……………………The Transcendentalist tradition includes Thoreau and Walt Whitman. My understanding of art making is based on the foundational process of meaning making. Walt Whitman in his great long poem “Song of Myself”, catalogs the many extensions and manifestations of the life force he perceives through the fog of his experience. Walt Whitman had been a nurse or orderly during the Civil War and had witnessed the trauma of the “real” world. His ability to nurture a sense of wonder in a life that included exposure to great trauma is instructive. In “Song of Myself”, he lists the many activities and old world occupations in the same way he describes the power of Nature to instil awe and wonder.
Thoreau describes the wonder and peace he cultivated in himself by living in the woods. In “Walden”, he lives in simplicity and lists the subtle changes in the ecosystems around the lake. The meaning of his life emerges from these days he spent away from the crowd. He died soon after leaving his stone edifice on the edges of the lake.
For me, art making is like this : being awake to the numinous lustre of Nature, the inspiration of sincere people, the integrity of honest creativity, the possibility of escaping the hierarchies of the narcissistic society we have inherited.
This is how what I do in the therapy room is similar to what is done in the studio. I am hoping for meaning to emerge out of the detritus of our lives. I go further and act as an instigator of meaning. Textures of paintings are like the rough edges of my patients’ narratives. Colours are like the nuances of mood as they flow and fluctuate in the lives of my patients. Structures in a painting are like the cognitive formations and relationship systems in the stories my patients tell.
This is how psychiatry and art inter-integrate into a single experience.