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Faces of Mental Illness

James Egaku's avatar James Egaku

In “Faces of Mental Illness,” the artist Egaku has achieved a stimulating sculpture that is both thought and conversation provoking. The crib represents a snapshot of the mental health system. With his ambitious use of common materials, Egaku makes a statement. Although the lines blur when quantifying the mentally ill, he optimistically seeks to forward that the solution lies with the commitment to provide treatment. Egaku has created this work entirely from the perspective of the first person, with limited resources that parallels the limited resources in his treatment and art work. Herein lies a breakdown of his work: The Bottom is the cardboard four legs of the crib representing the expectations of homelessness and discrimination thus the dysfunction of mental illness. The tape and the glue represent the bond of dysfunction between society and mental illness. The Bars, also constructed of cardboard show no way out, entrapment, the one way down, the nurturing of negativity. The Razor Wire effectively denotes the fact that people who are mentally ill can be homeless, in jail/prison, or hospitalized. The Mobile is key because it shows the way forward, the future of mental illness. Juxtaposition in the Mobile is meant to convey that the faces reflect upon and educate each other despite helplessness. The pill bottle is medicine’s answer to mental illness – medication. The crown denotes how important medication is in the mental health system. Black money as butterflies represent the profit made by the government from mental illness. Issues of government funding contribute to imprisonment and homelessness. This is a contradiction because society gives an answer to the problem that the government does not properly support. Egaku created a mirror effect on the backs of the faces placing all of us as the reflection of the problem because we are allowing this to happen. Egaku intimated the cycle of mental illness in his art in that he was at first a baby in a crib and that now as an adult he has been transformed by his treatment and is looking at the crib seeing his own reflection in the faces. The garbage bag represents our treatment of the mentally ill as refuse. Therefore he too is part of the problem seeking to find a solution. Egaku states that it is tolerance and understanding along with the accurate diagnosis of mental illness that is most encouraging. The “Faces of Mental Illness” seeks to show that although mental illness is problematic, the solution is the commitment to activism and dialogue of us all—mental health consumers as well as the society at large.

Entry Details
  • Art form: 3-D
  • Depth: 25 inches
  • Medium: mixed
  • Width: 39 inches
  • Year created: 2017
  • Height: 62 inches