Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Monday, December 5, 2011

Art from Pain

Art and pain- a connection close to my heart (actually, my heart is fine- it is other body parts that are involved).  I  found a website I would like to tell you about.  It is the site of the American Headache Society, and a patient-health professional offshoot, the American Headache Society Committee on Headache Education, with the appropriate acronym ACHE.  The site has a good variety of info and links related to chronic headaches (something I can, unfortunately, relate to).  They have self help tools, forums, education, and, among other resources, an art gallery.
This art gallery has a collection of art created by people with chronic headaches, depicting how they perceive or experience their headache.  When someone says "I have a headache", the reaction often is "So, I get headaches, too."  Having a chronic headache, especially of the strength of a migraine, is not just a headache.  Just like any chronic pain, it can have a big impact on the individual, and pervades all areas of life.  It is hard for someone who has not experienced it to perceive what it is like.  The artworks, most of which have a head somewhere in the depiction, can tell more than words.  Seeing a picture of a head being squeezed in a vise, or with a jagged flash of lightening stabbing the eye says more than "I have a headache".  Van Gogh's painting The Scream would fit well in this collection.
There are other sites that have pain related artwork.  Two are: Pain Exhibit, which features art by artists with different types of chronic pain, and  Pain-Topics.org which has info about chronic pain as well as a gallery of art created by artists about their pain. The Pain Exhibit site gives artist statements, and divides the art into different topics, such as Pain Portraits, and But you Look So Normal.  The Pain Topics site gives explanations of the art.  Much of the art in the Pain Topics gallery come from the Pain Exhibit, but are presented in a different way.  Both these sites are interesting to explore. 
Looking at each piece of art tells a story about the person who created it.  To tell your own story, get paper, canvas or clay, or any other medium you would like to work with.  Sit quietly with your medium at hand.  Close your eyes, and focus on your pain.  What shape is it? What color(s) does it project?  What is it trying to tell you?  If an image comes to mind, create it.  If not, just start to experiment with your chosen medium.  Often, an image will create itself.  Don't try to direct your art, just let it happen.  Don't concern yourself with trying to make it look pretty, or perfect, or exact.
You don't have to be an artist.   In fact, sometimes artists have a more difficult time with this.  They are too focused on quality and their reputation as an artist to allow the art to be genuine and natural.
You now have a new way to express yourself.  Experiment with it, play with it.  Learn from it.  Let your pain flow into it, and hopefully, your art will ease your pain.

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