Updated: Mar 5
One person’s story is homage for all of us. These stories whether visual or verbal offer us hope, knowledge and empowerment.
Humans have been making art since the dawn of time. It’s in our evolutionary DNA. So, throughout time and space, art has provided us humans with an exciting way to visually express ourselves. Art allows us to adorn our homes, our bodies, to contemplate rough changes in life, spirituality and involve in rituals. It allows us to make sense of life, love, heartbreak, hardships, triumphs and trauma, and what comes after. Through very simple means of expression, simple use of line, color and shape, we tend to apply personal meaning and symbolism to these types of visual expression.
What is Art Therapy?
People have been expressing themselves through a healing mechanism of art, but the formal concept of Art Therapy is fairly new. Art Therapy is a mental health field that uses the art-making process to help groups, individuals and communities heal mentally, emotionally and physically; enabling them to resolve issues, develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness. This becomes a tangible visible record of courage, hope and change.
Art Therapy – Tapping Into the Subconscious
It should be known that the medicinal powers of Art are not exclusive to those who have, what you may call, divine talent or exceptional artistic training. The idea is that we can take metaphor and visual symbols, break them down and reframe our life into safe expression when words are so hard to communicate.
Since the rise of the era of psychoanalysis, we have recognized that art provides an opening of the subconscious realm of its creators. The passionate Romantics submerged into sensual command and with death, the agonized Expressionists, the Surrealists practicing spontaneous writing and dream symbolism, the Abstract Expressionists who documented their emotive outbursts on surfaces splashed like the ink-blots of the psychiatrist Rorschach - all these offer us to plunge into the patterns of the human psyche.
Art therapy is used with children, adolescents, adults, groups and families to measure and treat addictions, anxiety, grief and loss, dementia, depression, eating disorders, physical disabilities, PTSD, trauma, relationship issues and much more.
The late American psychologist, James Hillman said that the soul is the perspective of taking ordinary events and transforming them into meaningful experiences.
What kind of Art Therapies are out there?
Individuals suffering from mental illness often express themselves in drawings and other artworks, which has led many to explore the use of art as a healing strategy. It is not limited to just visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, design, etc.) but also literature (i.e. writing poetry, drama, etc.) as well as performing arts (music, theatre, dance, and so on). Many cultures have their own way of interpreting art as a healing process which has been, fortunately, globalized.
Art Therapy - Zen in Japanese Art
Many forms of Japanese art have been influenced by Zen (also known as wabi-sabi) and Mahayana philosophy (or aesthetics) over the past thousand years, carrying the notions of the acceptance and consideration of imperfection, and constant flux and impermanence of all things being chiefly significant to Japanese arts and culture.
These include prominent art forms of therapy such as the Zen gardens which is about recreating the essence of nature. It is a way of life associated with stress reduction - evoking feelings of tranquility, calmness and peace.
Kintsugi is another healing art of repairing broken pottery using gold or silver lacquer resin. This mending method celebrates an object's unique history by emphasizing its fractures instead of concealing them, hence, honoring of transformation and power of resilience.
"The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong in the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway
Therapeutic Art Practiced by Famous Artists
“Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and color, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.” - Leonardo Da Vinci
When we are entirely immersed in a creative endeavor, we may find ourselves in what’s known as the state of flow. This meditative-like phase focuses the mind while pushing aside our anxieties.
Art therapy has largely been used over the years by many artists, and it wouldn’t be surprising to consider that while their focus on art was their passion and career, it was likely their therapy, too.
Edvard Munch - best known for his work “The Scream”, had a strenuous childhood, struggling with immense depression most of his life. Vincent Van Gogh was plagued by mental illness throughout his life and much of his artwork has reflected emotional pain such as in his iconic painting, “Starry Night”. Frida Kahlo is also a well-known example of how one can overcome pain and tragedy through art. Tracey Emin, renowned member of the YBAs, works in a variety of media to create autobiographical and confessional art.
“I only survived thanks to art. It gave me faith in my own existence."
- Tracey Emin, Strangeland
Zaaman Art – Featuring Therapeutic Art
Zaaman Art Collection 2020-21 reveals many such artists who are making thought-provoking works of art. As an environment for both speculation and discussion, it offers a supporting system for the community, considering ideas that can influence an overall sense of well-being. Click here to view what our artists have to share!