Chronic illness, depression, stress and disease management are heady topics for the public, but artists in Alabama are making them more approachable through a merger of sculpture and science. Heads Up Alabama!, a traveling art installation and educational campaign created by the Alabama Psychological Association, is on tour in the state, showcasing 20 fiberglass heads decorated to reflect aspects of psychology.

Artists Lillie Minnifield and Esther Levy created "Out of Memory" as a metaphor for our modern, memory-taxing lifestyles.Program director Linda Alverson-Eiland, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Ala., says the project was inspired by a similar one undertaken by psychologists in Kentucky. The Alabama association wanted to put their own spin on it, so two years ago they formed a nonprofit foundation, solicited donations and sponsors, and courted artists.

The response from the artistic community was overwhelming, Alverson-Eiland says. “A lot of the artists took this very personally,” she says. “They took inspiration from their own lives.”
Artists Janice Kluge and Byron Sonnier created this head, titled "The Calm Before the Storm" to symbolize troops coming home from war.
One head, titled “Out of Memory,” is covered in multicolored Post-it notes and references our modern culture’s pressing, stressing demands on our minds and memories, Alverson-Eiland says. Another, “The Calm Before the Storm,” features miniature birds roosting in a nest atop the head and the words “Home, sweet home” across its neck, and represents veterans returning from war.

The heads debuted in July at the Birmingham Public Library. After three weeks, the heads embarked on their current tour of Alabama cities, including Huntsville, Gadsden and Mobile.

The heads sit on pedestals that carry placards describing the psychological factors associated with the art. The striking visuals bring people in, Alverson-Eiland says, but they come away learning something about psychology. “Art really attracts people,” she says. “But they stick around to read the informational material.”

—M. Price

For more information, visit Heads Up Alabama.