Hope & Fear: Using Art Therapy to Cope in Times of Transition Online Now
Art Therapists respond to the current economic-social-political climate, and how this has impacted them both personally and professionally, as they use art to help clients of all ages who may be struggling with hopelessness, fear, and anxiety as it relates to changes in leadership and policy, on a personal and collective level.
An Opening Reception was held June 2nd, 2017 – 6 to 9 p.m. on First Friday at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art, 148 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo NY.
Exhibit Closed July 28th 2017
All images from exhibit available below. See individual artist information following the images, and further information about the exhibit following all images.
Andrea Koch, MA, ATR Mary Medium: Mixed media
Mary: Her bathrobe and housecoat, a favorite sweater, the blouse she wore to her family reunion, the ruffled hem of her sundress, the tie she bought for her husband to wear to their 50th anniversary party, pages from one of her romance novels, a doily she crocheted, the blanket she knit for her first grandchild, the stuffed bear her daughter sent when she was in the hospital, rhinestone earrings she wore in the portrait with her husband, tchotchkes from her room, some favorite jewelry, the Lawrence Welk tape she often played in the car, a photo of her from a family vacation in Virginia, her locket with the photo of her father.
In my work with older adults in skilled nursing facilities, I have found weaving to be an accessible, and gratifying activity. It is particularly enjoyable for former knitters who no longer have the dexterity to knit. For people with dementia, the repetitive “over, under” directive is simple to follow and creates beautiful results. Personal items hold stories, and families often find it difficult to part with their loved one’s clothing and knick knacks after they pass. I became drawn to the idea of weaving with these pieces of memories. This particular portrait binds together dozens of moments from Mary’s life: some proud, some poignant, and some, in hindsight, painful. The resulting artifact is priceless.
Ashley Setzer, MS Transfiguration Medium: Mixed media on canvas
Transfiguration is a self portrait that was created during a period of significant transition in my life. Times of change allow us to grow and can be exciting, but may also cause great fear. The figure in this piece is looking up to symbolize looking towards the future and having hope, but also represents a sense of vulnerability and fear of the unknown.
Art has always been the way that I cope with any type of transition or uncertainty in my life. Creating art has helped me understand and visually represent my feelings when words could not.
Elizabeth Davis, MFA, MS, ATR-BC, LCAT Brave/Wise Medium: Silver gelatin print, wax, wood, oil
This piece consists of a pinhole photograph deconstructed on wood with wax and paint. Inspiration for this piece came from a client who is addressing childhood trauma that has been exacerbated by the current political environment. A lack of felt safety around gender and sexual orientation has complicated the lives of many who struggle to resolve childhood trauma and current day experiences of societal/political disparity and bias.
Erin Melfi, LCAT, ATR-BC In a Perfect World Medium: Packing tape image transfers
My artwork represents the different ideas and views of what a “perfect world” might look like, through the eyes of a variety of individuals. There are many different images, some similar, some different, some overlapping, some more pronounced, but all attempting to visualize the same idea. Often times, fear can sprout from these differences. Fear of what is different. Fear has a funny way of interfering with the bigger picture, which as a whole and with all its differences can be beautiful. The creation of this artwork in itself embodies the process of art therapy. Despite my degree and licensure as an Art Therapist, I often experience a lot of anxiety creating any art which will be viewed by anyone other than myself. It was therapeutic to push myself out of my comfort zone and force myself to be vulnerable to both criticism and compliments. The product is for viewing, but the process is for growth.
Gillian Field, LCAT-P Untitled Medium: Quilling
Paper quilling is an ancient and delicate art form that dates back to the 18th century and uses the technique of rolling, coiling, crimping, or fringing paper strips using a “quilling” tool. The pieces are then glued together to create an artwork of anyone’s imagination. I created this piece to help me process and cope during a time of personal and professional transition, amidst an overwhelmingly negative undercurrent flowing through our societal whole. While ever-searching for the silver lining and positive Universal vibration, I staved off the anxious feelings by turning to art. Quilling has become my personal and professional anti-anxiety therapeutic art form of choice. I successfully use quilling with several populations in my practice, especially with clients who struggle with issues related to anxiety, attention, and focus. The repetitive motion naturally decreases anxiety and stimulates both sides of the brain (which can help motor and cognitive skills). Quilling is easy to learn, teaches discipline, strengthens mental focus, and with it, one can achieve impressive results very quickly.
