Making Mad: How Expressions of Vulnerability Connect Us

Making Mad: How Expressions of Vulnerability Connect Us

Featured Artists: Alison Crouse, Peter Dillman, Esmond Lee, Ben McCarthy & SpekWork, Sarah Trad and Véronique Vallières

Curated by Claudette Abrams

Through humour and pathos, the artists in Making Mad explore the ways in which depictions of vulnerability in their work resonate on a human scale. Deep-diving into personal touchstones that go beyond the individual, these works relate in poignant and absurd ways to our condition as a collective of fallible, temporal beings. 

Vulnerability is rarely associated with courage, yet it is central to survival. Happiness and contentment require little consideration—fitting well within our expectations and ideals—yet pain and uncertainty seem to demand justification in order to understand their purpose and meaning (especially in the absence of any explanation). 

The artists in Making Mad unapologetically take cues from their own misgivings to draw attention to our universal susceptibility to harm. They attempt to debunk stigma equated with weakness, shame and isolation, to embrace the compassion, intimacy and intensity of the ways in which vulnerability teaches us to live with an awareness of the likelihood of change.

  • October 11- October 20
    daily, 12 - 6 PM
    (closed Oct 14)
TMAC - Toronto Media Arts Centre

32 Lisgar St


Saturday, October 12, 1-3 PM

Wheelchair Accessible Venue, Artist Talk/Panel is ASL Interpreted


Alison Crouse

Devastation Portraits is a series of performative images, staged by the artist, who deliberately collapses face down in public spaces. These overt re-enactments give visibility to the often-invisible weight of anxiety and depression and challenge societal norms of what is considered “appropriate” emotional expression. Alison continues to produce these scenarios for sharing on social media, and they have been featured in BuzzFeed, and on the NPR Picture Show.

Alison Crouse is a Philadelphia-based artist, filmmaker, photographer and instructor. She received her MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and her BFA in Photography from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and University of Vermont. Her award-winning film and videos have been broadcast, screened and distributed internationally. Alison Crouse’s photographic work has been published and shown in galleries across North America.

Peter Dillman

45 Homes is a body of work which chronicles the forty-five different homes that he moved in and out of throughout his life with a changing constellation of family members, house mates and partners.  Through the compilation of documentary materials, such as census data and photographs the artist reconstructs and recounts a history of domestic instability from an early age, moving to a more stable environment as he achieved autonomy.

Peter Dillman is a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary artist, curator, theatre professional and instructor. He studied Fine Art at the University of Waterloo, Theatre Design at the National Theatre School, and Culture and Heritage Management at Centennial College. His multi-media work explores themes of home and environment. Peter Dillman’s work has been exhibited across Canada and is held in corporate and private collections.

Esmond Lee

Ancestral Veneration is a photo-based series depicting the inter-generational realities of migration. As a second-generation Chinese Canadian, Lee’s work examines the nuances and ambiguities of suburban cultural evolutions. His layering of familial and familiar motifs on vinyl mesh banner material echo the clash and assimilation of ancestral values with contemporary identities and experiences.

Esmond Lee is a Toronto-based artist and architect. He holds a Master of Architecture (University of Toronto) and Bachelor of Architectural Studies (Carleton University). He has received Toronto and Ontario Art Council grants and is recognized by the Ontario Association of Architects. His work has been exhibited at Gallery 44, Koffler Centre for the Arts, Toronto Media Arts Centre and Artscape Youngplace. Recent projects include participation in the Ontario Heritage Trust’s Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence program and Nuit Blanche 2019.


resourced is a VR documentary about the precarious labour of frontline workers. The user progresses through a series of interactive levels, each built to reflect the lived experience of street nurses, social workers, sex workers, and activists; people serving those at the margins of society who are often marginalized themselves through associated stigma and poverty.

SpekWork is a studio exploring new political narratives through game design with a focus on the dynamic relationship between work and play. The studio is a collaborative effort of Cat Bluemke, Ben McCarthy and Jonathan Carroll, post-secondary instructors teaching from the intersections of art, labour and emerging technologies. Members of the collective have been recognized through awards, grants and commissions for their individual and collective work, and supported by Rhizome, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Sarah Trad

In Sickness and in Health (but mostly, Just in Sickness) is a multi-channel video projection installation which visually shows unnoticed moments between couples and explores the difficulties of seeking companionship while faced with mental illness, codependent tendencies and metaphysical crisis. The title, partly taken from traditional marriage vows, highlights the optimistic decision to bond.

Sarah Trad is a Philadelphia-based artist. She graduated with a BFA in Art Film from Syracuse University, where she subsequently became an Engagement Fellow. She is the recipient of the 77Art Artist Residency (Rutland Vermont Art Center) and Carol N. Schmuckler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film. Sarah has shown at The Warehouse Gallery (Syracuse, NY), Kitchen Table Gallery (Philadelphia, PA), Gravy Studio and Gallery (Philadelphia, PA) and the Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse, NY).

Véronique Vallières

I Extend my Arms/Je Tends les Bras is a multi-media installation involving a methodically storied assemblage of forms that playfully hinge on spectrums of human experience, spirited dualities and intensity of feeling. Physical interaction with material is signified as curative. Craft functions as a survival tool, patterns as armour, and scale that transforms larger-than-life, gender-fluid, soft-sculptures into delightfully embracing recliners.

Véronique Vallières is a Toronto-based, multi-media artist, working primarily in ceramics, textiles and printmaking. They hold a BFA from Concordia University and have attended residencies in Montréal, Moncton and Winnipeg. As a film curator, they co-programmed monthly film and performance events for the Revue Cinema. Véronique Vallières has received multiple grants for their work, which has been exhibited widely, and most recently, acquired for the CAMH permanent art collection.



Saturday, October 12, 1-3 PM
Toronto Media Arts Centre

Join the exhibiting artists in conversation with Curator Claudette Abrams as they discuss how their work explores and navigates issues of mental health and pushes back against stigmas.

For Information Contact
Paulina Wiszowata
Visual Arts Coordinator
416.583.4339, ext 6