Published: Jun 03, 2008 11:00 PM
Modified: Jun 03, 2008 11:00 PM
The Lucy Daniels Foundation has been contributing to the intellectual life of our community for the past 15 years. The foundation is a research and teaching group that focuses on psychoanalysis and creativity.
I felt privileged to be invited to the annual seminar and dinner in February, and I recognized several prominent physicians and psychoanalysts from our area.
The lecture and slide show was presented by Eshter Dreifuss Kattan, a Los Angeles psychoanalyst who conducts an art therapy program in UCLA's cancer center.
Kattan showed slides of the art of her patients who participated in the program during their cancer treatment. The program provided an outlet for their inner feelings concerning all the issues that arise during such a traumatic period.
The audience saw paintings and collages that ran the gamut from fearful to hopeful. The entire process was documented. Some stories were tragic, others restorative. We witnessed the psychological stages of therapy, including transference with the healer. This was a powerful seminar on health care and the healing effects of art therapy.
During the lecture I was engrossed by the psychoanalyst sitting beside me, and we spent the evening talking about the 19th and 20th century's quest to explore the influence of the unconscious mind on creativity. We talked about surrealism and the early influence of primitivism in modern art.
As an artist and art historian I have thought about the influence of Sigmund Freud. I have imagined him walking the streets of Vienna in the 1890s, pondering social controls on our thinking and feeling, and the effects on illness.
Freud led the intellectual movement that sought sources for man's inner instincts and feelings. Artists of the time were draw to explore primitive societies in Africa and the South Pacific. During this period of Social Romanticism, Emil Nolde and Paul Gauguin left their homes in Europe and went to live among simple cultures in the South Pacific. Their paintings opened windows to a subsequent generation of artists.
Ten years later, around 1905, Pablo Picasso in Paris and Ernst Ludwig Kirschner in Germany collected and painted masks and statuary from Africa. Picasso's great painting the "Demoiselles D'Avignon" has always been considered the prime example of African influence on Western art.
After the lecture I had time to think about more personal experiences. In 1989 I underwent several surgeries during my own bout with cancer. It is hard to convey the complexities of such an experience. It impacts so many parts of your life. Your weakened body still has family and social responsibilities. You expect yourself to be able to perform the usual tasks of work and love.
Healing seems to take forever. It is a very slow process, and my surgeon pointed out that we heal no faster today than we did 10,000 years ago. I learned that patience is the same word as patient. I feared that I would never be able to physically paint again. So I forced myself to try, and I created an art therapy program for myself.
I have never exhibited these paintings. They are stored somewhere in my files. Yet I can clearly remember their dark blue tones, matching my mood, and the self-portraits, where body and nature merge into swirling rhythms that seem to blend with the universe around me.
Over the years I healed, and my mind stored the experience deeply within my psyche. It surfaces at times when called upon by inspirational lectures, as well as other humans seeking solace and understanding.
As an artist, my talent has been to go within, heal from the inside to the outside, and connect with humanity via my ability of self-expression.
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