Los Angeles-based contemporary artist, Kellie Gillespie stands out as a sculptor and mental health activist, challenging societal perceptions through her groundbreaking work.
One of her remarkable installations, Over/Medicated/Under, transforms recycled anti-psychosis prescription bottles into large sculptures, becoming a poignant commentary on mental health, resilience, and societal norms, as well as reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Responsible Consumption and Production and Good Health and Well-Being.
Gillespie's installation, Over/Medicated/Under, is a testament to the power of recycling and community effort. Comprising more than 5,000 bottles of medicine prescriptions for mental illnesses that have been collected over two years, the artwork transcends its material’s original use. This project not only reduces waste by repurposing discarded prescription bottles but also challenges preconceived notions about the inherent value of these everyday objects. In Gillespie’s hands, the anti-psychosis pill bottles become more than just packaging but also hold meaning, embodying the heavy emotions that those who struggle with mental health face daily.
The installation's creation involved the collective efforts of an online community that responded passionately to Gillespie's call for prescription bottle donations. The outpouring of support, both in terms of material contributions and personal narratives, underscores the communal nature of the project. Gillespie acknowledges and emphasizes that the project belongs to the community, creating a sense of shared ownership and pride among those who contributed.
Over/Medicated/Under is more than an assemblage of recycled materials; it is a deeply symbolic representation of the complexities of mental health. Gillespie's intentional use of uniformly cut rings of prescription containers creates a mesh-like sculpture with undulating bumps and bubbles. Here, her choice of using anti-psychosis prescription bottles, often associated with stigma and personal struggle, becomes a metaphor for the ups and downs faced by individuals dealing with mental health issues.
The work’s title itself, Over/Medicated/Under, speaks to the struggles of finding the right medication, navigating side effects, and enduring the often exhausting trial-and-error process. The installation's dual perspectives, viewable from both above and below, invite viewers to consider the work from different angles, mirroring the multi-faceted nature of mental health experiences.
Gillespie's meticulous construction of the installation, with its organic and biomorphic structure, draws parallels to brain chemistry and neurological pathways. The rings, connected by cable ties, evoke synaptic connections and neuronal junctions. The artist skillfully incorporates scientific references, such as the benzene chemical structure, to symbolize the endless variations in brain chemistry—a powerful assertion of the diversity of individual experiences with mental health.
The deliberate positioning of Over/Medicated/Under at a low height above the ground is a strategic choice by Gillespie. Placing the work just inches above the average viewer prompts a closer examination of the intricate details and reinforces the immersive nature of the installation. This intentional engagement encourages viewers to confront the meticulous and intensive process behind the creation of the artwork, fostering a deeper contemplation, connection, and understanding.
Kellie Gillespie's dual identity as a sculptural artist and mental health activist is integral to her work. By using materials discarded by society, she symbolically parallels the societal ostracization of individuals facing mental health challenges. Her sculptures initiate conversations about prevalent stigmas, misinformation, and biases surrounding mental health.
Gillespie's artistic process, characterized by intense experimentation and repetitive labour, becomes a metaphor for the arduous journey of those grappling with mental health issues. Through her work, she instigates vital conversations between art and mental health, challenging perceptions and advocating for a more compassionate and informed understanding of mental well-being.
Gillespie's impact extends beyond her artwork, with global recognition, solo exhibitions, and collaborations with notable institutions and companies. Her commitment to mental health advocacy is evident in partnerships, such as the collaboration with Janssen Global for the Art of Ending Stigma Campaign.
Kellie Gillespie's transformative use of recycled prescription bottles in Over/Medicated/Under serves as a powerful catalyst for conversations surrounding mental health while also showcasing alternative methods to recycling plastic pill bottles. Through her art, Gillespie challenges societal norms, advocates for well-being, and invites viewers to reconsider the value of discarded materials and the stories they tell.