Their images tell a story of healing, empowerment and hope. But so do the survivors themselves. In fact, the survivors are the canvas, in all states of breast cancer, pre-, post-, or non-reconstructive stages. The women are of all ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds, a reminder that cancer does not discriminate.
Breast cancer survivors’ bodies are directly painted on by professional artists, then photographed by professional photographer, Michael D. Colanero. Because the canvas is the survivor herself, the project has the power to empower, encourage, educate, inform, create possibilities, heal wounds. It is “a form of art therapy for both the participants and the viewers alike,” they write on their Facebook page.
“All the designs are custom made for each survivor and relate in some way to their character traits, personality, passions, interests or other aspects of their story. All of these images are created in a way that also translates to the larger breast cancer experience. Describing a myriad of moods, emotions, thoughts and fears in common to many survivors. Some themes are light, positive and inspiring while others may be a bit deeper, darker and thought provoking – still others single out a specific issue such as early detection, or genetics.”
For more information on these gallery-quality photographic images, Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project can be found at http://www.facebook.com/BCABPP.
Images by Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project.
The metal sculptures of Julie Tremblay evoke thoughts of movement, time, transformation and reflection. Her “Reflections” series is made of hundreds of metallic pieces, but they never for a second imply weightiness or industrial strength. In fact, the transparency of these airy sculptures and the way they reflect light gives them a floating quality that is weightless, and on the cusp of the physical and the spiritual.
“Transmitting certain loneliness, they give you the impression that they are imprisoned in transparent cocoons, waiting with eagerness to be transformed into butterflies,” described one interviewer, Yatzer, of her work. This powerful description is in perfect alignment with those in need of healing, imprisoned in cocoons, longing to be free of pain or disease.
For further information, Julie Tremblay’s website can be found at www.julietremblay.net.
Sculptures from Julie Tremblay’s “Reflections” series.
Artist Tom Shannon’s gravity-defying sculptural works seem to levitate. And as if that’s not healing enough, they are at the same time made not of futuristic high technology, but rather of simple, earthly materials. They float and spin like planets on magnets and suspension wire, transcending the viewer’s presence to a world beyond. His work is “science-inspired art at its most heavenly.” For this reason, it is ideal in the science-inspired arenas of hospitals and medical centers, while simultaneously exuding heavenly qualities that healing patients crave beyond the science. At a glance, one wishes to pause and meditate.
Shannon’s sculptures are concerned with existential conditions, the web of sensations and knowledge of which we are all a part. Some fill rooms, hovering silently in the air while never losing altitude. Using permanent magnets the sculptures orient to Earth’s terrestrial field in the manner of a compass. All art is a metaphor. Viewers of Shannon’s work are enthralled as much with the scientific physicality of his pieces as with their levitating metaphors of spirituality, of release from bodily illness, and of separation from the weight of physical and mental pain.
Tom Shannon’s website can be viewed at http://www.tomshannon.com.
While the primary mission of Mayo Clinic is excellence in patient care, its founders recognized that caring for the whole patient extends beyond treating the physical ailments. From its founding, Mayo has used art, architecture and beauty in surroundings to address the “spiritual” aspects of medical care and to create a healing environment. From Rodin and Miro, to Warhol and Chihuly, the collection represents a wide range of periods and places, and covers centuries of artistic expressions and styles. Rodin himself stated that he hoped that people who view his sculpture study for “The Burghers of Calais” (at Mayo and pictured here) would sense a kindred spirit with their own suffering and concerns. It is this spiritual connection that the arts provide which makes Mayo Clinic’s art collection so relevant.
Sougwen Chung is an interdisciplinary artist whose work explores transitional edges. Hard and soft, heavy and light, filled and empty, light and solid form… These are themes that patients deal with, either consciously or unconsciously, when sick. Where does illness end and healing begin? Where does the heaviness of pain end and recovery begin? What is only my body, where does it end and spirituality begin?
Through her work, Sougwen explores the contrasts between various dichotomies such as human and machine and technology and emotion. This exploration, ideal for the medical setting, allows the viewer to contemplate the interplay of high tech medical advances and human flesh and emotion.
View Sougwen Chung’s website at www.sougwenchung.com.
Sougwen Chung’s Interdisciplinary Art
The Foundation for Art and Healing explores the fundamental connection between art and the healing process, while providing active, ongoing support to communities and individuals. Their endeavors include exploration of the benefits of creative arts and storytelling in dealing with the physical and emotional demands of chronic illness. They have recently launched a clinical study at Boston Medical Center, partnering with leading biomedical researchers and award-winning playwright and professor Robbie McCauley, whose own experiences with diabetes led her down the creative path with her one-woman play, Sugar.
“From initiatives to address combat related PTSD, to tools for responding to tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings and Boston Marathon Bombing, to helping women and children cope through the aftermath of the Van, Turkey earthquake, the Foundation for Art & Healing is making a very real impact with direct arts-based initiatives, empowering individuals and communities through creative expression.”
Dr. Nobel is on the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health.
Their website can be found at www.artandhealing.org.
Event logo from Foundation for Art and Healing
Artist Tracy Ellyn suspends layer upon layer of her drawings, paintings, photography and writing into her oversized plexi installations, then hangs them as if they are floating from the wall. Each piece’s dense physicality can’t help but draw in the viewer and keep him or her engaged for extended periods of time. Yet, that same physicality has an intense lightness of being that helps to lift the spirit and emotions of the viewer, while simultaneously lifting the physicality of his or her illness from body and soul. Engaging and transforming are the two most potent effects of her art pieces.
