Dan Fenstermacher in The Ramp Gallery, March 22–April 16, 2016

These portraits illustrate unique, personas of individuals living with a diagnosed mental illness. They convey an authentic and genuine perspective of their lives to viewers. The purpose of this work is to inspire hope that one is not defined by their mental illness, but can overcome adversity. The portraits aim to enhance the viewer’s understanding of mental illness by juxtaposing the realities of people living with a mental illness to societal stigmas. Thus, the work humanizes the misconceived perception of mental illness by fostering dialogue and giving voices to a misunderstood and misrepresented community.

Dan collaborated with each individual to represent their experience with a mental illness. Some chose to depict a moment or feeling of intense anxiety that is a result of their illness and others show triumph in overcoming their illness and resisting defeat. Each person demonstrates the fundamental nature of the human spirit by persevering through extreme adversity. Courageously sharing a window into a world which may be unfamiliar, but often acutely similar to those not affected by mental illness, this work pushes the boundaries of identity that society puts on individuals who live with mental illness.

Listen to the artist talk about their work in her own words:

About Dan Fenstermacher
Dan Fenstermacher’s photography has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Recently a solo show, Sonrisas Jóvenes Que Hacen, Felices A Corazones Viejos, (Young Smiles Make Old Hearts Happy) was exhibited in Costa Rica at the San Ramon Museum during his artist residency with Odysseys Costa Rica. This work was recognized for a grant by the Creative Capacity Fund, was shown at Pro Arts in Oakland, CA in collaboration with the #InsideOutProject by artist JR. Fenstermacher’s photos have been included in juried exhibitions such as the: 2015 MFA National Competition at First Street Gallery, New York, Divergence: Emerging Legacies at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, and MFA Now 2015: Archive Project & Juried Exhibition at Root Division in San Francisco, CA.

Fenstermacher has worked in photography in several countries including a multi-media internship in Ghana in 2006, and was a Professor of Fine Arts at Xiangfan University in China during the 2010–2011 school year. His work has been featured in numerous publications including the Huffington Post, Art Nerd, Content Magazine, the South Bay Pulse, and Signature Magazine.

Originally from Seattle, WA, Fenstermacher received a Bachelor of Science degree in Advertising from the University of Idaho. He is now a Graduate Teaching Associate at San Jose State University, as well as a photographer for the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the San Jose State University Art Department, and SOMAarts Cultural Center in San Francisco, CA. He will graduate with a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from San Jose State University in May 2016.

About The Ramp Gallery

The Ramp Gallery accepts exhibition proposals on a continual basis. Submission Guidelines can be found here. To purchase work on display or for more information email gallery@somarts.org. You can visit The Ramp gallery any time SOMArts Cultural Center is open.

Image credit: Dan Fenstermacher, No More Travel, digital photography. 2016