PITTSBURG, Kan. — Sometimes art delves so deeply into the soul that it exposes secrets, finally bringing them from the darkness to begin the process of healing from them.
Steve Head refers to this as finding redemption, a recurring word he uses as he discusses his exhibit, “Family Secrets,” that is winding down Jan. 17 at Porter Hall, home of the art department and its galleries at Pittsburg State University.
Head’s exhibit of 38 digital photo collages, mixed media pieces, paintings and photographs exposes a thread of mental illness and other kinds of dysfunction that he said runs through his family. It also lays bare the deep emotional and psychological scars Head suffered from it. Compiling the exhibit was a form of redemption from that family pain, he said.
“Redemption is about bringing your story out of the closet,” the Webb City artist said. “By sharing it, it’s like a salve you put on a wound.”
Apparently, the exhibit has had that effect for some viewers. They reflect it in the anonymous messages they leave in a box at the exhibit.
Just one of them: “I have lived with bipolar, anxiety and addiction and was brought to tears at your artwork. It gives me a deep sense of comfort seeing another artist express such illnesses so well. Your pieces are inspirational. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.”
Head’s family secrets go back to well before his childhood in the 1950s. His exhibit includes digital family photos dating back to 1890. They put faces on the tolls of generational poverty and illiteracy, mental illness, and physical, emotional and sexual abuse, he said.
Head’s great-grandfather and a grandmother spent time in the Oklahoma State Mental Hospital — now Griffin Memorial Hospital — at Norman, Oklahoma. His grandmother,