Current Exhibit

TAC GALLERIES ARE OPEN Monday-Saturday, 10:00-4:00

Being Bipolar in a Polarized World


The Thin Line

November 19-December 30, 2021

Opening Reception: December 3, 5:30-7:30pm

MEMBERS ONLY – Limited attendance preview with Kelly Mathews, Curator Caren Helene Rudman, and Executive Director James M. Lynch from 5-5:20. Vaccinations, Masks, Reservations required.

Kelly Mathews

Kelly Mathews, Dreams 2

It was first noted by Aristotle in his infamous quote, There is no great genius without a mixture of madness. In 1959, Oscar Levant, American pianist, composer, author, comedian, and actor stated, “There is a thin line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”

The Art Center Highland Park is addressing the link between ‘madness’ and ‘genius’ in the context of art. From Van Gogh, to Viginia Woolf, and in recent years Kusama and Robin Williams, the line between what we call lucidity and insanity is so often visible, but yet, it can be both celebrated and feared, discussed and stigmatized. The discourse around the terms, “madness or insanity” has been deconstructed in a post-modern world, where the ultimate goal of creative expression is to lose oneself completely, leading to a normalization for artists to reveal their struggles. That is positive.

How do we talk about the serious issues around mental illness in the context of art and expression? When we talk about mental illness in a way that is sensitive and that does not gloss over or minimize personal struggles, it is our belief that we lead the conversation forward. Tom Dart, Cook County Sheriff, once asked at a fundraising event for Illinois Alliance for Mental Illness, “What is the difference between a child with mental illness and a child with cancer?” His response was astounding. He stated, “casseroles.” He went on to add that a community rallies around families with physical illness but hide from those struggling with mental illness.

Art enables all of us to communicate on a deeper level. Images represent the emotions that are often unspeakable or unknowable. Artists who struggle with mental illness have the unique ability to use creativity as an outlet and integrate their ‘described racing thoughts’ into a visual language. The result is work that is both unique to the individual and expansive into a symbolic universal truth. The work can tether us to reality and it can take us on a journey that travels beyond time and space. More importantly, artists with mental illness can find that the creative process is healing, enabling them to reclaim rather than recoil.

Guest Juror and featured artist, Kelly Mathews, a Chicago artist has been awarded an Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, for her project; Being Bipolar in a Polarized World.” 

Kelly states, “Mental Illness can be tragic and heartbreaking. It can also be beautiful. Consider Van Gogh. When he looked at the night sky, he saw “The Starry Night”. If he had not existed and painted, we could never share his vision. This exhibit is to celebrate those of us who see things a little different and offer you a peek into our world.”