Materials & Media in Art Therapy Critical Understandings of Diverse Artistic Vocabularies
In art making, materials and media are the intermediaries between private ideas, thoughts and feelings, and their external manifestation in a tangible, sensual form. Thus, materials provide the core components of the exchange that occurs between art therapists and clients. This book focuses on the sensory-based, tangible vocabulary of materials and media and its relevance to art therapy. It provides a historical account of the theory and use of materials and media in art therapy, as well as an examination of the interface between art therapy, contemporary art materials and practices, and social/critical theory. Contributing authors provide examples of how art therapists have transgressed conventional material boundaries and expanded both thinking and practice in the field. The chapters discuss traditional as well as innovative media, such as body adornments, mail and video art, and comic books. Accompanying support material contains media clips, as well as 69 color images.
Catherine Hyland Moon
This chapter briefly introduces the reader to the underlying thesis of the book: that materials and media are essential components of the interchange that occurs within the encounter between therapist, client, and art process. It makes an argument for the need to understand traditional media and material use in art therapy, as well as to examine art therapy’s intersection with contemporary art practices. The chapter concludes by introducing the reader to the three sections of the book, and to the chapters presented within each of these sections.
Art Therapy Materials and Media: History, Theory and Research
A History of Material and Media Use in Art Therapy
Catherine Hyland Moon
This chapter presents a historical review of the use of materials and media in art therapy. It highlights the work of art therapists who have contributed to understanding the therapeutic implications of material use and examines the specific materials, media, and methods employed over time. The prevalence of materials and methods linked with "high art" (painting, drawing, clay sculpture) will be examined in light of prevailing clinical, social, and cultural influences. The chapter will conclude with examples of contemporary art therapy practices, which suggest that the visual vocabulary of the field is becoming broader and more diverse.
1. Theorizing Materiality in Art Therapy: Negotiated Meanings
Catherine Hyland Moon
This chapter will present a discussion of materials and media as primary components in the exchange that occurs between therapist, client, and art made in the context of therapy. A brief historical overview of material theory in art therapy will be presented. Following a critical examination of this theoretical base, the author will present a social constructivist theory of materiality, suggesting that multiple registers of meaning can coexist within the specifics of personal, historical, social, and cultural contexts. Visual artworks and creative writing will be used as the basis for examining the significance of materials in relation to the complex interplay between factors such as aesthetic preference, physical and sensual characteristics, personal associations, associated language, function and utility, evidence in popular culture, and socio-cultural-historical relevance. Stories of the author’s work with clients and art therapy students will highlight how the meaning of a material is negotiated within both a personal and social framework, and why it is imperative that art therapists seriously consider materials and media as the constituent components for making meaning through art.
2. Focusing on Digital Media: A Media Analysis
This chapter will include a combination of practical experience and research findings to elucidate a theoretical understanding of digital media use in art therapy practice. The combination of these elements will help readers gain a holistic understanding of this media and its use/effect in art therapy practice. The chapter will make the information accessible to beginning practitioners, but will also address issues challenging those who are adept at the use of digital media within art therapy. Since digital media is ever-changing and evolving rapidly, the chapter will focus on identifying concepts that are transferable across types of digital media, programs, and time.
3. Bedouin Women’s Embroidery as an Expression of Female Power: Crafts as Culturally Embedded Expression within Art Therapy
This chapter, through following the evolving role of embroidery for marginalized Bedouin women in Israel, develops a theoretical model for working with fabric as female expression within art therapy. Its focus is with women from traditional non-western cultures, where fabric crafts are part of that tradition and embroidery is a culturally embedded speech act of female power. The cultural, gendered, and therapeutic elements of fabric crafts for Bedouin women will be outlined and the possibility for utilizing these elements within art therapy will be discussed. The chapter addresses the need for art therapists to learn from how people express themselves, in ways that challenge a Westernized understanding of art as individual self-expression.
