What separates art from therapy? Such was the question a friend and I discussed recently. She posited that art that serves as a catharsis is not art but therapy, and the two can never merge. I disagree. But she’s a woman who thinks brilliantly at lightening speed while my brain plods along. So while I’m still fumbling for the right words she’s off on another smart topic. Lucky for me I have this blog!
Humans have emotions and feelings that cannot always be expressed. An artist (painter, sculptor, musician, writer, actor, etc.) more often than not creates with a bend to the emotions, which is why Plato despised art and thought it should be censored. The artist not only conveys their thoughts and feelings and experiences to the viewer, they bring the viewer in as participant to share in the surfeit of emotion. But the viewer/participant comes from a unique background with her own set of unique experiences. What she sees and feels might be different yet still relatable. Or, she might tremble at a work because it expresses feelings in a way she was unable to. In short, I believe art is therapeutic because it provides a catharsis. But that in no way devalues art, in fact it enhances it! Because it has now moved beyond the realm of mere decoration into something of meaning and power!
One only needs to visit many of the art movements of the 20th century specifically to see that art was a way of seeing, explaining, and feeling, a chaotic existence; it was a way to try to make sense of a senseless world. And that is art as problem solver, art as savior, art as hope, art as reflection, art as a mirror, art redefining. That is therapy.
Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts & insights & arguments, in the comment section below. I welcome all points of view. Let’s keep our discourse lively yet respectful.