Maxine Seelenbinder-Apke is a retired art teacher and artist with a first hand knowledge of the value of art as therapy. When her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, she transformed the social stigma, lost dreams, fear and faith into art. When you see Seelenbinder-Apke’s fiber art, paintings, photography, sculpture and handcrafted art paper, you are witnessing a decade of emotional turmoil turned into art.
Creating emotion-inspired work is part 1 of Seelenbinder-Apke’s “psychotherapy.” Part 2 involves helping others. She lets those in situations similar to hers know it’s okay to “talk about, acknowledge and share” their own experiences with mental illness. She also asks those living comfortable lives, “Do you wear blinders?” She feels removing blinders may allow them to see their fellow man in need of help.
From Simple to Complicated
Seelenbinder-Apke recently exhibited her body of work in a one woman show. The opening at Cincinnati’s Clifton Cultural Arts Center coincided with National Mental Health Awareness Week. In addition to mirroring her life with a mentally ill son, her artwork is also a reflection of her personal battle with depression.
Her art uses a variety of creative techniques and ranges from simple handcrafted paper cards to complicated mixed media sculpture. The fiber, paint, metal, handcrafted paper, photography and found objects she uses help Seelenbinder-Apke mold a complicated mix of emotions into works of art. Each creative choice is symbolic of her journey.
“A Mother’s Journey”
Maxine Seelenbinder-Apke titled her show “A Mother’s Journey – Through an awareness of mental illness.” The medium, colors and textures she uses are significant in helping to convey her story. Each work has a name and a narrative that offers insight into the emotional journey of a mother coping with a mentally ill son while handling her own depression.
Here are a few examples of the artwork in “A Mother’s Journey.”
“The Stoic Mother” began as a batik but ended up a quilt. It is crafted in cool hues mostly, with a few bright color splashes. Behind a young blonde boy is a shadowy mother with a face reminiscent of a Picasso work. Her heart is visible, gray and broken. Seelenbinder-Apke explains the quilt as representative of a mother who “must stay strong enough for both.”
“A Son’s Portrait” is a quilt with a 1940’s “Alice in Wonderland” fabric background. A large quilted spiral represents how “a schizophrenic breakdown can take many paths.” Seelenbinder-Apke included sharp metal pieces to emphasize the difficult path. The quilt spiral has stitched-on words. “Hallucinations,” ” bad trip,” “paranoia” and “LSD” are a few that illustrate a schizophrenic’s tendency to self medicate.
“A Crap Shoot” is a giant-sized pair of dice covered with thousands of regular sized dice. Seelenbinder-Apke wanted to show mental illness as simply ” the luck of a throw of the dice.” Patterns of dice and “brains” in red, green, blue and yellow demonstrate the “chance” of depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress syndrome, OCD or acute anxiety.
“The Big Book – You are not Alone”
Part of Seelenbinder-Apke’s art “psychotherapy” is encouraging others to share their stories. “The Big Book,” like her other artwork, is a tool to accomplish that. It’s part of her commitment to letting others know it’s okay to talk about their experiences.
Maxine Seelenbinder-Apke encourages anyone traveling a similar road “to create an expression of your own journey related to mental illness.” If you send your creative work to her, she will include it in her book as it travels to other galleries. She invites you to contact her at email@example.com or check out her blog, postfamilysecrets.
Net proceeds of Mrs. Seelenbinder-Apke’s “A Mother’s Journey” show catalog will go to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.)
“A Mother’s Journey” Art Show and Catalog