Art and Madness

An ear here, a life there: Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath each had their own way of dealing with mood disorders. In her new graphic novel, cartoonist and storyteller Ellen Forney asks an important question: For artists, are mental disorders a gift or a curse? Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir, explores the aftermath of the bipolor diagnosis that arrived just before her 30th birthday, prompting Forney to fear that the requisite medications would decimate her creativity, and eventually, her entire career. And yet, she was also suddenly a part of an elite group: “The sense of heaviness was alleviated by a back-handed sense of cred.... I was officially a crazy artist.” Forney spent the next few years researching the lives of artists and the clinical realities of the diagnosis, taking comfort in William Styron’s Darkness Visible and other memoirs on the challenge of finding mental stability while cultivating creativity. Optimism and dark humor are alternately employed as Forney revisits a struggle familiar to millions of Americans. In addition to a personal narrative, the book is full of practical information about the disease, common prescriptions, and coping mechanisms, offered through black-and-white images and evocative prose.
Mon., Nov. 26, 7:30 p.m., 2012

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