Sharon Files doesn’t use a paintbrush or acrylics or other art supplies to create her dramatic artwork. All she needs is her one-of-a-kind wardrobe and her fashion accessories.
The Santa Rosan, 49, prefers wearable art and expresses herself through her fashions — though not the types found in high-gloss magazines advertising designer clothing. Files slips on sweaters as leggings, drapes several purses across her body and layers shirts, skirts, pants, vests and jewelry into eye-catching displays of self-expression. No two outfits are alike.
Her fashions tell a story: “That I’m unique and I’m a fashion designer,” she said.
This week photographs of her wearable art will be on display as part of “recovart,” an exhibit featuring some 80 works by 10 artists with mental health challenges. The show includes paintings, fiber arts, drawings, jewelry and other mediums, created in the light-filled drop-in art studios at the Wellness and Advocacy Center in Santa Rosa.
The exhibit highlights the journey through recovery and showcases the talents of Sonoma County adults who attend the center’s art program.
The show is an opportunity for members “to have themselves seen in the community as part of their personal growth,” said Sean Bolan, the center’s manager. “I hope (the public) can see that even with mental health challenges, people can create and find expression and define themselves.”
“recovart,” which opened Tuesday at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center, runs 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays through Dec. 6. An opening reception is 5-7 p.m. Thursday.
The center’s art director and exhibit curator naomi murakami showcases artists with professional-level talents as well as those lacking training and producing “naive art.” Several artists are homeless or have struggled with homelessness, an issue “that goes hand in hand” with mental illness, murakami said; all struggle with some type of mental health challenges. One lost her home to last year’s firestorms.
“Having mental health issues is almost like having a natural disaster in you, but not one you can see,” murakami said. “Mental health issues are really isolating you from your family and friends and the community.”
There is a stigma surrounding people with mental health issues, she said, but “art is a great bridge.” She cites statistics that nearly 1 in 5 Americans battle mental challenges issues each year.
Some find it debilitating to become engaged in the community. That so many attend the peer-run, self-help center and pursue artistic expression is a celebration in itself, murakami said.
“We want to congratulate people for making it here. For some people it’s a challenge just leaving home,” she said.
A program of Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire and contracted by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Mental Health Division, the center offers a wide range of services, including peer support and a Career & Computer Lab, through free memberships.
murakami is hopeful “recovart” will encourage the public to see the considerable talents of community members with mental illnesses.
She has been taking photos of Files for a decade and has almost 3,000 photographs chronicling Files’ outfits. Most show Files with close-cropped hair or wearing hairpieces; on a recent morning she was at the center sporting a blonde mohawk.
What: “Recovart” exhibit features works, created at the Wellness and Advocacy Center in Santa Rosa, by 20 artists with mental health challenges.
When: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 9-11 a.m. Saturdays; through Dec. 6
Where: Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa
The Wellness and Advocacy Center recently moved from its Chanate Road location to 2245 Challenger Way, Suite 104, Santa Rosa. For more information, call 707-565-7804 or visit wellnessandadvocacy.org. The Finley Community Center is at 2060 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa. The “recovart” exhibit is free; visit srcity.org/753/Finley-Community-Center