Art for Health's Sake: Art Can Provide Healing for the Total Being

Article excerpt

Can art be used as an alternative practice to traditional methods of healing? Consider this: An abstract or landscape can, in effect, transport a person to a different location other than, say, a doctor's office. And some believe that color has a direct effect on certain "energy lines" of the body to heal specific ailments. But when it comes to art, is it really healing in nature or does it simply just provide a calming and soothing environment for the mind? Can art really heal your illnesses? Some say yes. But whether it's the teachings of ancient healing practices or the soothing effects of color and techniques, art can provide a healing of the mind. And with all the unwanted side effects of traditional medications, why not turn to art as a healing power?

"The artwork distracts the patients, forcing them to think about something else" (other than the pain they may be experiencing in therapy), says Valerie Hopkins, owner of Hopkins' Fine Art. "And with all the illnesses going around throughout the world today, we have to surround ourselves with beauty."

Hopkins, who for three years has partnered with Paul Gleason, a physical therapist and owner of Physical Therapy Complete, Phoenix, AZ, had a severe accident several years ago and had to go through physical therapy to heal. As she was working with Gleason, Hopkins noticed the walls had beautiful colors painted on them, but there was no artwork anywhere. She realized that if she had beautiful artwork to escape in, it would help distract her from the pain she was going through with each session. Gleason was inspired and the two began their partnership thereafter. Hopkins uses the artists who she represents in her gallery and rehangs Gleason's "gallery" about every three months.

"Art provides an interesting topic for conversation and gets patients' minds off their injuries for a few minutes," says Gleason. "It's a good way to connect with patients."

Although Gleason isn't sure if art in and of itself provides healing, he does believe the atmosphere and bright colors that art adds to his office space stimulates his patients' overall sense of well-being and hopefulness.

"I believe art opens the mind to new possibilities, creates energy and optimism, and provides comfort to the soul," says Gleason. "We hope that the combination of our hands-on approach and unique environment helps motivate patients to work hard on their therapy. And I do believe that their attitude and effort creates a huge difference in the results they achieve."

Hopkins believes that there isn't one given style, technique or subject matter that pertains to therapeutic art. The only condition is that it must allow the mind to escape, sending the individual on a "healing journey into the painting." The artists whose works hang in Gleason's office include Nancy Ortenstone, Keith Bennett, Gary Leonard, Rey Isip and LauRha Frankfort. Using all originals, Hopkins only brings in eclectic art, with the majority being abstracts, figuratives and landscapes.

"Because artwork is so subjective, there are no specific colors or materials that are more healing than others," Hopkins explains. "Everyone feels differently and it aU depends on the patient. I know from my own experience, it all depends on the day or their state of pain."

Weighing in with a different opinion is Paradise Valley, AZ-based artist LauRha Frankfort (known as LauRha). After studying Medical Qi Gong, LauRha says there are specific colors and materials that correspond to the healing process. (On Feb. 4, Hopkins and LauRha are planning a one-woman show and reception for the first time in Gleason's office, where LauRha's paintings will become permanent fixtures.) Qi Gong, meaning (Qi) energy (Gong) work, is an ancient Chinese energy healing theory that has been used in China for more than "5,000 years and is the granddaddy of yoga, but strictly medical," LauRha says. It is a self-healing art that combines movement and meditation, with visualizations employed to enhance the mind/body connection. …