Kittanning exhibit focuses on faces of mental illness |

Kittanning exhibit focuses on faces of mental illness

Renatta Signorini

The Armstrong County Community Foundation is doing its part to “demystify” mental illness.

“One of the last … shames in our society is mental illness,” said foundation director Mindy Knappenberger.

A traveling photographic exhibit coming Tuesday and Wednesday to Kittanning’s Belmont Complex features pictures accompanied by narratives written by people who have experienced mental illness. The work, by acclaimed photographer Charlee Brodsky, features symbolic photographs that first appeared in Brodsky’s 2008 book “I Thought I Could Fly: Portraits of Anger, Compulsion and Despair.”

Brodsky is a professor of photography at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Knappenberger said such an exhibit is needed in Armstrong County, as well as anywhere, because of the stigma attached to mental illness. She called the exhibit a good opportunity for local residents to see work by an acclaimed photographer and learn about something they may not encounter in their lives.

“People should not be ashamed of being mentally ill,” Knappenberger said. “I hope people will go see it.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 57.7 million Americans suffer from mental disorders that are diagnosed and treated. However, fewer than half seek treatment, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The exhibit was organized by the American Jewish Museum in Pittsburgh and is made possible by the Staunton Farm Foundation. It was brought to the county by the Richard R. & Barbara A. Snyder charitable fund through the community foundation.

In a summary of the exhibit, American Jewish Museum director Melissa Hiller wrote that Brodsky’s photos serve as metaphors or symbols while the narratives tie both pieces together. For example, Hiller said, a photograph of a young woman’s pierced belly button interprets a mother’s frustration with her rebellious daughter who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Contributors of narratives are generally anonymous, Hiller said, because of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Additional Information:

If you go

What: ‘I Thought I Could Fly,’ traveling photographic exhibit featuring work by acclaimed photographer Charlee Brodsky

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

Where: Belmont Complex conference room, Kittanning

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