Karie Schwartz, LCAT, ATR-BC Big People Were Once Little People Medium: Clay, acrylic paint
Adults are expected to be healthy and productive members of society. Research continues to inform us that our early childhood experiences mold the emotional framework needed to function well in adulthood. It often appears that the labor needed to foster “good” adults is not as much of a focus or priority in our culture and society. These sculptures are a simplified version of how feelings from childhood can repeat and replicate into adulthood. If we are not given the opportunity for the important groundwork needed to produce healthy adulthood, or once fully grown, to connect the dots from our past life experiences to our present, we may become stuck in emotional and behavioral cycles. We may be unaware there is an option to change direction, against the current, to become more content adults. Art therapy can assist in the process of increasing personal insight, discovering what adult patterns began to manifest long before our brain was fully developed.
Adults who are not self aware can possibly become detrimental to those around them. I fear that some of those leading our country have little to no interest in self-awareness. My clients who are motivated towards personal growth and understanding, and to participate positively in their community, fill me with hope.
Madonna Adymy, LCAT Untitled Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Painting is a form of art that takes us back to artifacts from prehistoric times and spanned through all cultures. Painting represents a continuous, though often disrupted, tradition of antiquity. Over the years of painting production, you can see the growth and ongoing creativity that was produced, where each artist left a piece of themselves on the canvas to share with someone, and each artist and civilization began to grow. It is thought that prehistoric men may have painted animals to “catch” their soul or spirit in order to hunt them more easily or the paintings may represent an animism vision surrounding nature. This may be the result of a basic need of expression that is innate to human beings, or they could have been for the transmission of practical information. This, I feel is a way in which Art Therapy impacts us today. Many of us have a basic need for expression of our soul, and our canvas, or paper, is the thing that catches it. Then, an Art Therapist can translate this basic need for expression into more understandable and practical information through discussion and further explanation for many different types of populations, all exhibiting different types of needs. The creation of this artwork aided me in expressing the fears, anxieties and hope I have as an Art Therapist. I often think of the delicate balance between a client and a therapist relationship, but also the delicate balance between personal and professional life. I created this piece to illustrate an exploration of individualism while clients are pulling us one way, personal life pulling us another, and society aiding in taming our thoughts and behaviors. As an Art Therapist, I think there is a constant need for self-exploration and realizing how our fears can be turned into hope, how fears can be seen as a time for beauty and growth, and how fears can often drive us to a place we needed to be. I found this process riveting and I hope you enjoy the viewing process, as much as I enjoyed the process of creating. After all, Art Therapy is about the process, not the product.
Rachel Sikorski, LCAT, ATR-BC Untitled Medium: Acrylic paint, oil paint markers, and collage on canvas board
This piece is one that was originally created in 2006, during my time as an intern at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Matter-At-Hand program, while completing my graduate education in Art Therapy. It was inspired by the work of Karin Davie, a contemporary abstract artist, whose work was featured in a large retrospective at the gallery at that time. Her paintings called to mind for me the tangible qualities of “ribbon candy” that I remember from childhood: shiny, colorful, pretty – but, almost too fragile to eat. Her paintings depicted movement, connectedness, entanglement, and energy, as lines of color playfully moved across large expanses of canvas. Her work was awe-inspiring to stand before, and served as a great source of inspiration for clients of all ages that I led through the gallery to help them connect with art before creating their own responses.
I decided to re-work this 10-year-old piece, as I see it as representative of myself at that time, and since the milestone of a decade of professional practice as an Art Therapist recently passed. The concepts of play, connection, and entanglement are relevant to the work of art therapists, like all mental health professionals, as we seek to connect with and support our clients, as well as work to keep ourselves “separate” so we can continue to be effective in our work. As the recent election season commenced and concluded, and the new administration (and its policies) began to take shape, a great deal of stress and anxiety came over many clients, colleagues, friends, and family members. Working to empower our clients has and continues to be a priority in our work as art therapists, and it has become necessary to expand the concept of self-care to include taking “a break” from social media, our screens, and the 24-hours news cycle. Even in this polarizing time, finding balance and focusing on solutions instead of “the problem” can empower us as individuals and bring us together as communities. Using a piece that was already “complete” served as a catalyst for revision and the creation of something new, as well as something more relevant to this time. In it, I have included representations of some of the fears and anxiety that can and have arisen in my work and personal life, as well as a shift in focus on best hopes and solutions for the future.
