The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Art is "GOOD" for Us!

This image comes from the Art for Healing program at the Hartford Hospital.

I've completed reading about a third of Denis Dutton's book The Art Instinct and landed on another interesting point: that the arts are commonly thought to be good for us. Dutton names some of the ways:


  • gives us a sense of well-being or feelings of comfort
  • helps us see deeper into the human psyche

  • aids convalescents in hospitals to recover more quickly

  • gives us a better appreciation of the natural world

  • may bind communities together

  • may show us the virtues of cultivating our individuality

  • offers consolation in moments of life crisis

  • soothes the nerves

  • produces a beneficial psychological catharsis that purges emotions to clear the mind
I think that all these benefits, as Dutton states them, are real. Our friend, Carolyn Abrams, has been teaching art to disabled adults and veterans for years, and understands the therapeutic value of art. The American Art Therapy Association states their mission as: dedicated to the belief that the creative process involved in making art is healing and life enhancing. So, Dutton's notion that art is good for us is generally accepted and institutionalized. It provides another purpose for what we artists do, something that extends far beyond our individual desire to create.

It's always been interesting for me to know where people hang the paintings they purchase from me. Sometimes, they contact me to let me know that they've hung the painting on the wall across from their favorite easy chair, or in the bedroom, or some other place where they can daily return to the emotion it evokes in them.

Most of us respond to art that way. It is therapeutic for us when we're depressed or insecure or angry, we can to listen to music, look at something beautiful, watch a good movie. Art is mood-altering, and that alteration seems to have medical benefits.

It's good to know that art is more than just the product of an artist's imagination. Its benefits are far-reaching.

Your thoughts??


Anonymous said...
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hw (hallie) farber said...

For me the creative process is mood altering. I never thought of art as being beneficial for the viewer; probably because I tend to study paintings rather than enjoy them.

Here in the computer room are two Leonard Baskins ("Turmoil" and "Poet Laureate"), an oil portrait of someone from the NY Bowery by an artist named Fred Harris, and a drawing of a woman by August Mosca. I guess I like the not so pretty.

Unknown said...

Hi Pam - Oh, the "K"-word :-) Just kidding. He's laughing all the way to the bank!

Hi Hallie - sometimes we appreciate the meanings more than looking for beauty in a work. It's great that we're all so different in our taste. Otherwise, all art would look the same. Thanks.

Carolyn Abrams said...

Hi Kathy, thank you for bringing that particular aspect of art into your conversations. I am sure I get more out of the experience than my students. There is a program Artists for Alzheimers that supports the arts for healing. Not to mention and other major organizations that agree with Mr. Dutton. for me, it is just art for arts sake. All the rest is a bonus!

-Don said...

"... art is healing and life enhancing."



Unknown said...

I think it's not in the same sense as you wonderfully posted today, but I used to feel good about letting the composite drawing of suspects be a cathartic catalyst for victims. They usually regain some sense of power by taking part in the process of capturing the suspect.

I sold my first painting from Etsy and I was pleasantly surprised that my Saddle shoes painting is an image that conveys a certain feeling that compelled her to buy it. She said she saw it last night and when she woke this morning, she had the image in her mind and felt the same feelings. I was over the moon!

layers said...

several years ago-- actually it was after 9/11 I wrote an article for one of the magazines-- Watercolor Magic I think--- about the Art of Healing-- art heals in so many ways.

Unknown said...

Hi Carolyn - thanks for providing the other links! Your work is very important to many.

Hi Don - Thank you.

Hi Sheila - I was wondering about the effects of your forensic art when I was writing this post, and was hoping you'd tell us about it. Thank you. Congratulations on the sale of your painting. How neat that your patron connected with your feelings!

Hi Donna - I'll have to look for that issue! Thank you.

Mark Sheeky said...

I think art can literally heal. It's been shown that laughter can, so paintings that make you laugh will! It does seem that creating art is more beneficial than looking at it, perhaps this is down to a lack of pictures designed as cures? Ok, there are lots of feelgood pictures... but how many designed to help people stop smoking for example? Things like that were on my "to do" list for 2008 but I got lost persuing other things, as often happens! I can imagine a day when a picture book is prescribed by doctors, where something like a Rorschach test is used but a "good" image is suggested to change the mind of the person being "tested". Ah, such things are the domain of all surrealists :)