One of three related new paintings by Adam Daley Wilson at Aspect/Ratio Projects Gallery in Chicago, the work titled Third Portrait, Jesus Christ Dead Savior, In His Insanity of Peace is a story of assertion. It proclaims: We challenge your long cherished narratives. We now reclaim our own voices. We will now participate, in all of it, and we will no longer be silenced by your stigmas. Because — as the primary voice of this story declares — do not forget, it is past time you remember, look at the evidence worldwide: It is not we — those you diagnose and dismiss as mentally ill — it is not we who have the true illness of the mind.
With declarative statements spoken by literature’s accepted narrative voices, this story asks how humanity forgot so much, drifted so far, from where we claimed we wanted to be. Our relation to nature. Our relations to each other. Our relations to distant others, to peace. This new narrative sees past the new stories that societies now tell themselves, past the subjective of their myths, and sees objectively, to what is true and real. Look at where we are. Did it have to be like this? Look at the evidence worldwide. In so doing, this new narrative asks: What if those labeled as mentally ill can see the objective true horrors and hypocrisy the rest of humanity cannot see — because so-called normal humans have blinders — their imaginary — delusional — stories that they live inside?
From the philosophical the story shifts to the concrete. All of the world’s major religions have an origin story based upon peace. And the world’s largest religion, Christianity, has an origin story, in its Jesus, that is an explicit narrative of peace. Consider: Except for our agreed-upon stories that money is real, and that nature is to be exploited-consumed, what more fundamental story has humanity made for itself than the narrative that there was a Christ, and that he wanted peace? Yet we forget this narrative, except in name — because objective reality shows we want anything but harmony and peace. No leader dares speak of true peace. No leader dares say, it does not have to be like this. Only some dare say this, crying out, and, for stating what they see, you deem them abnormal, aberrant, insane.
Consider: If Jesus Christ arose today, and started a movement of peace and love for All — if he started a new narrative that challenged yours — your self-made stories of money, consumption, exploitation, your story that winner-takes-all, you would demand Jesus jailed, institutionalized — crucified — anything to hide his stark mad ravings of peace, so threatening to your treasured narratives — and so threatening to the Catholic Church’s lust for money, power, and secrecy.
This work appropriates and alters a detail of the iconic Guerrillero Heroico by Alberto Korda (1960, public domain). It blurs concepts of Jesus as a revolutionary, Jesus as a 1960s pacifist, and Jesus as having mental illness. The artist’s handwriting serves as a final word. It is illegible to the viewer but known to and retained by the artist. Most importantly, this work is indebted to cross-cultural and cross-temporal studies of mental illness diagnostic criteria. These studies establish that medical definitions of mental illness can be inexcusably subjective and arbitrary. We forget: In the US alone, mainstream medicine has declared entire categories of women and people of color to be mentally ill — just for being alive. We forget: As late as the 1970s, over half of licensed US psychiatrists — medical doctors — were scientifically certain that homosexuality was a mental illness. All of this is repugnant. Insane. Just who has the illness of the mind.
In early February 2021, Artforum International magazine has listed as ‘must see’ the Chicago show at Aspect/Ratio Projects Gallery featuring this work by Adam Daley Wilson. Subsequently, a journalist with NBC News in Maine has covered this development as well, in an in-depth article.