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An Art Exhibit On Bipolar Disorder Is Coming To River North This Weekend

The exhibition will feature work from a variety of artists — including Chicagoans Kelly Mathews and Victoria Loeb — to raise awareness of bipolar disorder.

On the left, Kelly Mathews at INSIGHTS II exhibit in 2018. On the right, Victoria Loeb at work in her studio.
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RIVER NORTH — A series of art exhibitions coming to Chicago aims to reduce stigma around bipolar disorder.

“INSIGHTS IV: An Art Exhibition of Creativity and The Bipolar Brain,” run by the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, will feature 20 pieces from artists with bipolar disorder. Its goal is to show how creativity often accompanies this illness, with this part of the series featuring the artists’ self-portraits, according to a news release.

The foundation’s mission is “to foster awareness, understanding and research for early-onset bipolar disorder.”

The exhibit will run Friday-Sunday at the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, 325 W. Huron St. Admission is free. The hours:

  • 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday
  • 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
  • 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation held a competition to determine which works would be shown. It received hundreds of submissions from around the country. The pieces that will be featured include paintings, sculptures and photographs. 

Victoria Loeb and Kelly Mathews, from the Chicago area, are among the artists showing at INSIGHTS IV. 

Loeb, originally from Buenos Aires, has been an artist in Chicago for 18 years. Her background is in drawing, but she loves working with mixed media, using oil on canvas, acrylics and latex.  

This year’s INSIGHTS IV theme falls within Loeb’s areas of expertise. She’s used to using herself and her body as a model for her paintings, and in 2019 she started experimenting with self-portraits. 

“I love the fact that the foundation is doing a show with artists with this condition,” Loeb said. “There’s a lot of stigma around bipolar disorder, but connecting it to art shows that we can create an environment and make people more comfortable speaking about it.”

Credit: Provided
Victoria Loeb in her studio.

While Loeb’s paintings are personal and intimate, Mathews deals more with social issues. Despite their different themes, they share the vision that art is the ideal environment to advocate for bipolar disorder and mental illnesses.

“I’m uniquely blessed in being an artist and having my voice on the matter,” said Mathews, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1994.

It’s not the first time Mathews has advocated for awareness around bipolar disorder through her art. Last year, she held an exhibition called “Being Bipolar in a Polarized World,” her personal way to answer all the questions that she gets asked about the illness. 

Mathews mainly works with encaustic, an ancient technique that requires several layers of beeswax, combined with photography. The result is a combination of text, pictures and colors.

“For the beeswax to shine, the paintings need to be polished frequently,” Mathews said. 

Credit: Provided
Kelly Mathews’ piece “Being Bipolar in a Polarized World”

It’s also not the first time Mathews has worked with the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation. She won one of its grants in the past and kept in contact with founders Dusty and Joyce Licht Sang, who had a son with bipolar disorder who died at 24. 

Mathews went public about having bipolar disorder in 2018 after an interview with the Chicago Tribune, and she’s been vocal about it ever since. 

“But I never pretend to speak for all bipolars; I wouldn’t dream of it,” she said. “There are so many kinds of this illness, and each of us is different.”

Updates on the exhibit can be found on the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation’s website and Facebook page.

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