Tag Archives: Alain de Boton

Art as Therapy: Self-Understanding

DSCN3223We mystify ourselves. Well, I often mystify myself!

This is why I related to de Boton and Armstrong’s notion that the art we surround ourselves with, and the art we make, gives us a language to communicate something about ourselves to others when words fail.  Lately for me, poetry (others’!)  more clearly expresses my own inarticulate thoughts.  Our art too can often say things about us, or for us, when the wordsDSCN5169 are not enough.

They describe the situation where we encounter works of art that seem to latch on to something we have felt but never recognized clearly before.  I sense this recognition looking at the timber sculptures of Robyn Gordon, or the polymer art by Tory Hughes and Genevieve Williamson.

Many of my pieces were journeys in self knowledge but three stand out: a filigree box which incorporated symbols that are significant to me; a necklace I made in Broken Hill at a a time of great upheaval and a necklace that speaks of the DSCN1763relationship between me and my mother-my desire to know what it is that helps her to live well.  At least jewellery is more wearable than inchoate attempts at self expression!

Art as Therapy: Rebalancing

So…part four already in my little series reflecting on Maria Popova’s Art as Therapy.

For me both the process of making art and the final product, is re-centring for me.  Picking up a lumpThree breaths of polymer, rolling it, twisting it, allowing something to emerge stills my monkey mind.  Going down the stairs to my making room truly is my oasis. Here I wrote about making a necklace that reminds me to choose; here I write about an amulet that reminds me to be grateful and playful.

De Boton and Armstrong believe that we want to be good, but sometimes lose the plot (my translation!) At these points, they say, we can derive enormous benefit from works of art that encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves.

DSCN2121What a wonderful thought! I could make something that encourages someone to be the best version of themselves! (I have to confess that part of me recoils at the vaguely new-agey ring to this overworked phrase but I choose to ignore that to hear deeper truths!)

In my art I do try to express or consolidate what I am learning about how to live.  I make altars, amulets, talismans (talismen?) and jewellery to encourage, remind, comfort or nudge.  I wrote here about creating a piece with my mother based on a book by Jan Chozen Bays to help me cultivate mindfulness in my everyday life.

De Boton and Armstrong say that: Art can save us time — and save our lives — through opportune and visceral reminders of balance and goodness that we should never presume we know enough about already.

Not sure that my art is life saving, but some of my art reminds me, at least, of a goodness and balance that I can attain to.

Art as Therapy: Sorrow

The third function of art as defined by de Boton and Armstrong and described in more detail here is sorrow.  One of the unexpectedly important things that art can do for us is teach us how to suffer more successfully…base and unimpressive experiences are converted into something noble and fine — exactly what may happen when sorrow meets art.

Less of my work expresses sorrow although it may permeate pieces and be a part of their gestation. DSCN2022 I once described this piece shown as a love song. As well as delight in the desert landscape where I had lived for over four years, it was indeed expressing sorrow. And fear. And later on was linked to disappointment. But now I pass my Desert Walking Gown every time I enter my house. I remember my tenacity and focus. I know what I can do. And what is important. And where I can feel grounded, quiet and still.

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Art as Therapy: Hope

Yesterday I wrote about remembering. De Boton and Armstrong’s second function of art is hope. Read their discussion at length here where they talk about the power of art to put us in touch with a DSCN4319blithe, carefree part of ourselves that can help us cope with inevitable rejections and humiliations.  Don’t we need that?

I am an introvert but much of my art is flamboyant, over-the-top and certainly tapping into that carefree, blithe part of me that loves to play.

 

Certainly, the “girls” over the ages, have been truly alter egos!  Mind you, I have long ago given up hope of having boobs like theirs.

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Art as Therapy: Remembering

Thanks to my beloved Maria* I have discovered some writing by philosopher Alain de Boton and art historian John Armstrong on Art as Therapy. I won’t repeat what she says here but for the next seven days I will illustrate each of their core psychological functions of art with photographs of my own work.

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The first function is remembering. They write that art is a way of preserving experiences, of which there are many transient and beautiful examples, and that we need help containing. Much of my art has an element of remembering. This triptych (detail shown) was created using the images I saw on a weekly bus journey when i lived in Nepal.

 

IMG_4098And this necklace (R) was created to remind me of the elation I felt at finally arriving in Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang; a destination I had dreamed of reaching for nearly 30 years.  The crushed tobacco tin was, to me, a precious relic.

*So much noise on the internet isn’t there? I hope I don’t contribute. Maria helps me to turn up the signal, wipe out the noise.