Curative Creativity

After a nightmarish loss, father and son Matt and Michael Stick heal through writing and art.



Matt Stick and his father Michael meet weekly at the Oklahoma Forensic Center. Both have written books to channel their emotions.

Michael Stick

Matt Stick sits alone at a small wooden desk in his room and begins to draw. More than a hobby, the practice is the 26-year-old’s way forward from a terrifying time for him and for his family.

In 2012, Matt stabbed and killed his mother, Veronica, while experiencing his first (and only) psychotic break. At the time, he believed he was saving his mother from demons that possessed her.

It took months for his psychosis to begin to fade and years before he was in recovery. Two years and eight months after his mother’s death, Matt was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to the Oklahoma Forensic Center, the state’s largest behavioral health facility. He was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder with psychotic features.

Matt’s father, Michael Stick, is a teacher and pastor. He says that although he was not aware of his son’s mental illness at the time, he knew immediately after learning of his wife’s death that Matt was not in his right mind.

Initially, Matt was incarcerated at David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center. While grieving his wife’s death, Michael also faced the possibility of being permanently separated from his son. “I thought I’d lost both of them,” Michael says.

As he and his other two adult children learned more about mental illness, Michael was able to express his feelings about their situation.

“What caused my wife’s death was not my son, but the psychosis,” he explains. “While his body did that, his mind didn’t. I don’t have to forgive my son for this. If I have to forgive anything, it would be the psychosis. But I can’t forgive the disease. How can we?”

Michael began writing the family’s story soon after Veronica’s death in order “to remember (Veronica) and bring mental illness to light.”

His book, “A Father’s Love,” vividly describes Matt’s state of mind at the time of Veronica’s death. “I had to go into a real dark place to finish it,” Michael says. Working with Matt, Michael incorporated letters Matt wrote from prison, newspaper articles, court records and scriptural references into the book.

Grief still accompanies Michael, but when he finished the book, he says he “felt freer.” “Everything I was trying to remember was on paper,” Michael says, “and that weight was lifted off me.”

Matt had enjoyed drawing from an early age and, before psychosis, had begun to see art as his future career path. His graphite drawings are precise and extremely detailed, a style called realism.

During the worst days of his psychosis, Matt didn’t draw at all. “My mind was in a different universe,” he says in a letter to TulsaPeople.

As his medication began to take effect and his mind returned from the brink, Matt returned to art only to find that his skills had suffered, as well.

“My perception of depth and contrast and color was skewed to say the least,” he says. “Eyes would end up bigger than they were supposed to be. The shading was all off. Everything was a little bit different.” It would be years before his mind returned to normal and with it, his artistic abilities.

In jail awaiting sentencing, Matt drew greeting cards, tattoo designs and portraits for other inmates. “My art helped carry me through my time at David L. Moss,” Matt remembers. Because he had a skill that was valuable to other inmates, “(Art) helped protect me.”

Matthew Stick's graphite drawings are precise and extremely detailed, a style called realism — which can seen in this portrait of Baker Mayfield.

Now symptom-free for three years, Matt believes that art saved his life and his mind. “(Drawing has) given me purpose and provided a creative outlet.”

In addition to working with his father on “A Father’s Love,” Matt wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “When Mama Cries.”

Veronica struggled with bouts of crippling depression. She would stay in bed and cry; she was even suicidal at one point, Michael says. Matt’s book explains depression from the perspective of children and portrays Matt’s and his siblings’ childhood experiences with their mother.

“Growing up,” Matt says, “I didn’t understand mental illness, and neither did my family. Children who grow up without knowledge of mental illness become adults who are also ignorant to it.”

Matt’s sister, Katie, formatted the book and colored Matt’s illustrations. Matt’s next children’s book will describe bipolar disorder. The book is written and illustrated, awaiting formatting and color. Michael started Brainstorm Publications to self-publish the books. A release date has not yet been set.

Matt hopes his books will help children and families see mental illness as a sickness, and empower people to recognize signs of such illnesses in themselves or loved ones. “Mental illness is a disease of the brain, just as real as cancer or diabetes, and needs to be treated as such,” he says. “It is not a weakness, character flaw or spiritual fault. It’s a sickness.”

For Matt and his family, the writing and illustrating processes have been healing in many ways. “Working together with my family has been absolutely amazing. It has brought us so much closer,” Matt says. “(The books) helped us not only to grieve, but to find purpose and try to use our struggles to help others.”

“Matt wants to be an advocate,” Michael says. “He doesn’t want to be silent about his illness. He wants to help others. That’s probably what I’m most proud of.”

Matt is currently planning a portrait series called “Faces of Recovery” in which he will draw people in recovery from mental illness and is currently working on another series called “Memento,” in which he draws people who died by suicide. He provides the “Memento” portraits to grieving families free of charge.