In art therapy, we seek to empower our clients to express all aspects of a problem or concern, whether positive/negative, fearful/hopeful, bad/good, or emotional/indifferent. Only when we can acknowledge and connect to either side of a polarizing concept, or the defining ends of a spectrum, can we move from a place of “all or nothing” thought and action, to one more manageable that exists in between. Only then can we discover and explore ways to maintain our own our “happy medium”.
Teresa Weston, LCAT, ATR-BC “greater than fear…” Medium: Watercolor (on canvas?)
As a woman, an artist, a therapist, a human and most importantly to me right now, a mother, I often struggle to find hope amongst so much turmoil, frustration and anxiety in the world.
It is a daily chore to seek out things that help us to remain hopeful. However, if we are able to find just one thing, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, we can have something to hold on to.
Working with watercolor, which can be very organic, fluid and messy can give someone the feeling of a lack of control. Embracing this potential lack of control and allowing the paint and water do what they need to do can sometimes help us to practice judging ourselves (and others) a little bit less.
Molly Muraca, LCAT Poppies Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Is there a “right” time to use a gun? Poppies juxtaposes the current societal conversation about violence and its impact in our community. Like many things in pop culture, guns are glorified and seemingly important to have and use. When guns kill, they can become more attractive and desirable by communities that feel perpetually unsafe. As an art therapist as well as a trauma therapist, creating safety for clients is the most important part of my work; but, it can often feel relentless when clients continuously go back to a place of unpredictability. Creating art about this topic helped me process this feeling and the hopeful impact of therapeutic work. My fear is that community violence will only worsen, but my hope is to help clients build the emotional security to overcome and thrive long past the violence they experience.
Lynette L. Gawron, PhD, LCAT, ATR-BC, CASAC-G Peace / The Artist / The Music / Words Medium: Soul Collage cards
I am one who sees the shattered and brokenness in the world. I am one who sees the big picture and how pieces can come together. I see the beauty through the destruction and how now is the time for Peace.
I am one who paints with lots of colors. I bring curiosity and self-expression. I allow for Imperfections. I am responsible for the art I create and put into the world. I am responsible for the art I help to facilitate as a therapist.
I am one who gives voice through the music. I am eclectic and diverse. I am one who is responsible for the music I play, my own and others. I am responsible for the sounds I put into the world.
I am one who speaks in the world, writes poetry and songs. I am creative and expansive. I create magic or deception. I can speak through spirit or not at all. I can build you up or tear you down.
SoulCollage® is a collage process that leads to the creation of a personal deck of cards, one card at a time. It serves as a flexible, creative, accessible, and inclusive tool that can be used by both individuals and groups. SoulCollage® is a practice for exploring our own healing and empowering evolution, helping us manifest our SoulEssence
(unique potential) both locally and globally, in increasingly balanced, compassionate, and joy-filled forms, as individuals and communities. When we consult SoulCollage® cards, we use the phrase, I Am One Who…
or I Am the One Who…
to begin speaking from the image on our card, to help us find answers our own questions.
As an Art Therapist, I have used the SoulCollage® process extensively for my own self-care, as well as in both group and individual sessions. Creating collage cards allows patients of all artistic skill levels to access their own true nature, explore different sides of them, and draw on supportive resources. My goal is to work with patients on creating their own deck for continued personal use outside of the therapy session.
Lisa Horlein, LCAT, ATR-BC Building a Wall Medium: Cardboard bricks, paper, colored markers
Building a wall is a performance piece designed to engage the audience in a playful conversation about how diversity, multiculturalism and immigration are currently challenging the “American” experience; and, our ability to connect empathetically with individuals who do not mirror our values, traditions, appearance, class, religion, and/or political ideas about power and privilege. In this piece, the audience is thrown bricks labeled with words and phrases that they may or may not like, and then invited to help build a wall that projects some sort of reconciliation, wisdom, and/or at least pessimistic hopefulness that we can all get along.
Creative play activities can be a tool for stimulating productive dialogue, as well as promote relationship building in a non-defensive context for people of all ages.
Community Sculpture Hope & Fear Medium: Chicken wire, fabric, yarn, markers, pastels
Art Therapy Buffalo invited community members to add representations of personal and collective hopes and fears to each of the two forms that make up this sculpture. Having the opportunity to express our fears can help us shift focus to what we can control, what inspires hope, as well as connect us to our resources and supports. Acknowledging and representing fears visually can be an effective way to help individuals of all ages cope with that which can be anxiety-producing or overwhelming, as well as can inspire dialogue with others that can lead to personal growth and mutual understanding.
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