website.