Mental illness is not something easily understood. Most of us only hear about it through television or the cinema, which tends to sensationalize the condition. Rarely do we meet a person truly afflicted with mental illness who can explain it. In 2006, Lauren E. Simonutti started hearing three distinct voices in her right ear, the ear she lost hearing in years prior. After numerous hospitalizations and mis-diagnoses, Lauren was finally given a name to her illness, rapid cycling, mixed state bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, and given proper medicines which allows her to function with great clarity on a daily basis.
Taking pictures since she was twelve, Lauren turned the camera on herself, photographing within the confines of her home, which she has rarely left since 2006. The result of this self-imposed isolation is a haunting, honest body of work about mental illness and a testament to her resilience and need to confront and understand her condition. As she says in her artist statement:
Madness strips things down to their core. It takes everything and in exchange offers only more madness, and the occasional ability to see things that are not there....The problem with madness is that you can feel it coming but when you tell people you think you are going crazy they do not believe you. It is too distant a concept. Too melodramatic. You don't believe it yourself until you have fallen so quickly and so far that your fingernails are the only thing holding you up, balanced with your feet dangling on either side of a narrow fence with your heart and mind directly over center, so that when you do fall it will split you in two. And split equally. So there's not even a stronger side left to win.....Over three and one half years I have spent alone amidst these 8 rooms, 7 mirrors, 6 clocks, 2 minds and 199 panes of glass. And this is what I saw here. This is what I learned.
Most artists strive to make work that says something – that reaches deep inside themselves to reveal a fear or a desire. Lauren E. Simonutti presents work that is so truthful and so raw that the viewer can't help but accept her truth and enter a world which may be unfamiliar but undeniably powerful.