Bear on a Hot Tin Roof

Bear on a Hot Tin Roof
Bear on a Hot Tin Roof
July 8, 2011 - 8:30am - October 28, 2011 - 5:30pm
USC IGM Art Gallery

Vincent Sabella’s seemingly innocent teddy bears on canvas reveal a darker tale of emotional distress from a childhood haunted by visions and taunting voices.

These paintings, on display at the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery, offer a window into childhood schizophrenia... and spark a dialogue about art and mental illness in an active research setting.

“The exhibits at the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery (IGMAG) investigate change,” Artistic Director Lynn Crandall states. “They are designed to inspire discussion and raise questions.”

Artist Vincent Sabella suffered from childhood schizophrenia, an illness that remained undiagnosed until a suicide attempt at the age of 17 caused him to be briefly institutionalized. Sabella, now 30, brought the symptoms of his illness under control with the help of a combination of medications, but the troubling childhood memories remain. Now he puts them to use as he explores his unresolved emotions through this 29-piece collection, 13 pieces of which are currently on display at the IGMAG.

Artistically inclined from an early age, Sabella doesn’t attribute his ability as an artist to his mental illness; rather, he uses it as a source of inspiration to create stories.

The text and related titles in each individual painting tell a stand-alone story, and the complete series tells an integrated larger story. A number of devices, including these textual dialogues — internal and external — and an array of painting techniques from representation to action abstraction keep the work teetering between composed and chaotic.

Sabella’s battle with schizophrenia and his expression on canvas make this body of work a perfect fit for the dialogues at the intersection of art, science and social order that are conducted daily at the IGMAG. The IGMAG is an ‘“art in the workplace” organization that also provides K-12 and continuing education programs, events and symposia. Scientists have long studied the link between creativity and mental illness. The lines between the two are still often blurred. Studies suggest that creative people often share more personality traits with the mentally ill than do people in less creative pursuits. This connection makes “Bear on a Hot Tin Roof” a hot topic for open-minded, exploratory discussion.

Sabella first exhibited “Bear on a Hot Tin Roof” in its entirety at The Happening Gallery in Marina Del Rey in June 2011. Gallery Director Natalie Gray explains what originally drew her to Sabella’s work: “There are few artists that paint from such a deep place that their work truly resonates with their story. To see these works and take in their contradicting layers of both innocence and maturity, is to start to scratch the surface of the story of Vincent Sabella.”

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Lynn Crandall
(213) 705-7489