4. The Heritage of Paper: The Use of Origami in Art Therapy
Toshiko Kobayashi, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT
This chapter introduces origami as a substantial clinical tool in art therapy. The author is a Japanese art therapist who encountered origami as a young girl and has continued to practice it for more than 50 years, traveling to different parts of the world to study it as a researcher. The chapter begins with a brief history of paper culture, then continues with a discussion of how origami has been used in the realms of science, education, high art, crafts, and therapy. The use of origami as an effective process in art therapy is examined, including both theory and methods of practice, and the relational implications of origami are highlighted as one of its unique therapeutic qualities. This chapter ends with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of origami as a material and method in art therapy.
Part Two: From Artist to Art Therapist: How Art Therapists’ Art Practices Inform their Work as Therapists
5. From Imperfect to I'm Perfect: Reclaiming the Disabled Body through Making Body Adornments in Art Therapy
Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi
This chapter describes two projects, each involving the making of body adornments as a healing tool in the process of identity exploration, self-expression, and empowerment for people with limb deficiency. The first project describes the author’s self-exploration of her own disability through the creation of body adornments and photographic self-portraits in which she wears the adornments. This work was exhibited and the public was invited to make art in response to viewing it. The results demonstrate the power of art to bring people together, both disabled and non-disabled, in understanding issues related to identity and disability.
In the second project, art therapy sessions were held with children with missing limbs and/or their parents in a hospital setting. Baby "onesies" printed with clients’ artwork, and gloves created to reflect the client’s experience of receiving judgmental stares, were produced as responses to the disabled experience. Together, these wearable items told the most intimate and personal stories of the disabled body. Such artwork is not only the result of the empathic response in the therapeutic relationship; it is also a political act of reclaiming disability as a cultural identity and a source of community.
6. Groundswell: The Nature and Landscape of the Art Therapy Assemblage
This chapter explores the characteristics of an outdoor art therapy studio (within the context of a rural landscape), as an assemblage of nature-based materials and environmental dimensions that mediate sensuous, perceptive, and kinaesthetic contexts of therapeutic association. The features and dynamics of the art therapy assemblage will be elaborated in reference to the ideas of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, who endorse an ecological mapping of subjectivity across multi-sensory terrains of reference. The qualities of the art therapy environment map out psychological and physiological stiumlation across its entire material and spatial dimensions, so that the art therapy image is not so much an entity as an ‘imagescape’ enacted across the geography of the art therapy studio, including its entry into organic processes outdoors. The art therapist is a mediating presence in the client’s assembling of material and environmental relationships. The potential to work with the qualities and features of nature-based materials and the landscape extends the practice of art therapy into site inspired installations that stimulate sensory and perceptive capacity while bringing into play the significance of nature as a versatile and engaging art therapy medium of expression.
The format of the chapter includes theoretical material and examples of outdoor land/nature-based art therapy pictures along with creative writing extracts reflecting the experience of making these compositions. The creative writing and art images (including illustrations) are included on the left hand side of the page, with theoretical material on the right hand side of the page. The juxtaposition of creative and professional styles of writing will work as a type of collage, situating differing expressions of the art therapist’s artistic and therapeutic practice. The images and text on the left hand side of the chapter are in an artist book format, which includes the creative writing appearing as handwriting around the photos or illustrations.
7. Creating spaces for social change: Individual practice and public exhibition
This chapter is an exploration of the art therapist’s exhibition of personal artwork outside the art therapy setting, specifically as a means to generate awareness of broader social issues impacting clients. The author will address how the artist / art therapist’s aesthetic decisions can impact the therapeutic relationship and affect the response of the viewing audience to the issues represented by the artwork. A comparison is presented between viewer responses to two different installations focused on the psychological violence experienced in schools by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. The different responses shed light on how the art therapist’s unique therapeutic perspective, in combination with art materials and techniques, can become a powerful tool in instigating social change.
8. Comic Books, Connection, and the Artist Identity
This chapter, presented in the form of a comic book or graphic novel, addresses the author’s contemporary art practice in the context of her understanding of art therapy theory. Specifically, it focuses on her relationship with Laura, a woman with chronic mental illness who has long utilized art in her own therapeutic process. The chapter explores the idea of making meaning of a relationship by collaborating as artists. In addition, the chapter contains the words of other artists with chronic mental illness who use the comic book format as a medium in their art making. The comic book format is utilized specifically because of its inherent accessibility and ties to popular culture. Touching briefly on the comic book’s historical categorization as low art, the chapter addresses recent trends in graphic novels that use comics to tell personal narratives, thus providing alternatives to standard superhero fare. For Laura, the author, and countless others, art-making fosters personal growth and connection through the sharing of stories.
