Volume 17, Number 52 | May 20 - 26, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Jennifer Weisbord

Battery Park City resident Jean Tobey with her sculpture.

B.P.C. sculpture highlights rising costs of medicine

The Hallmark, an upscale retirement home in Battery Park City, displayed art pieces from its residents for its third annual Tribeca Open Artist Studio or TOAST. Over 76 oil and watercolor paintings, sculptures, posters and collages lined the walls on the first floor of the complex. However, one sculpture in particular, named “Charlie,” stole the show with its powerful political message.

The current issue of rising costs for prescription drugs inspired Hallmark resident Jean Tobey to create “Charlie,” otherwise known as “Big Bills for Pills Kills.” Tobey was concerned for the people that cannot afford to spend money on prescription pills because of the high cost, causing their health to suffer. Tobey collected old pill bottles from residents for her work. This community involvement along with the relevant subject matter made the sculpture hit close to home for many and produced strong, positive reactions from observers. A four-foot high structure, the base is made of a mountain of the orange pill bottles that represent the amount of money spent on prescription drugs. Broom sticks and yarn painted red and blue represented “Charlie’s” veins and arteries. Latex gloves were used to symbolize the doctors’ influence in prescribing the drugs.

The sculpture has been on display since April 30 and is planned to be taken down May 19. However, Tobey and curator Michelle DeWitt have been trying to find a home for Charlie after the exhibit. Tobey would like to have it displayed in a prominent place that would get the pharmaceutical companies attention to lower the cost of prescription drugs. “The drug companies don’t care about lives, they care about marketing,” Tobey said. “Small things have created a revolution, so maybe this could be a start to one.”

— Lauren Dzura

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