Heiress Gallery in St. Pete is currently showing Melissa Spitz’s solo show You Have Nothing to Worry About, a moving portrait of her mother’s mental illness and substance abuse.
From the gallery about the exhibition-
In her solo exhibition at HEIRESS, Spitz presents medium-to large-format prints of her iconic images. The works are installed in a chaotic environment, scattered amongst the detritus of familial tragedy: her mother is found in the context of hundreds of pills and pill bottles, a glimpse into the chaos that Spitz and her family have dealt with for many years. Thousands of 4×6 glossy photos are scattered on a table in the center of the space and invites gallery visitors to attempt to make sense of the nostalgia that they hold. In addition to photographs, Spitz has included new sculptural works including ten enameled hammers titled, You Are the Nail, which encourages an examination of the over-reliance of pharmaceutical solutions in the United States. Spitz’s work freezes moments of chaos in time, to be dissected and understood by the artist after the fact. The majority of her most intimate traumatic life experiences are captured through her lens, and finds a second life in the digital sphere on Instagram, to a community of over 50 thousand followers, which blurs the lines between catharsis and entertainment.
From the artist about the exhibition-
Since 2009, I have been making photographs of my mentally ill, substance-abusing mother. Her diagnoses change frequently-from alcoholism to dissociative identity disorder–and my relationship with her has been fraught with animosity for as long as I can remember. I am fully aware that my mother thrives on being the center of attention and that, at times, our portrait sessions encouraged her erratic behavior.
The photographs are simultaneously upsetting and encouraging; honest and theatrical; loving and hateful. By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response. The images function like an on going conversation.
The series in installation form encourages an examination of the role prescription drugs play in the United States. Aiming to prompt discussions on the cultural, social, and individual implications of an overreliance on pharmaceutical solutions. Through visual metaphors and imagery, You Have Nothing to Worry about continues to raise awareness about the need for a balanced and holistic approach to health and well-being. While acknowledging the limitations and potential pitfalls of relying solely on prescription medications.
The immersive exhibition functions as a thought-provoking commentary on the pervasive and complex issue of prescription drug culture in America. Through the meticulous arrangement of pill bottles, pills, photographs, and family ephemera, I seek to engage viewers in a dialogue about the consequences of our society’s reliance on pharmaceutical drugs.
The Vanity, pictured above, which includes family notes and photos, adds even more depth to the family’s struggles.
From the artist-
I have always been interested in sculptural installations and photography. Sandy Skoglund, Jeff Wall and Carrie Mae Weems are a few big names who have directly inspired me. The obsessive nature of details and experience only add to telling a story and I’ve been eager to find a way to participate. This vanity belonged to my great-aunt Sophie and has been in my bedroom my whole life, it went to college and graduate school with me, and my brother has been storing it since I moved to New York. This exhibition presented the perfect opportunity to utilize it. Informed by actual experiences, The Vanity, showcases family ephemera, letters from my mom, pill bottles, scattered pills, lipsticks and flickering candles. The mirror allows viewers to reflect on their own shared familiarity.
Spitz also created You Are The Nail, pictured below, for the exhibition.
Her description of the work-
I’m not sure when I first heard the phrase “when your only tool is a hammer, you begin to see everything as a nail” but it was used regarding my mom being over medicated and her prescriptions mixing, sending her into another psychotic episode. It wasn’t the doctors’ fault, or mom’s or the pharmacist but the drugs, they were to blame. I was frustrated and angry and confused, but too young to understand that doctors received kickbacks for writing certain prescriptions and that patients like my mom were a goldmine. I do want to be clear that I know anti-psychotic medications have saved people’s lives and mom would not be able to function normally without a carefully balanced mix of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. But all too quickly do I find doctors in almost any capacity pushing drugs on me…I was alarmed to learn that the United States pharmaceutical industry generates over 110 bilion dollars of revenue each year.
You are the Nail is a series of ten hammers representing the ten most prescribed anti-psychotic / antidepressant pharmaceutical drugs in the United States. Several of which my mom is prescribed. Informed by Abraham Maslow’s theory of over reliance, you are the nail visually depicts our mental health field’s greatest tool, prescription drugs. The hammers are titled, Zoloft, Lexapro, Trazadone, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Seroquel, Celexa, Vensir and Abilify.
This exhibition closes 1/13/24.