"To Really See": Art Exhibition Opens Eyes to Perception of Medication

To Really See ExhibitFor most people, the topic of medication is avoided. Professor Paul Ranelli is working to change this conversation. 

Ranelli teaches students the social side of medication, including cost, personal and public perception, previous experiences and physician-patient-pharmacist relationships.

“In most cases, medications get forgotten as part of the social fabric of health, unless cost comes up,” Ranelli said.

To bring focus on medication outside of cost, Ranelli turned to art, which would allow patients to openly tell the story of their relationship with medication.

Ranelli first debuted in visual arts last year with his play, “Go Ask Alice.” A collaboration with playwright Syl Jones and Mixed Blood Theater, the play discussed medication-use experience. Ranelli wanted to further explore the social role of medication in people’s lives and began a new project, “To Really See,” a partnership with Jes Reyes and Avivo ArtWorks (formerly Spectrum ArtWorks). The exhibit was initially displayed August-September 2017 at the Hennepin County Library Minneapolis Central.

To Really See ExhibitPaintings capture the artist’s perception of their prescriptions, whether good or bad. One painting shows a pill alongside breakfast items — an essential part of the day that requires little thought to complete.

In another painting, the artist portrays himself in knots, the pill on the end of his tongue. These are a few of the paintings in the exhibit that Ranelli hopes will open the conversation about the relationship between the medication and its user.

By learning how patients perceive the medicine they take, health care professionals can foster cooperation in future therapies.

Importance is shifted on the relationship between the health care professional and the patient, when medication is equally as important in the story. Ranelli hopes that the exhibition will “give … a different frame of reference to see medications and talk about them outside of an office or pharmacy.”

Following the exhibition, Ranelli joined the closing night panel for an open discussion about medication use.

“Talking about anything, being transparent, honest, respectful, and recognizing human strengths and vulnerabilities helps reduce stigma in general and in mental health specifically,” Ranelli said.

—Kelly McCrimmon

View the Exhibit 
St. Luke’s Hospital Duluth
Now – April 2018
Bio-Medical Library University of Minnesota Twin Cities
December 2017 – April 2018