Another Meaning of the Term Healing Arts

Posted May 26, 2007
Last Updated Jun 21, 2012

First I will tell you that I am having a retrospective solo exhibition of 35 works at the Paoli Cancer Center in Pennsylvania for the month of June. Paintings and drawings exhibited as several series over at least twenty years of my career will hang together in treatment rooms and hallways, giving chemotherapy patients and their loved ones a chance to focus on something other than the hell they are going through.

There will be no publicity outside the hospital walls. There will be no opening reception, post card, and sales are unexpected. Yet I consider this show the most important of my profession. If you read on perhaps you will agree.

Here’s my website. I invite you to peruse online versions of the paintings and drawings, check out the resume and artist statement.

Okay. Consider my horn tooted. Here’s what the website doesn’t discuss. People say that art is a gift to humanity. And yet most artists don’t have the experience of seeing their gifts appreciated. Since people who gravitate to this profession usually think they have a message of some sort to impart to the world, it becomes increasingly frustrating to turn out product after product, only to have it molder in the studio unobserved by others. Artists are exhibitionists by nature. We seek public venues, fully believing that once people see the work they will ‘get it’ and discover us. We might even become famous in our lifetime, whatever that means in today’s society. A few (compared to the thousands of MFA’s churned out by graduate schools annually) do become famous, or at least household names in elitist circles. But most learn over time that each show is likely to be an end in itself, leading perhaps to another show, but usually not to ‘being discovered.’

And that is not an easy pill for an artist to swallow. Many quit the field once they face reality. Others persevere. Of these there are two discernable groups; the intrepid self-marketers, and the studio denizens who produce work after work. Studio denizens finding recognition usually have some financial backing, or at least assistance from loved ones who run their affairs in the outside world. Intrepid self-marketers often compromise their output’s quality and/or quantity. Producing good art is full-time. Living life as a family member and citizen of the world and is quite consuming. Marketing is a separate and equally consuming enterprise.

Whether or not art is gift or curse is moot. Genuine artists need to continue working despite lack of finances, time deficits due to personal responsibility, and the realization that years of commitment will yield few rewards by societal measures.

I fall into the category of studio denizen. There is little that gives me more of a sense of timelessness and purpose than creating an art work. While I have experienced many consuming life challenges, my need to paint prevails even as I begin to accept my personal lack of marketing skills.

My first 20 or so years as an adult artist took me through various phases in which I:

  1. believed that perseverance would lead to recognition.
  2. began noticing the ever-changing role of art within this lifetime
  3. tried to understand my own role as an artist in this evolution
  4. tried to come to grips with my human role in life
  5. experienced what is within control as a human and what is not.
  6. felt anger and frustration at what cannot be controlled.
  7. sought ways to make the need to continue creating tenable, in spite of losing the desire for ‘recognition’ (which not only seemed unwieldy, but more importantly, irrelevant)
  8. invented a new mission I could live with which would not compromise my need to create.

Here is how a new mission evolved:

A few years ago a massage therapist I knew wished to attune me to the ancient healing technique called Reiki. Apparently I am a grounded soul with a semi-organized brain. So the idea of healing through attunement and intention seemed a little too ‘new age’ for me. But I went along with Kate’s idea, for who am I to turn down a gift? Immediately after attunement my hands began to get piping hot at the mere thought of Reiki. I began to do what was recommended; practice the healing on myself, family and pets. Soon I found that the mere giving of Reiki filled me with contentment. The philosophy behind Reiki is not religious, but pan-spiritual. The practitioner has no ego about it, but is merely the vessel through which healing energy opts to flow. This energy has always, will always exist for the tapping.

Over the last few years I pursued second degree and finally mastership of the technique. With each step, as the levels of experience increased, the desire for recognition decreased as the concept of creating for creation’s sake began to take true hold.

At first I had questions; If Reiki has no ego, but I do, how can I create art that has no ego? If art has no ego, how can it exist? What purpose can it serve? Does it need a purpose?

Of course it needs a purpose. And of course I can’t erase my ego from my art. Too much consciously goes into it. Yet what of the unconscious part of artistic creation?

One night a few years ago a vivid dream began to shape my new philosophy. In it I was walking past a vast wall in an unfamiliar place. I saw artwork hanging salon style all along the wall. Stopping to look, I began to recognize the art as my own life’s work. I was oddly detached from having had anything to do with the works’ existence. All the series’ created over the years hung together, and each individual work interacted, expanding and connecting through the spaces between them. “The art contains an energy all its own” I told myself. “The energy is collective when the art hangs together, but would have energy tendrils connecting one to the others wherever individual pieces might be in time and space.” I awoke feeling blissfully calm and at peace with my role as an artist. And from that dream my current artistic mission arose.

My work exists to connect with others in contemplation, affirmation, peace and spirit. It is there to help any and all who wish to engage in its energy. Each stroke is infused with intent. It is not static, but invites interaction. It is there to remind us of what is too big to contemplate and too miniscule to see. Changing with the light, it moves through various life conditions imparting different messages at different times.

My life’s work is assembled at Paoli Cancer Center for a month to commune and to greet its guests. May healing energy flow through each piece into the hearts of all who pass through the Center’s doors. And at the very least I invite all who look to find that the chill of an institutional environment has been warmed by a hushed embrace.


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