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When Art touches a Person

Today I want to speak to the way art can touch people without their ever really comprehending that it's happening. It is a process of intrapsychic wonder that still fascinates me. One client was a professional artist whose husband had been suddenly killed. In her grief she was stuck, kind of wandering around in her life with her talents in one pocket and her overwhelming grief like a shawl of shock wrapped around her person. She responded to an ad for my workshop posted by a local arts facility in Marin County. For no reason in particular, I was very inspired in those times to invite people to create a collage the size of their whole body: the finished works were like vast totems, rich with symbolism and childlike proportions, given that scissors were outlawed. For two days we worked, stripped magazines of their pictures, piled and sorted them, and finally mapped them onto the body tracings we had rendered.

Towards the end, we lined up these totems for what I call a "gallery viewing," that is, a mutual tour of our creations in which participants are free to voice what is most striking for them about a particular work, or something they most appreciate. To my surprise, this participant made a rapid excuse and left the building early, claiming fatigue. The next day she called me to apologize and claim her abandoned work. "I just had this wave of crying that i couldn't stop; I just cried and cried, and i think something happened when i did that piece..." Yup. Testimonial to LAW 1: Art is a synthesizer that brings truth to the surface through action. This lady's suppressed feelings had a chance to be let loose through collage, and so her emotions came through. What's more, after a week or so, she told me she felt better than she had in ages, just from "bringing it all together and letting the feelings out." YES. Without feelings, we are flat.

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