Okay, that’s a dramatic open. Does it “literally” save my life? No. Does it give me a place to go emotionally? Yes. And pears are eternal, and I get to that at the end.
Doing art is therapeutic. There are whole degree programs called “Art Therapy” in college. We are familiar with the professional application of this discipline for helping children describe and overcome trauma. Young people who don’t have the words to tell their stories and feelings are encouraged to draw and paint pictures of what happened to them. It is a process that unlocks the cage a person is trapped in.
How are you coping with the madness in the world right now? There is a part of me that wants to talk and talk and talk about it to get out of the cage I feel trapped in; I realize, however, doing so will do nothing to alleviate my distress and feelings of powerlessness because there seems no end to the evil. Also, I suspect that talking too much about it with anyone I care about will only transmit my stress to them. I do not wish to bring anyone else down further.
So, instead of using words, and because I have lots of art supplies and table space, I am using my favorite coping mechanism—drawing and painting. My students tend to relate. One said to me, “Coming here is cheaper than therapy.” (She meant seeing a therapist.) She told me the process of doing art healed her soul.
While Ukraine has been unjustly attacked and under siege by a brutal voracious dictator, I get out my watercolors, acrylics, pens, and colored pencils. I try not to feel guilty that, while families and children are trying to save their lives, I am comfortable in my home with plenty of food and water and paper to mark lines, shapes, and colors onto. I won’t paint pictures of bombs destroying neighborhoods and bloody bodies on the street. The TV is good at the first part; they tell us they can’t show us the images that are “too graphic” but also too true. My art is for me…to comfort me as if to reassure myself that the world isn’t actually going down in flames. These past couple of years have been challenging for all of us, and we can be forgiven if we are on edge. Failed leadership everywhere has created a situation that makes the average person feel generally unsafe. Art feels timeless and to lose oneself in it is to be restored.
It will be interesting to see that art that comes out of this moment in time. It will differ from contemporary art which reflects on shallow, narcissistic themes. It won’t look like Hunter Biden doodles which sell for half a million dollars. A new Picasso will emerge to tell the story of our times, and it will be more than art therapy. Picasso once said, “All art is revolution.” Whole books are written on the idea of the transformative power of art and the truth-telling inside it. The question is, if this art is a critique of everything wrong with modern politics, will it be canceled by the powers that be, Big Tech, and other corporate interests who want to dominate our lives? What pictures will the children of Ukraine paint?
It's time to move from the computer to the art table. My therapy will be to paint more pears. Pears make me happy. They are almost anthropomorphic. If you look closely enough, they seem human. Put two together, and they seem in conversation. Depending on how two pears are positioned, you can imagine a whole story. Pears seem eternal, more lasting than human civilization. Remember that tree in the forest that fell down, and we asked, “If no one was there to hear it, did it make a sound?” What about the beautiful pear? If no one was there to paint it, did it ever exist at all?
If you are an artist, I implore you to let your art be a therapy for you to lift your soul. If you are not an artist but feeling depressed by these troubled times, find a way to be creative because that surely will give you something to feel positive about. Never more have we needed art.
With faith in better days ahead, I wish you peace. --Angie