The Arts and Our Healing Journey

By Lisa Browning

“Art is what we call … the thing an artist does. It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human. Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.” ~ Seth Godin

I have long believed that telling our stories and speaking our truth is one of the most efficient and effective paths to empowerment. And my clients over the years—those who have written or spoken their stories—have backed this up. My focus has been storytelling … because that’s what I do. But the concept most definitely extends beyond just storytelling. 

I am excited to start, this month, a series of articles highlighting artists* in our community whose artistic expression has helped in their wellness journey, with a focus on mental health in particular. In this inaugural article, I have asked three different artists the same two questions. Their answers, and a photo of their work, follow.

Grandmother Tree and the Bucket of Tears

Katherine is a hand-build clay artist who hates to get dirty. But when she moulds earth with her hands, it becomes a process of feeling Mother within. She is cleansed as her flesh makes the images in her head come to life.

Lisa: How has your art helped you in your healing journey?

Katherine: My creativity has saved my sanity. When I am in “the zone,” everything hurting in my brain ceases to exist, and when I emerge from this state, either the pain has dissipated or I forget it ever existed.

Lisa: What does wellness mean to you?

Katherine: Wellness is when my brain, heart, and soul are at peace.

Blue Phoenix—processing piece re body image

Cathy creates multi-media art pieces that are based on a therapeutic art process which allows her to create beauty over ugliness—phoenix-like, rising from the ashes. She also does theatre, which allows her to escape, create, and build her community.

Lisa: How has your art helped you in your healing journey?

Cathy: Art has allowed me a non-judgmental way to express my pain, trauma and healing. It’s a way to get out of my head—to create something beautiful and positive.

Lisa: What does wellness mean to you?

Cathy: I see wellness as a state of being where I can deal with daily events and stresses without the trauma and baggage of my past overtaking my reactions, which I believe comes from processing trauma and stepping away from fight-or-flight responses.

What first began as a free-flowing process morphed into an image of the water—as the artist saw it come to life before her.

Jessica creates free-flowing, acrylic pieces.

Lisa: How has your art helped you in your healing journey?

Jessica: My art has helped me to viscerally experience the process of letting go of the end result when it comes to making art, as it gives way for the creative process to take its rightful place. The lesson of letting go when it comes to the creative process has graciously shown me how to let go in other instances in my life when I am gripping too tightly or forcing something that is not meant to be.

Lisa: What does wellness mean to you?

Jessica: Wellness means cultivating daily awareness to honour my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs in order to stay healthy and balanced. Exploring the arts has always been a way for me to create space for such reflection and restoration to take place.

“Creativity takes courage,” said Henri Matisse. I am grateful to Cathy, Jessica, and Katherine for allowing us these glimpses into their art, and their life. If you are interested in being featured in an upcoming article, please contact me at [email protected].

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