Friday, April 16, 2010

Art as Therapy

My husband's neice is an Art Therapist at Belleview Hospital in New York. Troubled individuals in her care find release from their feelings in non-verbal ways. They use paints and brushes to express what words can never say. Art provides a voice for their pain and a tool for their healing.

Psychologists have used this same technique in helping abused children find a voice. Children don't always understand what is happening to them, nor do they have the words to express such trauma. But they are familiar with crayons and paper. As they illustrate a memory and make it real, they put to rest the frightening images and nightmares that wake them up at night.

Writing this blog made me think of Van Gogh, an artistic genius with a nervous temperament and a deeply emotional personality. His one desire was to make people happy by creating something of beauty. But he suffered from bouts of insecurity and self doubt. He also had what many believe to be epilepsy.

You may recall that when his friend and fellow artist Gauguin came to live with him, Van Gogh took a razor to him in an epileptic fit and ended up cutting off his own ear. After that incident, Van Gogh spent some time in an asylum and was later released. After only two months of freedom, he shot himself "for the good of all."

Van Gogh's greatest and most inspiring works were produced in less than three years of his life. He was driven by a passion for the beauty he saw all around him. The vibrant colors, the textures and the energy were excruciatingly moving to him.

I can relate to that. I remember admiring a resplendent sunset one evening. What I experienced was so deeply felt that I literally winced in pain. I could not find the words to express the beauty I saw. Those are the times I'm grateful I'm an artist.

A skilled artist can pull you into a work of art and their message reverberates within you even though you don't understand the why or the how. Art is good therapy for both the artist and the viewer.


The oil painting is called "Insett Kirke" an historical site in Norway. It is for sale on my web site at