Whether you’ve been touched by addiction directly or have a close friend or family member who has, outlets are incredibly important in expressing the pain of the experience. And while famed artist William Stoehr has never actually battled a substance abuse problem himself, his sister died of an overdose; prompting him to create compelling canvases that detail the pain of this struggle.
Stoehr was recently interviewed by NPR and described the intense emotions he experienced after his sister passed away. Seeing her struggle firsthand, he is using his paintings to help de-stigmatize addiction; emphasizing that this is a disease and not a moral failing.
“Prevention and treatment and recovery can’t take place until we get rid of the stigma and people are willing to seek help,” Stoehr told the site. “My sister once told me that she was evil. Well, she’s not evil. She had a disease.”
The article showcased several of Stoehr’s most recent paintings, which include bold colors and powerful facial expressions. Many of his works in this category are actually going on an exhibit, put together by the National Institutes of Health (also known as NIH). They are set to tour the country at various museums and the art is getting exposed to scientists at NIH to help further the conversation.
Stoehr has also made a point to hand out recovery brochures and resource information at all exhibits that he puts forth, whether they are addiction related or not. And he told NPR that he has encouraged his fellow artists to also explore this topic when looking for creative inspiration.
Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was featured in the article and has become a major advocate for Stoehr’s works. She hopes that art can also be used as a tool for more people in recovery, allowing them to turn their previous pain into something positive that can potentially inspire others.
“I was really struck by the intensity of William’s images,” Volkow added. “We are coming at this problem from the same place. In truth, we want writers and artists, and playwrights and poets and educators and everybody started talking about addiction. Works like Williams can hopefully help convey the message that it is OK to talk about this.”
We certainly agree with that sentiment and invite everyone to take a closer look at Stoehr’s art pieces via his portfolio site.