The Art of Healing
Art has provided many applications for those who take the time to create and develop it. Art provides relaxation, self-expression, communicates ideas, and many more wonderful benefits. I always enjoy working on photography and other forms of art because the process allows me to work on myself.
I was talking to some friends the other day about some writing I’ve been working on that deals with some hard topics from my past. One of my friends wanted to know if the process of writing has helped me to move past the experience. I wanted to explore that question a little more here in regards to my experience with artistic expression.
Working artistically certainly focuses your concentration on the honesty of that moment. It centers you until you boil down to pure and genuine feeling and then work to insert it into a physical medium.
The miracle in giving the feelings a real space is that those emotions now exist outside of yourself. You can literally put them on a shelf, revisit them when you are ready. And when you do, you find that you can see more objectively. That distance between you and the art is valuable in seeing past just the emotion and thinking critically about what drives it.
Something special also happens if you choose to share your finished work. You find out that people can relate at least on some degree, letting you feel less alone in the experience. It makes you feel strong, like you haven’t been shamed into adding another skeleton to the closet.
Several years ago, a lot of emotions I had surrounding my father came to the surface. He had been returning to old habits of dragging our family through his alcohol and substance abuse. I found that art was a powerful outlet to process what I was feeling.
At the time, I had been working toward being an artist for a long time, trying to master technique and study theory. In my beginning art classes at school, I didn’t have many assignments that were completely open to me creatively. It was kismet how the opportunity was given to me in class to do whatever I wanted (within the scope of the class) when I had something important to work through for myself. It would be my first attempt to say something artistically that really meant something to me.
The only requirements for this project was that it must be a 2D project, completely black and white, and be inspired by an artist of the student’s choice.
I chose to emulate Barbara Kruger, who uses black and white photographs in her work and includes statements that probe into psychological and social issues. I was attracted to this image I saw of an installation she had done and I knew that it was the direction I wanted to take.
Once I found direction I took the leap, allowing myself to say the things I had left bottled up for so long, cutting up copies of family photographs that had long haunted me. I started finding order amidst the chaos that I felt and the pieces of paper soon began to take shape.
This piece is the first one I made that meant something more than simple accomplishment of routine and basic artistic skills. This was a piece of me, living outside of my mind and body. A visual that I could wrap my head around and make sense of the coming storm that would soon overwhelm my family. A time capsule, to preserve that emotion for the rest of my life when words alone seemed insufficient.