Artist Tamara Staples’ sister took her own life via a cocktail of medications after suffering from bipolar disorder for many years.
Afterward, Staples collected the contents of her sister’s medicine cabinet and created a heartbreaking and powerful installation using the pills she collected — all of which were legally prescribed.
Were the medications responsible for her sister’s death, she wondered? The question led Staples to create the exhibition “Side Effects May Include,” which will be featured from May 12 to July 29 in the South Gallery at the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts, 39 South Main St., Oberlin.
Rooted in activism, the exhibition uses photography to explore the disconnect between mental health challenges and medication, especially polypharmacy.
Staples’ installation includes a constructed bedroom complete with repositionable wallpaper and movable walls. Every intricate detail on the quilt, pillows, wallpaper — even the art — include her sister’s pills and at first glance, you might not see how the room is dripping with them.
She also inventoried the 114 pill types, both pharmaceutical and over-the-counter, into a book that will be available to view.
An opening reception will be held from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, May 12. Representatives from local mental health, drug treatment, and law enforcement agencies will be on hand to answer questions.
A resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., Stables started her career as a prop stylist for print and television commercials. Her photography has since appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Town and Country, Harper’s, and Men’s Journal and her work has also been featured on NPR’s “This American Life” and CNN.