By Anyssa Bohanan
Central Oregon Daily
Bend artist Nicola Carpinelli is using his paintings to shine a light on one of America’s least discussed epidemics, suicide.
And those who have seen his latest exhibition say it’s helping to open up those discussions and possibly prevent others from taking their own lives.
Capinelli says his own experiences with suicidal thoughts are what inspired him to put his brush back to the canvas after a 10-year hiatus – to find peace with the heavy topic.
And beginning Tuesday, Capinell’s art will be the centerpiece of a two-week exhibit and discussion to answer questions, share experiences and explore solutions to an issue they say must be discussed.
It’s estimated that every year around 250-thousand people are affected by a loved one’s suicide.
On my 19th birthday the young man that I dated in high school committed suicide, on my birthday,” said Cait Boyce, CEO of Shelter for Youth and president of Central Oregon PFLAG. “So here I am at 65 and I still remember that every single year when I have a birthday. Every year, I’ve never forgotten it. And I’m angry and I’m still angry, and I probably always will be.
Here in Central Oregon, Boyce isn’t alone.
“I lost my dad to suicide in 2009, and i was 23, and that was my first experience with suicide,” said Stephanie Sahleen, with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Since I was about 10 years old I was familiar with is because he had been threatening it, struggling with his own mental health, but it wasn’t until 2009 that he actually completed the act. That affected me tremendously, I was very close with my dad.”
In the years after her father’s death, Sahleen said she searched for organizations and resources to help her heal from the tragic loss.
“Suicide is different in that it’s the only loss that you have that leaves you with a ‘what if? What if I would have done something different? Did I miss something? How could I have helped?, Did I say something wrong?,” she said. “You know, I know it’s not my fault, but you always have those ‘what if’s and that’s really hard. Several years later I decided I really wanted to try and find something or start something to provide that resource because through the years I have lost several friends and an employee to suicide as well, and I just realized it’s so prevalent in our community. Mental illness is huge and people aren’t talking about it and they need to.”
Years after her loss, Boyce also turned to helping others, specifically LGBTQ youth in Central Oregon.
“In Central Oregon alone, the number one cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24 is suicide. A vast portion of those suicides is LGBTQ youth.” Boyce said. “It’s bullying, it’s pressure from peers, it’s pressure from family, it’s kids who have no place to go and they’re scared. A couple of years ago we had a young man at PFLAG who attempted suicide and ended up in the hospital. He was 11. So life has become so serious for someone who is 10 and 11 years old that they would contemplate suicide. And that’s heartbreaking.”
Artist Nicola Carpinelli has illustrated his own experiences with suicidal thoughts through paintings of celebrities who have killed themselves.
The ‘Dead Poets Art Exhibition” opens Tuesday for World Suicide Awareness Day.
Sahleen and Boyce both say that Carpinelli’s exhibit is a great way to open up the discussion on the topic of suicide.
“I think presentations like this are perfect. I think what Nicola is doing is amazing,” Sahleen said. “Things like this can be triggering to people who have suffered themselves from depression or maybe people who have had suicidal ideation, so I think it’s so fantastic that he’s really pulled in various resources to ensure that we’re looking at the whole picture.”
Said Boyce: “I’m hoping that it will bring so many people in who will kind of maybe see one of the paintings that Nicola has done, Bourdain is a prime one, and nd feel that power, you know here’s a man who killed himself, why did they happen? Did he have the same problems I had? Kate Spade, what 24 hours after Anthony Bourdain died? Brilliant designer. So what were her problems? Am I like Kate Spade? Am I in that path? So I’m hoping it opens up some minds.”