Over the past two days I’ve had my first experiences with art therapy. It’s weird being on the other side of the canvas. The only other time I’ve been on a different end of the artistic process is when I was an artist’s model. Anyway, I usually shy away from actually making art…something about my paltry talent corrupting the sacredness that is art. Yes, the high horse -I am on it.
The idea behind art therapy is that since art is a form of pre-verbal communication, the process of making art can draw out the emotions and experiences on the tip of a patient’s consciousness iceberg. I went into it extremely skeptical, wanting to shout “you’re reading too much into it dammit!” But then I second guessed myself. What if something in my brain really was controlling what I was putting on paper? Art historians analyze meaning and look for symbolism to the artist’s life all the time, so why would it be different for us amateurs?
So today I drew a tree (yes, my eyes rolled a bit as well). I thought about drawing a wintery, Ansel Adams tree, but I figured the obvious interpretation would be that I feel desolate and cold. My tree had a spindly trunk and branches with tons of foliage and blossoms. The explanation I made up was that I have an intense desire to be frail yet expect to have success and bounty in life. My therapist totally went for it and commended me on being so insightful. Again, I thought about how I didn’t mean to draw an anorexic tree, but maybe that’s what my mind is saying! Ugh.
Yet, I was haunted by this post. How can the girl who vehemently argued against art based diagnoses be, well, diagnosing myself based on art? One of my issues with art therapy is that you’re in a place where your problems and illnesses are always at the forefront of your mind, so it’s no wonder that you start seeing them in everything you do. I honestly think the therapy is most helpful because for one hour, amidst grueling sessions with doctors, you just get to sit and draw.