Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, RN, FAAN, experienced art and healing first hand as she painted herself out of a severe depression during a divorce. She took what she learned from this experience and became the co-founder and co-director of the Arts in Medicine program at University of Florida, Gainesville.
Here she tells her story:
Several years ago, I rediscovered the artist within and used art to heal myself. I was extremely ill at the time and going through a very difficult divorce. I was outraged, depressed and out of control. My support network had collapsed and everything was being taken away from me. Surrounded by my grief, I felt like I was drowning in darkness and despair. Therapy wasn’t helping. Finally my therapist said, “It’s time for you to do something different with your rage and your grief.”
I had always dreamed of being a painter but had never given myself permission to be one. “I’m just not good enough,” I would tell myself. But now my world was collapsing and the fear of inadequacy seemed trivial compared to my painful loss. I walked out of the therapist’s office and into the gray drizzle. Life seemed to be going on without me. Stopping before a large puddle, I stared down at my reflection in the murky water and imagined myself sinking into the mud. Just then a car came to a slow stop nearby. It was my friend Lee Ann, a painter. She rolled down her window and called out, “Why don’t I take you to breakfast and then over to my studio so that you can start painting?”
Sitting in her studio, I remembered how I had always wanted to be an artist. This was a part of me that I had never acknowledged or honored. Right then, in a lucid moment, I decided to abandon all my fears of being a painter. Although I didn’t even know how to hold a paintbrush, I selected a large piece of canvas to work on. Flipping though several magazines for ideas, I came across a picture of a woman who was broken and distorted. What a familiar feeling! And so I started painting.
I became excited with the sheer process of painting: the colors of paint, the textures, and the way different shapes swirled together on canvas. The painting began to transform into an image of my pain and hurt. I forgot about how I felt and instead painted those feelings. I worked feverishly, releasing my energy passionately onto canvas.
Making no attempt to define myself or my process, I began a series of self-portraits. They were all distorted in the beginning, with garish backgrounds. But I was too absorbed in the pure expression and gesture of painting to let that bother me. I called my first self-portrait Cut Out My Heart. It was my pain, a deeply intense and dying pain. The figure was broken, distorted, crumpled, crying, and bleeding. This figure had been my despair, my uncensored and purely emotional energy. When I finished releasing the image onto canvas, I stepped back and gasped! What I saw was an aspect of myself that I couldn’t face; it was so ugly! I had let go on an intense emotional and physical level. I backed away, left the studio and went home.
When I returned (when ?), I had an incredible insight. I saw that the painting had captured genuine expression from a moment of time that was now behind me. I had moved past it. I was actually witnessing my own transformation! Throughout the series of self-portraits, I continuously struggled with form and perspective. Metaphorically I was recreating my inner form and inner perspective. The external creative process mirrored my inner world. The manifestation of movement and change was powerful and it was a process of knowing myself.
As I immersed myself in painting, I not only became well, but clearly became the artist I had always wanted to be. I remember the moment that I truly felt empowered as an artist. I experienced a sudden shift and encountered something within that was healing. There was an aspect of me that rejuvenated my spirit and I began to feel stronger and more alive. By seeing my pain on canvas, I could step away from it.
I was the artist; my pain was the art. And I was free.
From her website, Maryrockwoodlane.com
“My vision for the artwork grew when a patient who was ill with cancer asked me to paint a picture for him. Suddenly I realized that I had found a way to heal many more people than the number I could see in my office every day.” -Dr. Wu
Dr. Wu came to the United States as an immigrant of a laundry man’s son, who then went off to graduate from Harvard and become a highly successful venture capitalist on wall street. He took a turn towards his roots and journeyed to study and eventually practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The holistic system of TCM led him to begin to interpret and express the intricacies and poetry of this philosophy of health through visual arts. His work promotes balance, healing, and relaxation by connecting with deeply embedded aspects of our being. His art speaks to the soul, encourages our systems to heal themselves, and teaches about culture and history all at the same time.
Hear his story and see more of his art here: http://www.wushealingart.com/
She writes on the walls to heal culture. Listen to her story.. She pushes the boundaries of her society as a female artist speaking her truth about women’s rights. Respect!
“I was born and raised in Iran and in the last 3 years of school I wanted to chose art as my major subject but I was told that as an Afghan I wasn’t allowed. So I studied accounting which was okay but a million miles away from painting.
When my family came back to Afghanistan I tried again and passed into the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University. Art is such a part of my life that I don’t know what would happen if was not able to continue. It would be like having a piece cut out of me.”
The Mayan Goddess, Ixchel, the goddess of the Moon, Water, Weaving, Fertility and Healing. Her name is a combination of Ix meaning goddess of the feminine and Chel meaning Rainbow.
Ixchel is deputized in three forms in the painting above. One is the old women, the midwife with a pot of rainwater and a snake wrapped in her hair. The snake symbolizes medicine and intuitive forces.
The middle women is the “Lady Rainbow”. Ixchel was the first woman to weave and her spindle is the center for movement in the Universe. The clothes that she wears are traditional woven textiles.
The third image of Ixchel is the Mood Goddess. The Moon is associated with the reproduction cycle and she holds a rabbit to symbolize fertility.
The Island of Cozumel, located in the Caribbean off of Mexico held a temple dedicated to Ixchel and her followers, the feminine Cult of Ixchel, would travel to this island from all over the Mayan Kingdom to ensure a fruitful marriage.
Ixchel can also be portrayed as a jaguar goddess with a spear and shield. Her partner is Itzamná, creator of the world, their marriage is happy but when they argue cosmic changes such as eclipses occur.