Good News: Art Therapy and Healthcare just published!

Lately, my mind has been wandering; wondering what it would be like to attend my 40th high school reunion, and whether it would be fun or feel like torture. Meanwhile our fall Young Adult Bereavement Art Group (YABAG) was advancing in fits and starts and now has finally fallen into a rhythm, much as leaves progress into their rich autumn colors.

Sometimes it takes a while for a group to coalesce, like the leaves of particular trees turning at different times. In a group where participants have suffered devastating loss (all loss is devastating, but some circumstances can bring additional trauma to the bereaved), people need time to make sense of their lives going forward.

My colleague and I wondered what was going on; perhaps it was how we were leading the group, but we reminded ourselves we'd done this many times before with the same curriculum and it had worked.

As if to remind us of this, two thick cardboard envelopes arrived in the campus mail, one addressed to me and the other to my colleague. I can't tell you if he ripped his envelope open, but had I been there when they arrived, I would have!

Inside the brown husk of wrapper lay the fruit of our labors for the last year; a copy of Cathy Malchiodi's edited and recently published book: Art Therapy and Healthcare, containing our chapter on the young adult bereavement art group. When I saw the cover, a richly colored oil pastel nautilus drawn by Cathy, I felt such a swelling of pride; as if some unspoken, barely imagined dream had come to pass.

I've had a chance to cozy up with it and I'm looking forward to reading through the many chapters written by art therapists across the country and world. I'm reminded of a colored construction paper banner that hung in my public library as a child. The letters read: "Come, journey with a book." I know I will.

The Limits of Choice

Art making continually satisfies something deep inside us and, at the same time, places us beyond ourselves. Cathy Malchiodi, The Soul's Palette

Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer.

W.H. Auden

For the last couple of weeks, I've been on a strict 1 color diet. Yes. You read that right; not a 1 calorie diet but a 1 color one.

Color is something I use lavishly in my work, a substance that I immerse myself in and then splash around like a duck.

It's also something in which I easily get lost.

While dipping my brush in color, thinking about the confluence of hues, tints and shades, I lose track of how much paint is loaded on my brush and what color is flowing where.

This came to a head one Friday morning during a watercolor class. Stacey, my instructor, put her hand firmly on the table and said, "O.K., I want you to use just one color for the time being. It doesn't matter what color it is, but you can't mix two together and you can't even mix black." (yes, that indescribably subtle blend of cobalt blue and raw umber...)

OI!, it was already Passover; a week of the matzoh mile and now this: I'm  supposed to restrict myself to one color?

It's been two weeks now and I'm getting used to this diet. Heck, at times, I even like it.

At the very least, it keeps things simple. While writing this post, my eyes lighted on a short interview with researcher, Sheena Iyengar, who wrote The Art of Choosing.  "When did you first have an inkling that choice has limits?" asked the interviewer. Sheena  answered that it happened while studying the effect that choice had on a group of 3-year-olds.

"Half the children were permitted to play with any of the toys in the room, while the other half were told what they could play with. I assumed that the kids with the most freedom to choose would have more fun, right? Wrong. I observed the exact opposite. The assigned group played happily; the free choice group was disengaged and listless."

How about that? Adapting to one color has made me anything but disengaged and listless. And there are other payoffs. The first time I get the leaf-to-bud balance just right, the flower in front of me comes alive on the paper.

Despite my kvetching, I'm proud that I am keeping my commitment to a 'year of watercolor'  and grateful for Stacey's steady hand as a teacher and artist.  I may just stay on this new diet for a while...

Home: Our Foundation

"Tempting Fate," ©2004, H.K.Hunter, 3.5" x 5", