San Jose, CA
In 2012, Tamara Staples’ sister committed suicide using drugs that had been prescribed for her bipolar disorder by multiple doctors and filled at multiple pharmacies. After her death, Tamara asked her sister’s husband to send her the contents of her medicine cabinet. He sent several large boxes that included both pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medications. There were 114 medications in all, and in some cases a variety of brands within that count.
Side Effects May Include addresses the struggles of mental illness sufferers with a focus on medication. Staples sorted the thousands of pills, arranged them in patterns and photographed them. She then translated the photos into wallpaper, a quilt, upholstery, dresses, and drapes, to ultimately create an entire room with all surfaces covered in patterns of pills. The deceptively alluring and decorative display immerses the viewer in a cacophony of images that slowly and powerfully reveal the tremendous scope of the polypharmacy epidemic in this nation. In conjunction with Side Effects May Include, Staples created an inventory of each medication, carefully researching the individual and cumulative effects, which she published as a book entitled “An Inventory of One Person’s Medicine Cabinet.”
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.