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Dose of Style

An Artist Uses Pills to Create Jewelry for a 'Prozac Nation'

September 11, 1997|PATRICIA BIBBY | Associated Press

Alanis Morissette may have her jagged little pills, but singer Sarah McLachlan's are smooth and silver, and they adorn her ears, wrists and hands.

McLachlan, you see, is both a close friend and a big fan of Colleen Wolstenholme, a Canadian sculptor whose sideline is making silver jewelry from castings of actual pills, mostly antidepressants.

McLachlan owns a Paxil bracelet, a Paxil ring and earrings that say PMS, which stands for a morphine-based drug. And, perhaps as a token offering to ward off stress, McLachlan's bedecked all the women on her Lilith tour crew with the jewelry.

"They are beautiful pieces," she says. "They look cool."

Paxil, Zoloft, Serzone, Xanax and Dexedrine are in Wolstenholme's pharmacological palette, pills obtained mostly from friends. Recently she marked the death of William S. Burroughs by selling at discount jewelry cast from Dilaudid, reportedly the writer's drug of choice.

There are no Prozac baubles, however: It's a capsule and doesn't survive the casting process.

Does McLachlan worry that those who struggle with depression might find the jewelry offensive?

"I don't think Colleen takes it as a joke at all," McLachlan says. "She's more angry. . . . She considers it kind of like a medal of honor, like 'I've been through it.' "

Wolstenholme, a certified metal smith, was teaching jewelry-making when she got the inspiration to make her pill art, which ranges in price from $20 to $75.

"It seemed that a lot of my female friends were having a real hard time coping," says Wolstenholme, and she briefly took Zoloft and Paxil herself. Further, she says, there's a sociological aspect to jewelry she wanted to explore.

"In the West, men use [diamond] jewelry as a method of marking their territory. . . . If you look at the DeBeers diamond ads, it's really evident that that's what they're playing on," she says. "Because of the kind of insanity that that attitude toward women breeds, I thought it would be appropriate if they were wearing antidepressants around their necks instead of diamond solitaires."

She also wanted to give a "Prozac nation" a message, to draw attention to the fact that our culture is becoming more and more reliant on drug-taking and less and less reliant on finding the causes of the problems. "I like finding objects that are culturally loaded. . . . I don't like to shove it down their throats."

No pun intended.

* Wolstenholme's silver pills are available by phone, (902) 425-0178, or by e-mail at swolra.isisnet.com.

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