Utilizing Art to Remedy The Soul: An Article Analysis of The Healing Canvas

  • Category: Art,
  • Words: 986 Pages: 4
  • Published: 29 March 2021
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Many believe art therapy is a way for people to avoid discussing their issues, but studies show it is just as effective as traditional therapy. In a 2006 LA Times article “The Healing Canvas” Jenny Hontz gives her account of how art is useful to alleviate symptoms of mental and physical illnesses. Hontz informs readers on the effects of art therapy using examples from her community; in short, she gave a first-hand insight into the thoughts of varying groups that use art therapy. This unconventional therapy reveals revelations or truths individuals would not otherwise admit on their own. Throughout her article, she demonstrates the benefits it has to ordinary people using scientific facts. There are millions of people across the world in need of some therapeutic relief. Issues may stem from a terminal illness, low self-esteem, stress, or even forgotten memories. The issues presented appear linked to clinical matters, but art therapy is not limited to patients; every community, American, or person alike can utilize it.

The article features accounts from children, cancer patients, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients about how art therapy improved their symptoms. When participating, the patients have the opportunity to express themselves using the medium of their choice. Their expressions are shown by drawing, sculpting, or painting as long as they are in control. Hontz finds “this type of therapy to be especially helpful for people who have difficulty articulating feelings -- including children.” Children lack the life experience to say precisely how they are feeling; in return, they express themselves using colors. Hontz mentions therapist Linda Chapman, who gives her professional stance on how children associate colors to emotions. From her experience, children would use red to depict their pain. The same children would then “paint over the problem” which seemed to settle them. Based on Chapman’s findings, children benefit emotionally from art therapy. 

Hontz not only includes the experiences of children but adults as well. Cancer and PTSD patients reap the benefits of art therapy in more than one way. In a group of cancer patients studied, “ only nausea was unaffected” (Hontz). As many know, cancerous symptoms come in physical and mental forms; these may include depression, loss of appetite, pain, anxiety, and shortness of breath. Using art therapy was accredited to reducing these symptoms. The fact only one symptom remained unaffected in a group of fifty people is quite remarkable. Even in PTSD patients, researchers have seen results. Researchers found, “Art therapy was the only treatment method that reduced PTSD symptoms in the most severe patients” (Hontz). Note that the word “only” is being used; therefore, from all the treatments for these specific groups of patients, art therapy reduced the majority of symptoms. 

Symptoms, including emotions, are subjective forms of data. Art therapy can be used to evoke specific emotions such as “revelations.” Revelations are feelings that people keep in their unconscious brain, whether intentional or unintentional. The purpose of therapy is to bring out unconscious emotions; afterward, people can address the problems and heal from them. For some, this can be a vexing process, especially when there is underlying trauma. Hontz draws from the experience of art therapist Esther Dreifuss-Kattan. The therapist tells the story of a boy who unknowingly revealed his addiction in a work of art. “He created a collage of a monkey with a skeleton on its lap” (qtd. in Hontz). To any average person, this would be a disturbing image. He told Dreifuss-Kattan, “When you take drugs you feel like a skeleton.” After the creation of the collage, his revelation, in this case, addiction, was revealed. Hontz uses the story of a professional therapist to suggest art therapy enhances the ability to come to terms with life-altering revelations and breakthroughs. Not only does she accomplish making her reader understand what art therapy does to patients, she does not leave out everyday people to connect to the readers who do not suffer from any illness. 

The article does not exclude ordinary people from utilizing art therapy, regardless of the amount of evidence it contains about patients. Every living being has a brain; it has the same basic functions for everyone. Hontz takes advantage of the brain's basic anatomy to demonstrate how art therapy is beneficial to all people. The left side of the brain controls logical thinking, while the right side controls feeling and understanding. “Creating art is a fast way to access the right brain and the emotions stored there” (qtd in Hontz). Under these circumstances, “expanding the interconnectivity” between both sides of the brain boosts the human ability to process information, emotions, and “leads to healing” (qtd. in Hontz). As a result, common people may use art to improve work or school performances, establish lasting relationships, or stress relief.

With this in mind, the elderly are common people who would gain from art therapy. As people age, their minds begin to deteriorate. How does society heal a community that continues to age? The elderly were once functioning members of society; even more, they are still ordinary people who need help transitioning into their new way of life. Just from participating in art-based therapy, research showed, “participants gained a sense of accomplishment, boosted the immune system and decreased loneliness” (Hontz). Participation alone is already healing elderly communities. After her inclusion of the elderly, she ends her article with the quote, “I see hope. I think there’s brightness in your future.”  Hontz carefully adds this quote to imply if art therapy can reach one community, it is reasonable to say that it can reach other communities. One community is a model for how others can recover. She branches her article, so it reaches a broader audience from all walks of life.

Art is a way for people from all spectrums to heal their illnesses, minds, and bodies. The potential it has to create a rippling effect through communities by healing makes this form of treatment more popular by the day. Doctors, students, patients, children, and many others are starting to use art therapy for simple everyday parts of life such as stress,pain, or irritation. Art has been “benefiting the soul of the species since the time of cavemen or before”(qtd. in Hontz) and will continue to be utilized after this generation has passed. In conclusion, the successes of art therapy make this form of treatment valid for future use. 

Works Cited

Hontz, Jenny. “The Healing Canvas.” Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 2006, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-mar-20-he-art20-story.html.

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