Faces of Mental Health Recovery is a public art project that engages people in recovery from mental illness, as well as their supporters, in learning photography and producing poster-sized black and white portraits to display publicly. In early September, I led a photography workshop in Landisburg, PA with the project participants. Last night we reconvened at the Perry County Council of the arts in Newport and wheat pasted the portraits onto 21.75 x 32-inch wooden panels.
The process was simple, though we learned some tips as we went. First, I made wheat paste by combining 1 part flour and 4 parts water and heating on medium while whisking constantly. Second, we applied a layer of wheat paste to the panel using a roller. It shouldn’t be gloopy, but get plenty on there.
The third step took three people. Two people lined up the top of the poster to the edge at the top of the panel, while one person at the other end held up the poster so it didn’t drop onto the wheat paste.
Shelley and Rog
The two people at the top slowly pressed the poster down, smoothing it out from the center.
Our title poster was printed on heavier paper than the portraits, which meant it had less wrinkles. Though we like the character and texture that the wrinkles give to the portraits.
After making sure every corner is applied, the final step was a top layer of wheat paste rolled over the poster. We’ll also add a layer of polyurethane once the panels have dried, to make them more weather-resistant and add a bit of gloss.
Shelley was the smoothing master. All that decoupage practice paid off.
Faces of Mental Health Recovery: Jasmine (PCCA’s fantastic creative programs director), Bill, Brendan, Shelley (my co-conspirator and co-organizer for the project), Todd, Paul and Nikki. One participant, Tracey, couldn’t make it that night.
These panels will be hung outside at Landis House, 67 N. 4th St., Newport PA. An accompanying indoor photo exhibition will open with a reception at Landis House on Oct. 11, 6:30 to 8 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., on first Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment. It will run through Nov. 22.