Artist Chihuly on Mental Illness: 'I Don't Have Neutral Very Much'

Glass art pioneer talks about highs, lows of his struggles with bipolar disorder
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 2, 2017 11:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – The private studio of glass artist Dale Chihuly reflects his obsession with collecting, from stamps and pocket knives to carnival-prize figurines on shelves that reach the ceiling. But amid the ordered clutter, some items hint at something more: a long row of Ernest Hemingway titles in one bookcase, an entire wall devoted to Vincent van Gogh—homages to creative geniuses racked by depression. Chihuly, 75, has also struggled with his mental health, and he discusses his bipolar disorder in detail for the first time publicly in an AP interview. He and his wife, Leslie, say they don't want to omit from his legacy a large part of who he is. "Dale's a great example of somebody who can have a successful marriage and a successful family life and successful career—and suffer from a really debilitating, chronic disease. That might be helpful for other people," she says.

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Chihuly, a glass art pioneer, began working with glass in the '60s and is still in the thrall of his career. But the flip side of that creativity has sometimes been dark. He began suffering from depression in his 20s, and those spells began to alternate with manic periods beginning in his late 40s. "I don't have neutral very much," he says. "When I'm up, I'm usually working on several projects. ... When I'm down, I kind of go in hibernation." His wife says they've managed his struggles with counseling, meds, and a 1-to-10 scale system that allows him to say how he's feeling when he doesn't want to talk. He also gave up drinking 15 years ago. His advice for others struggling: "See a good shrink," realize depressive periods eventually lift, and "take advantage when they do feel up to get as much done as they can." Full interview here. (Read more mental health stories.)

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