9. Fourteen Secrets for a Happy Artist’s Life: Creating a Virtual Community to Build Resilience and Inner Satisfaction
This chapter focuses on the development of an Internet presence and persona as a way to create a virtual art studio. This art room is filled with 'zines, fine art, crafts, mail art, vernacular art, collaborative art, wearable art, altered books, artists trading cards, art dolls, paper puppets and an endless supply of generosity and creative ideas from its participants. The chapter will present a personal narrative with anecdotes about working with others as well as the applications of these ideas. The "fourteen secrets" are from the ideas about resilience, happiness, and positive emotions coming out of research at the University of Pennsylvania and various other schools. The body of the chapter will go through each "secret," explaining each of the resilience strategies that positive psychologists and trauma recovery specialists have developed. It will demonstrate how each strategy has its parallel in the virtual art room where people practice resilience through art making.
10. Mailart and Art Therapy: Parallel Roads
This chapter discusses the author’s involvement in mailart, a practice that nurtures and sustains her artist / art therapist identity, yet is distinct from her work as an art therapist.
The practice of mailart, or correspondence art, is at once a solitary and a social experience. It typically involves making art for, or in collaboration with strangers, without face-to-face meeting, and transporting the art object(s) via the postal system. Mailart deliberately avoids buying, selling or assigning monetary valuation to art creations. Competition between artists is downplayed, and appreciation is expressed by reciprocation and continued exchange. Mailart making is accessible to anyone who has a stamp, thereby allowing a democratic process entirely controlled by the artists with no dependence on a system of critics, galleries or marketplace. Freedom is the allure, and unpredictability is the addiction.
How then is the concept of mailart relevant to a discussion of contemporary artistic materials and practices in art therapy? By describing many common formats of mailart and identifying several compelling features of the engagement, the author illuminates aspects of this phenomenon that may advance discussions of how and to what purposes people communicate their experience through art making.
Part Three: Contemporary Media and Materials in Art Therapy Practice
11. Animated Therapy: 3D Computer Animation & Video Games in Art Therapy with Adolescents
Film and advertising animation increasingly captures the hearts, minds, and bodies of teenagers through the form of video games. The art therapist is in a unique position to intervene by using the very medium behind these ubiquitous experiences that are shaping children’s lives. This chapter will position computer animation as a compelling art process that has many of the developmental milestones of adolescence built into its very functioning. It is a cognitively challenging, expressive medium that can be experienced by the adolescent as a safe container for their often intolerable emotions. A single case study will be presented highlighting the therapeutic directive "create your own video game scenario." Areas discussed will be the client’s use of projection and metaphor, therapeutic use of computer animation interventions, therapeutic mirroring, the repetition compulsion, as well as the use of art therapy to transform the client’s outlook on therapy.
12. Wrapping the Stairway: Museum-based Art Education Therapy Program in New York’s Chinatown
Ming-Fu Wu, Ph.D., ATR-BC, LCAT
This chapter is centered on the design, implementation, and evaluation of an innovative art therapy program that explored the therapeutic value of no-wall museums (public art exhibitions) in New York City. The program was created to assist foreign-born immigrant youth, who live in Chinatown, in gaining a sense of mastery of the city, coping with acculturation stress, facilitating adaptation, stimulating creativity, and cultivating artistic sensibility while learning English through museum trips and studio art making. The author addresses critical issues faced by Chinese adolescent newcomers, and comments on the limitation of utilizing directive-based art therapy interventions and "traditional" materials to treat them. The focal point of this chapter is the concept of art-education therapy, which proved to be extremely important to immigrant youth who had received inadequate art education in their native countries. The chapter includes a detailed description of how the youth created a public art piece (The Stairway) in response to the art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude (The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005) after visiting this special exhibition in the no-wall museum of Central Park. The author discusses the therapeutic value of this particular project while evaluating the outcome of the entire museum-based art-education therapy program.
