Exhibit explores Carlsbad artist's life with schizophrenia
On Nov. 3 at the Vista library, a 50-piece art exhibit will go on display. The watercolors and drawings by Dan Kasperick include still lifes, landscapes, fall leaves, scarecrows, snowmen, sailboats and more.
But mixed in with colorful scenes are some moodier abstract self-portraits with titles like “Paranoid Schizophrenia: A Walk Through Fire.” The artworks, all completed in the past five years, are a visual journey through Kasperick’s mind as he works to recover from anxiety, paranoia and schizo-affective, bipolar, post traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Living with brain disorders is an ongoing process, Kasperick said, but the Carlsbad resident said he has made tremendous gains in recent years thanks to his philosophy of “following the MAP,” an acronym for the music, art and poetry that he creates.
“Everything I do is therapeutic,” said Kasperick, 53. “From the moment I pick up a paintbrush, I go into a dreamlike state. I lose myself in it and when I’m finished I wonder where the time has gone. It’s so much fun.”
Kasperick grew up in San Bernardino County, where he excelled in academics, sports and extra-curricular activities, but secretly battled addictions to drugs and alcohol. After graduating from high school in 1984, he began taking classes in pre-med at Pepperdine University. But midway through his studies at the Christian university, he walked away from his faith and became an atheist.
In behavior that he only later realized was triggered by his as-yet-undiagnosed mental illness, he dropped out of college and moved to New York with no job or money. Over the next three years, he battled hunger, homelessness, loneliness and addictions while his brain disorders took control of his mind. He experienced periods of mania, hallucinations, catatonia, suicide attempts and hospitalizations before finally being diagnosed as bipolar.
In 1989, he moved back home with his parents in San Bernardino County, earned a college degree and began teaching science at a middle school. But he was still drinking, overeating, self-harming and suffering psychotic episodes. Eventually, he could no longer work and began collecting Social Security disability.
In 1998, he met Lyn at a bipolar disorder support group meeting. They married a year later and she helped him return to his Catholic faith. But during their marriage he was hospitalized for breakdowns 15 times. She left him in 2010 because she could no longer live in that chaotic environment.
With nowhere to go, Kasperick moved in again with his now-widowed mother in Carlsbad. Although this was a low point in his life, it was also the turning point. He gave up all of his vices and lost 100 pounds; learned to stay on his medications and in therapy; built a support team of friends and family who could talk him through rough patches; got his own apartment; and committed himself daily to MAP — writing music and poetry and creating art.
The hard work paid off. It has been nine years since his last hospitalization, and in 2013 he landed a job he loves as a peer support specialist and group facilitator at a gathering place in Oceanside for people with brain disorders. He has also done public speaking for a mental health advocacy group to help fight the stigma associated with mental illness.
As part of his daily MAP practice, Kasperick has published four CDs of original music inspired by his life, his faith and the Christmas season. He has also written an autobiography, a self-help book on weight loss and a collection of poetry. He makes jewelry and has had his artwork exhibited in numerous group and solo shows countywide.
Most of the artwork in the exhibit opening Nov. 3 was painted in a weekly watercolor class taught by Kene Lohmann at Studio ACE in Oceanside. This will be the third, and largest, solo show Kasperick has hosted since 2017 to benefit Hands Together Haiti. The Catholic charity serves the island nation’s poor. All 50 paintings and charcoal drawings, each matted and framed, are for sale for $100 each, with all proceeds going to charity.
Flipping through the stacks of paintings in his apartment on Tuesday, Kasperick pointed out how all of the subjects he paints are upbeat, which is how he now likes to live his life — surrounded by positivity.
“What I want to say with my art is that recovery is possible,” he said. “I’m very happy here. I have my apartment, a job I love, a church I like, I sing in the church choir, I write songs and I do art. I tell people to surround themselves with positive creative outlets. If something is making you unhappy, it’s not a great place to be.”
Dan Kasperick Solo Exhibition
When: Opens Nov. 3 and runs through Dec. 26. Opening and closing receptions with the artist, noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 10 and Dec. 22. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Where: Vista Library, 700 Eucalyptus Ave., Vista
Phone: (760) 643-5100