Saturday, November 14, 2009

Even More Thoughts on Art: Art as Therapy

I don't think I've ever openly admitted to being mentally ill on the blog. Although the mental illness itself is nothing new, the awareness of its existence (a "moderate mood disorder" for the time being) is a recent development. The desire for "environmental psychotherapy" (aka "living somewhere that doesn't suck") landed us in Marfa, and one cannot move to Marfa without feeling at least a little artsy. That artsy feeling has done me good.

I've been doing a series of photos of myself, which has actually done wonders for my self-esteem. Here's me sporting my just-woke-up lips:
I call the series "I Thank Thee for I Am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" which is a title that can either be seen as ironic or hopeful: ironic because of my problems, hopeful because I'm willing to say that I'm still happy with myself in spite of my problems. My desire to document all my moods can result in photos of my depression:
When I swing back the other direction and go manic, all my pictures will be blurry. Anyway, those days after my camera died fell during a depressed episode, and I can't help but wonder if it was exacerbated by losing my creative outlet. Now that the new camera's here, life is dramatically improving--not that it wouldn't anyway (it was a depressed episode, after all), but I feel like I have something to look forward to.

I'm not the only one who sees art as therapy. About 150 years ago, the Bethlem Royal Hospital (you may know it as Bedlam) began collecting the art of patients with mental illnesses. Bethlem is, of course, no longer an insane asylum (the building now houses the fabulous Imperial War Museum), but a museum exists to continue to collect art and other artifacts with the mission of increasing understanding and decreasing stigmas of mental illness. Long before I knew anything was wrong with me, looking at the collection changed my views of mental illness--click here to see the collection for yourself.

More recently I've taken an interest in Her Power (the Facebook page is more developed), which is dedicated to how the creative process helps in the recovery of women who've dealt with eating disorders. Naturally, I wish it was expanded to all mental illnesses, but what can I do? Start a nonprofit myself? Don't be absurd!

I realize that essentially I'm contradicting the things I said earlier: People with overpriced cameras drive me crazy, but I also know the accessibility of photography as well as the ability of the visual arts to make things that much better (not that I'm going off my meds--talk about a disaster waiting to happen). No one needs to produce museum-quality art if just creating makes a difficult-to-control situation much more bearable. It's really amazing what helps.


Svetleah said...

I love your self portraits.

Rachel said...

I love the light in the last picture! Great photo!