The sheer beauty and universality of each piece is expressed in several eastern and western languages, lifting the viewer out of self and into a holistic healing world of prayer and meditation. As one travels through the nooks and crevices created by her mixed media textures, further layers of word and image can be found. It is as if one is on a journey, entering the healing light of each piece’s luminescence.
Images from Tracy Ellyn’s “Refuah: The Art of Healing” series.
Artist Ed Carpenter is best known for his use of glass, tension and suspension in his overscale architectural installations. Their physicality of size, and their success at gentleness overcoming heavy engineering, make him a potent choice for medical venues. Patients who are weighed down by the physicality of their illnesses look at his huge floating creations and feel lifted and weightless themselves upon contemplating them.
Carpenter states it best, that his work is “simultaneously technological and sentient, engineered and organic, mechanical and botanical. This dualism makes it especially suitable for architectural settings where a contemporary aesthetic and humanistic values must be expressed simultaneously. In general, it addresses the heart, the eyes, and the mind, in that order. Its most important role is in helping create atmospheric and emotional conditions which can make a site even more suited for its intended purpose than it otherwise would be.”
Ed Carpenter’s website is at www.edcarpenter.net.
Ed Carpenter installation, University Hospital, San Antonio, Texas.
Artist Matthew Brandt works on color photographs that are soaked in the specific lake or reservoir water that they represent. At American Arts and Medicine, we discuss how water has been used for healing since ancient times. Why? Both physiologically and symbolically, we are created in, and born from, water. Our earliest, most primal relationship, then, was with water. Further, our bodies are made of 80% water. We not only need water to survive on a daily basis, but we turn to it for comfort, whether consciously or on a primal level, in times of physical or emotional stress, cleansing of body and cleansing of soul, comfort, fun and relaxation.
“Water stimulates the body’s natural ability to relax, and the only way a body can begin to heal is when it is in a relaxed state,” writes Maggy Howe, WebMD.
Water is our earliest known contact with creating and healing life. Viewing Matthew Brandt’s work with soaked images of water is a visually compelling reminder of that, on both conscious and unconscious levels.
View Matthew Brandt’s website at http://www.matthewbrandt.com.
“The country is so wounded, bleeding, and hurt right now. The country needs to be healed—it’s not going to be healed from the top, politically. How are we going to heal? Art is the healing force.” Robert Redford, National Arts Policy Roundtable 2012
Arts in health, healing, and wellness is a growing policy imperative and national need that is driven by several factors. In the United States, there is an aging population requiring significant long-term healthcare solutions coupled with unprecedented number of service members returning home with severe physical and psychological injuries. The Affordable Care Act is currently inspiring public debate in these areas. The end goal of incorporating the arts into health and healthcare is to provide quality, cost-effective services that achieve positive outcomes for patients, families, and caregivers. [Taken from Americans for the Arts 2012 Legislative Issue Brief: Arts in Health—Strengthening our Nation’s Health through the Arts.]
“There is an art to healing,” states Yale-New Haven Hospital in their Annual Report. “Studies have shown that the effects of art can lower stress, anxiety and pain and actually contribute to the healing process for patients. For thousands of years, art has inspired the imagination, stimulated the senses and nourished souls. But art can do even more. Smilow Cancer Hospital’s art program – The Art of Healing – was designed to contribute to the emotional and physical well-being of patients and their families.
Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven was designed with patient comfort and emotional well-being in mind. The entire building is adorned with incredible pieces of art, including a huge Sol LeWitt mural on the second floor balcony, overlooking the lobby.
Over the next weeks, we will feature these top and upcoming inspiring artists’ works and stories. We will visit the aesthetic angle as well as the empirical angle, discussing what aspects of a variety of styles patients have been drawn to in multiple settings, how their minds and bodies reacted, and why their work should replace the dreaded white wall of the hospital or medical setting.
Photo: Julie Tremblay, Infinite, 2008
Heather L. Stuckley, DEd and Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH successfully explore the relationship between engagement with the arts and health outcomes. After just 20 minutes of exposure to the arts, monitors measured physiological values of heart rate, respiratory rate, myocardial oxygen demand and reduction in anxiety rates with those suffering from coronary heart disease. Other diseases such as cancer were also studied with positive outcomes. They note that medical professionals are finally recognizing the role that creative arts play in the healing process. Read this fascinating study at:
There are no words!
Congratulations to Stanford Medical School’s Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics for its Medicine and the Muse Program. This interdisciplinary program helps find meaning and powerful resonances about the human-to-human interaction which is at the heart of all healthcare. They explore the intersections between creative expression and medicine. Workshops and events include art, writing, music and more. Is your physician a writer? Do musicians, or better yet physician musicians, perform for you when ill, or enhance their own studies and patient empathy and communication skills by engaging in the arts? Evidence-based inquiry drives their program.
Photo: Stanford Medical Music Network
This is a powerful read on how the arts not only show empirically to affect health, but also how neuroimmunology is bidirectional, and the body, mind and spirit of not just the patient, but caregiver and staff are at stake. Article by Dr. Iva Fattorini, Cleveland Clinic.
Photo: Cleveland Clinic Arts and Medicine