Matt is still a patient at the Oklahoma Forensic Center with an indefinite length of stay. The program is unclear as to the length or stipulations for conditional release. Someday Matt hopes to pursue his art education and work as an artist, using his skills to shed light on mental illness.

In the meantime, Michael visits every week. Father and son talk about art, hope, guilt, forgiveness, the future and Veronica.

“My mother was my biggest supporter of my art,” Matt says. “With every piece I create, I like to believe that wherever she is, she gets to see it.”

To view or purchase Matt’s drawings, “When Mama Cries,” or “A Father’s Love,” email Michael at dr.mstick@gmail.com.

 

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June 2018

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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Charles Page High School Cheer Teams

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Wagoner Main Street Presents... Switching Gears-Saturday June 23, 2018 9am-10pm in Downtown Wagoner Oklahoma! An entire day of family fun, food, music, and more. Events start at 9am with the Car...

Cost: FREE -$20.00

Where:
Main St
130 S Main St
Wagoner, OK  74467
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Sponsor: Wagoner Main Street
Telephone: 918-869-7318
Contact Name: Jay Stephens
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The Pathways Summer Carnival is free to the public. Enjoy a dunk tank, balloon animals, games, a pet fashion show, food, and so much more. Bring the whole family for a day of fun in the sun on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kirk of the Hills
4102 E 61st St
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Pathways Adult Learning Center
Telephone: 918-859-0060
Contact Name: Katie Groke
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Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper features the life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave (born 1946). Following a...

Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405-236-3100
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Remembering Our Fallen is a photographic war memorial that honors our country’s military Fallen from The War on Terror. Because 9/11 was such a defining moment, this memorial includes our...

Cost: Free

Where:
Muskogee War Memorial Park
3500 Batfish Rd
Muskogee, OK  74403
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Sponsor: Muskogee War Memorial Park
Telephone: 918-682-6294
Contact Name: Brent Trout
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The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Telephone: 918-495-6000
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Legion LIVE! 2018 is a day-long event filled with live music on two stages, broadcast live to troops around the world! FREE and open to the public, the event raises much-needed funds for the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
American Legion Post 1
1120 E 8th Street
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Sponsor: American Legion Post 1
Telephone: 918-809-3745
Contact Name: Kasey Rideout

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This annual FREE new home showcase is presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa and sponsored by Samsung Electronics.  This year’s event will feature more than 150...

Cost: FREE

Where:
, OK


Sponsor: Samsung
Contact Name: Nathan Carter

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Crossing borders are central Consuelo J. Underwood’s artistic practice. In this exhibition inspired by land, politics, and spirit, Underwood speaks to her individual understanding of borders...

Cost: Free

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 191-889-56302

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Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
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Come join us for a fun tropical evening of dinner, live music, dancing, silent & live auctions, games and more!  All proceeds benefit Kelly B Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular...

Cost: $50.00 per person

Where:
Muskogee Civic Center
425 Boston Street
Muskogee, OK  74401
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Sponsor: Kelly B Todd Cerebral and Neuro-Muscular Center
Telephone: 918-683-4621
Contact Name: Sharon Riggs
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Come join us for a fun tropical evening of dinner, live music, dancing, silent & live auctions, games and more!  All proceeds benefit Kelly B Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular...

Cost: $50.00 per person

Where:
Muskogee Civic Center
425 Boston Street
Muskogee, OK  74401
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Sponsor: Kelly B Todd Cerebral and Neuro-Muscular Center
Telephone: 918-683-4621
Contact Name: Sharon Riggs
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Opera in the Ozarks, the nationally acclaimed summer music festival and training program for top emerging opera professionals, celebrates its 2018 Season from June 22 to July 20 with nearly...

Cost: $25

Where:
Inspiration Point
16311 Hwy. 62 West
Eureka Springs, AR  72632
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Still I Rise is a dramatic dance-theatre presentation incorporating all elements of Bharatanatyam, some elements of yoga, theatre, spoken word and music. The performance exemplifies the example of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: South Asian Performing Arts Foundation
Telephone: (918) 625 6037
Contact Name: Mohan Kelkar
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Shades of White is a play written by Ilan Kozlowski and directed by Rebecca Ungerman.  For mature audiences.

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
John H. Williams Theatre, Tulsa PAC
110 E. Second St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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TULtalk


How to have a Parisian good time — in Tulsa!

You know what they say, Tulsa is the Paris of Oklahoma...

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“Sovereignty” comes to Tulsa for a reading

Monday, June 18, see a staged reading of the buzzed-about new play by Oklahoma native Mary Kathryn Nagle.

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QUIZ: Which Tulsa Mural Fits Your Personality?

Tulsa has a plethora of colorful, vibrant murals! But which one should be the backdrop for your next selfie?

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Video: BA Ninja Warrior

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The Fabulous Mid-Life Crisis

The popular cover band is scheduled to bring the good times (and huge crowds) to Summer's Fifth Night in Utica Square on June 7.

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