Opioid crisis, addiction and recovery experiences explored in exhibition

You can hear the ache in Bev Goldie's voice even through the phone.

A couple of years ago, Goldie conceived of the art show that would become “Operation Monarch” in response to the opioid crisis, and more broadly to substance abuse and recovery. She had slowly come to recognize her own experiences were beginning to inform her art-making in ways they hadn't previously.

“I was venting and releasing these feelings of despair and anxiety, while on the other hand I could see where recovery was possible, and that it was OK for me to have joy even though he still has issues,” Goldie said.

“He” is Goldie's son, who has struggled with addiction for a decade, and who has been clean for about a year now. Some of the damage to the fabric of her family has been repaired, but it still weighs heavily, opening Goldie's eyes to the notion that recovery is not a fixed path, nor is it limited to those directly experiencing addiction.

“It's a societal issue. It's not just the person involved, but relatives, employers, schools, the judicial system… and we're almost at ground zero,” Goldie said.

She also said the impact of recovery on her art was more metaphorical than literal.

“It was therapy for me, a distraction from the chaos, from the PTSD of knowing your kid could die. There were times I didn't know where he was, or if he was OK. People don't train you for this,” she said.

And so the Dublin-based painter hoped to assemble a group show that would speak to the crisis from a variety of perspectives, all of them personal. She reached out to her friend, Myken Pullins, whose work with Southeast Inc., a recovery and mental health provider in Columbus, has brought her into contact with a variety of artists through the agency's Fresh A.I.R Gallery.

“We both had similar goals” for the exhibition, Goldie said. Those goals included sharing stories of people whose lives have been impacted by addiction and recovery, and providing information to help people understand and/or get help.

Toward the first goal, Goldie and Pullins approached six artists about being core participants, before also putting out an open call for submissions. Columbus artist Kent Grosswiler, who's been public about his own past with substance abuse, was among those asked to help anchor the exhibition.

“[It's] an opportunity to provide some hope or maybe a light bulb moment for someone,” said Grosswiler, who made a new work for the exhibition that he said showcases his pointed, weird sense of humor.