We all experience pain and carry wounds that prevent us from achieving optimum joy and peace of mind. However, as many artists have shown us, creativity can serve as a catalyst to release these negative emotions. There are many individuals who have experienced healing through artistic expression.
On this subject in the past I have written about Frida Kahlo, and how she transcended her emotional and physical pain through her portrait painting. In Henri Matisse and The Healing Power of Art I described how art gave him “a second life” after his cancer diagnosis.
In the 2015 Manhattan Arts International juried exhibition “The Healing Power of ART”, we received entries from many artists who stated how art helped them overcome grief, depression, anxiety, trauma and loss. Some artists even attribute art as having saved their lives.
In this article I introduce you to Vivian Holabird and Sheila Dehner — two courageous artists. Their art and their lives are very different, however they have a lot to teach us about the resilient human spirit and the healing power of art.
Sheila Dehner’s series of paintings named “Wounds of Desire & Destruction” originated from a traumatic experience. “I am a woman who has lived female genital mutilation (FGM). I was a white middle-class seventeen-year-old American girl born in Los Angeles, California who was taken advantage of by a medical system… it asserted rights over my anesthetized body without my knowledge, or consent.”
After living in shame for over 50 years, Dehner says, “It is only recently, in my paintings, that I have been able to address the consequences of this horrific deed. Better late than never, I say, and I hope I am saying it for all women who have suffered, and continue to suffer the same violation.”
The former dancer explains, “body and body movement are central to how I articulate energy in my paintings. ‘Wounds of Desire & Destruction’ are about my body and my experience as a woman. It is the imaginative process of painting that has allowed me to access and explore this reality.”
Dehner is now a fulltime artist living in the Catskills in New York. She paints “free of distraction”, in the open spaces that have always fostered her imagination and creative freedom.
Visit Sheila Dehner’s website www.dehnerart.com
Vivian Holabird suffered a devastating loss. “After the tragic loss of my daughter in 2006, I needed the passion and purpose to really live once again.”
After losing a child depression had taken over. “Creating art has been my life saver! It was an answer to prayer when I slowly started to see beauty around me that I wished to put on canvas once again. A few years later I was completely amazed when I felt that I absolutely must start creating paintings or I would burst!”
The artist who lives in California created art since early childhood, however, “Marriage, children and just life drained me and I only did a handful of paintings for commissions in a 15-18 year span.”
The artist has found “a mysterious, captivating and passionate place deep in my spirit, interpreting through paint brush, vibrant colors, and onto canvas for all to view and enjoy.” She adds, “I love creating a painting, it’s like bringing something to life, transforming a room with a cheerful peace.”
Visit Vivian Holabird’s website www.viviansartwork.com.
The healing power of art is not only limited to artists. As I wrote in the article “What is Art Therapy”, as the American Art Therapy Association explains, through the creative process, “we can all explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.”