13. The Video Art Therapy Studio: Individual and Group Sessions
This chapter will begin with a brief introduction to the technology used in the facilitation of adult video art therapy sessions. The chapter will then provide anecdotal material regarding the use of this time-based art form with clients living with HIV/AIDS, many of who had early childhood traumas, depression, and attachment disorders. Included will be a discussion of how video was useful for working with a group of people who tend to isolate themselves and are difficult to access through outreach efforts. Through the use of video groups and individual sessions, participants adopted the objective eye of the camera lens to uncover pressing issues. During the process of creating their video projects, many clients gained a sense of empowerment and pride in relation to their abilities to learn technology, help others, give voice to their experiences, and complete a creative goal.
14. Making Beats: Reaching Beyond Art Therapy to Follow the Creative Path of Music
This chapter details the experience of creating and implementing a music writing and recording program at a group home for boys on the west side of Chicago. The presence and influence of music within the group home was undeniable. Many of the boys spontaneously tapped out beats on tabletops and wrote lyrics about their life experiences. The author, an art therapist who worked in collaboration with an expert in recording software and hardware, explores the power of music through a chapter that integrates personal reflection and individual interviews with the young men who participated in the project. The experiences of one young man are highlighted through a detailed case study of the music he created. The chapter challenges art therapists to look beyond traditional materials and media in art therapy practice, and illustrates the importance of trusting clients to take the lead in determining the mode of expression that feels most authentic to them.
15. Healing Through SOARS Multimedia Performance
In 2003, art therapist Scheherazade Tillet and her sister Salamishah co-founded the non-profit organization, A Long Walk Home, Inc., to educate the public about healing and trauma. As sisters, they have toured around the country directing a multimedia performance called SOARS (Story of Rape Survivor). SOARS is performed by five different women artists and features photographs taken by sister, Scheherazade of Salamishah Tillet’s recovery process of sexual assault. SOARS uses modern dance, spoken-word, and music to educate the public about sexual violence and to ease the shame, guilt, and self-blame that rape victims too often feel with a story of hope and healing. This chapter discusses the therapeutic qualities of the multimedia performance SOARS and the impact that its model of healing has had on four groups of performance participants. First, they will discuss the "personal" impact of SOARS by examining how the use of multimedia arts and the development of a national performance have affected the healing process of the subject of SOARS, Salamishah Tillet. Second they will then analyze the "significant other" impact of the performance. Next, they will explore the impact that SOARS has had on the performers. Lastly, this chapter will examine the impact that SOARS has on its audience members. By writing about these four target groups the authors provide a comprehensive analysis of the far-reaching impact that art therapy in the form of visual and performing arts has on a variety of populations.
Catherine Hyland Moon
This conclusion will draw together the various strands in the book, both reflecting on the prevalent themes and providing a compelling argument for ongoing development of diverse material and media theory and practice in art therapy.
'Moon’s book is a welcome addition to the literature on the use of materials within art therapy. It will provoke more thought, reflection, and writing about the characteristics of different art materials and their potential impact on art therapy processes.' - Susan Hogan, Professor, Cultural Studies and Art Therapy, School of Social Care and Therapeutic Practice, University of Derby, United Kingdom
'Materials and Media in Art Therapy introduces a model for clinical effectiveness and psychological understanding that is based on the varied medicines of art making. It is an authoritative and innovative text that will guide our discipline toward a more sensitive engagement of the needs, interests, and expressive abilities of the people we serve.' - Shaun McNiff, PhD, University Professor, Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Author, Art Heals, Art as Medicine, Art-Based Research, Integrating the Arts in Therapy
'This book breaks new ground with a scholarly and philosophical approach that places art therapy squarely in the contemporary discourse of postmodern thought. Cathy Moon and her contributors challenge us to examine our aesthetic sensibilities toward materials, making this an essential reading for students and experienced practitioners seeking to push the boundaries of art therapy.' - Patricia Allen, PhD, ATR, HLM, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Author, Art Is a Way of Knowing, Art Is a Spiritual Path