Craft Guild is a community, a concept, a highly questionable idea.
This space was launched by Column Health, but will be built and owned by individuals participating in ways that resonate with their own beliefs, values, and aesthetic. We want to help de-stigmatize mental illness and the disease of addiction. To that end, we have created the Craft Guild and Unaffilliate.
Column Health's engagement in the production of art and cultural work is an intentional, purposeful approach to the conversations currently surrounding addiction and to provide a new space for these conversations to better address the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction.
Reducing this stigma provides hope to individuals seeking more humane treatment for their illness and helps create a new model of connecting to community and engaging in de-stigmatizing dialogue around the disease. Rather than disrupting the narrative, we want to facilitate these community connections through the support of art production and those artists whom are mission aligned and share the same hope for all those affected by this disease.
MANA WYNWOOD CONVENTION CENTER
Ghillie Suit Project, 2019
Anonymous Artist, Boston, MA, USA
ghillie suit n. a camouflage suit covered in irregular strips of material to resemble thick foliage, long grass, etc., to disguise the outline of the human figure. Now used by military scouts and in hunting, the garment was developed by shepherds in the Scottish Highlands. < ghillie, from Scottish Gaelic gille, a lad, a youth, servant; possibly borrowed via Latin from early Scandinavian word group related to guilds).
People struggling with addiction are often hidden in plain sight. The Ghillie Suit Project is a response to the opioid epidemic by an anonymous artist in Boston, MA. A healthcare clinician living in Boston, they were untrained in fashion or fine art, but returned to a youthful interest in costume design, textiles, and sewing while in treatment for an opioid addiction
The first Ghillie Suit was made after the death of a friend three years ago.
A few weeks after the funeral, the friend’s mother stopped by with a few favorite items of clothing (“he would want you to get some use out of them”). Initially intending to alter them to fit, the artist began ripping them into strips, inspired by the torn pieces of fabric pinned to the clothes of the family at the memorial service (in Jewish mourning tradition, these badges are symbolic of “renting of their garments” in grief). The result was the first of what the artist calls “avant-garde wearable portraits.”
Most of the fabric in each Ghillie Suit comes from the wardrobe of a single person. All were in treatment for an opioid addiction, all were people who for one reason or another remained invisible.
The Ghillie Suits are portraits of people we don’t usually think of as “addicts.” They are soccer moms, middle-class golfers, college students, bankers, high-school athletes. The clothing is typically donated by family members who have lost someone to addiction, although some subjects are living. Following a local showing of the work at a Column Health clinic, current patients began to offer the artist articles of clothing they associate with their most difficult times, their points of resiliency, of resistance to the addiction, and often from key turning points in their recovery “almost like a ritual, like a snake shedding a skin.”
The ghillie suit is a design meant to visually break up the human form. Although designed for invisibility, the wearers of these garments or even their display becomes hyper-visible, a dialectic between the sense of being “a freak” and being “the unseen” that captures the anonymous artist’s observations of the social dimension of addiction, at once stigmatized and ostracized, and yet also transparent to needs and invisible to much needed help. They are meant to “brush the dust off our dirty souls. To point to the invisible missing links...art that is the gap we won’t allow ourselves to see. I dip my brush in my own experience to paint my own nature which happens to be a common shared nature.”
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas
Column Health’s Craft Guild is excited to be working with SCOPE Art Fair to de-stigmatize addiction and raise awareness of treatment and recovery.
For SCOPE Miami Beach 2017, Column Health has collaborated with New York-based artist, Tom Fruin, to create the exhibition "unaffiliate.us" that presents a selection of works spanning Fruin's critically-acclaimed career and addresses shared issues of de-stigmatizing addiction.
The "unaffiate.us" exhibition will include Fruin’s Quilt series composed of drug bags and other found detritus the artist collected throughout his exploration of New York City. A craft typically considered ‘women’s work’, quilting is oftentimes a deliberate narrative, and in Fruin’s case, a New York story that strengthened his optimism. Also on view is Fruin’s ICON series, an extension of the quilted drug bags., with a re-imagined narrative. Tom Fruin’s eponymous houses and watertowers and internally lit, sculptural mosaics that function as beacons of color and light. These “Icons” transform mundane landscapes into vibrant expressions of humanity.
Tom Fruin’s work is has been featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Hyperallergic, Juxtapoz, Surface Magazine, Casa Vogue, Elle Decor, and other fine publications.