OKLAHOMA CITY — Local artist Eric Exton has dealt with mental illness all of his life. And, as debilitating as that can get sometimes, he believes that the social stigmas and misconceptions surrounding mental illness are oftentimes just as damaging, if not more, to not only himself, but others living with these issues.

The upcoming Malneirophrenia: Art of the Lullaby, is his way of bringing these ideas about mental illness to the forefront, an exhibition focusing on recovery and self-therapy through art.

“I have lived with mental illness my entire life and have dealt with a lot of negativity from people who don’t understand the subject,” Exton said. “It’s really hard to be social, it’s really hard in the job market, it’s just really hard in general. If you’re trying to be o.k., if you’re trying to be like everyone else, it’s very emotionally destructive to deal with some of the negativity that comes with it.”

Exton believes that many of these dangerous preconceived notions about mental illness comes from pop culture, such as movies and TV and that, if there is going to be a change in the way people with mental illnesses are perceived, it is going to have to come from people who are actually living with them.

“Overall, I wanted to try to educate people, showing them art can be used as a form of therapy,” Exton said. “I want to introduce people to a new way of how mental illness should be seen or portrayed. I hope people go home and think you know, I’m having a rough day, maybe I should write something, maybe I should paint something. It’s getting out that emotion, using art as a therapeutic method.”

Malneirophrenia: Art of the Lullaby opens to the public at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 15th at Graphite, 1751 NW 16th . In addition to Exton, other featured artists “struggling with the effects of mental illness” include Mikki Olsen, C. Jervey Hatcher, Bekah June and Harold Neal.

Father’s Home by Eric Exton.

While many of the artists exhibited are old hat when it comes to having their works presented in the Metro art scene, this is the first time Exton has had his work publicly shown. Even though his work has been called at times “extreme,” he hopes that viewer can “go home with a glimpse into the mind of someone who does not experience the world in conventional ways, and from that experience gain understanding.”

“I believe it is going to be an art show that no one has ever seen before; that’s why I was asked to do it, to bring something extreme to the public,” Exton said. “There are a lot of things going on in the district, but I’m hoping people can take the time to stop by Graphite and check out something I can guarantee they’ve never seen before. The art pushes the limits emotionally and hopefully people can take what they need to from that and make their own lives better.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Malneirophrenia is "a state of depression following a nightmare."

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