Art therapy deconstructed

Mixed media, 2015, 14 X 17

Mixed media, 2015, 14 X 17

For the past two years, I have gifted my therapist art pieces marking the anniversaries of our starting our work together. I use the  opportunity to reflect on that year of therapy and create a piece that reflects my process.The first year was a painting; the second year was a collage. This third anniversary brought forth an abstract work. I call it “Healing” and it refers pointedly to the healing I am doing around incest, both physical and emotional. In order to demystify ‘art therapy’, I am going to share my art making process for this piece and I encourage others to incorporate their own art into their recovery work.

I’ve been struggling with profound depression and anxiety the last couple months and have only just picked up my art supplies again after a spell. Because of this, I knew I wanted to work fairly large and expansive. Nothing precise and precious; I wanted to move quickly and energetically as I painted. I needed the energy to help me move away from being stuck.

So I created this piece through layering. The base layer was an opaque black that threatened to to obliterate the entire page. That evoked the depression I was dealing with this year. Then I literally whitewashed large segments. I chuckled as I did this as  it refers to my tendency in the past (?) to minimize and sanitize some of the familial abuse that I find hard to witness.

Then things got fun. I stamped wobbly and imperfect circles with a toilet roll cardboard. I remember a previous therapist who used images of circles to represent the different parts we all carry and I certainly have a distinct set of parts. And then intuitively I began painting a large orange shape.detail 1 Healing copyright MRI followed that with a smaller green one. Upon reflection, I sees a womanly shape, an archetype for a vulva  in the shapes i drew. How appropriate, since so much of my hard healing is around rapes of different kinds. The large orange shape almost has a bulls-eye quality to it and it serves as a sad reminder of how targeted I was for predation. I added the smaller, less demanding, green shape as a hint towards my healing. It does not have to scream for attention anymore.Detail 2 Healing copyright MR

The end result is highly textured and hints at the chaos this artist has been living with for months.  I definitely painted with an eye for design, but it also tells my story. There are other elements to the painting but I have outlined the main references. Most artists would cringe to think of offering a step by step description of their art. I offer it here because this particular work was an art therapy piece for me. But I am very happy that the end result is so aesthetically pleasing. I am falling in love with it visually! I urge you to express your process with color, shape, texture. Often, you will artistically uncover something that has been a blocked for you intellectually (talk therapy) and it is a great complement to your other recovery practices.


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