The quote “Hardening of the categories leads to art disease” is attributed to Kenneth Snelson, and his defiance to define his work as science or art. He described his work, a cross between aesthetic vision and the scientific inspiration behind the engineering of his sculptures, which defy the neat categorization of art or science. Art therapists too grapple with the continuum of the artistic and scientific but it is evident that hardening of any category related to a creative function can lead to a malady and stagnation.
Art, psychology and religion share a fluid symbolic nature. Thus it is the symbol, which is the lens that we may see the world. It both consolidates and expands. And all symbols are relational, meaning when taken out of context they often lose their significance. Although some have their misconceptions about art and psychology, or should I say stigmas about either as a profession, they are often equally dumbfounded at the mention of combining the two into the profession of art therapy. Most of this is due to unfamiliarity with the concepts. So for clarity sake, let’s start with some of the basics. The etymology of the word art comes from the Latin ars, which is defined as a “skill as a result of learning or practice” or “to fit together or join” And psychology is a derivative from the Greek word: psych, “soul”; and, logos, “word” or “speech” or the manifestation of the soul. Thus the word psychology implies “the speech or manifestation of the soul”. The speech here is not defined to only words but to other manifestations of expression as found in images and symbols. Historically, psychology has had more to do with spirit than the mind, as a more operational definition may apply. So the discipline of art psychotherapy may be loosely defined as the learning or practice of the ability to fit together or join expressively, coupled with the ability to give speech or expression of the soul in a symbolic artistic means. So if the work of art therapists are more akin to spiritual guides, it would make sense that we too must possess some flexibility and creativity to see things anew as well as in relation.
Originally posted to The American for the Arts ARTSBlog ON JUNE – 14 – 2010
© 2010, All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, HLM (DVATA)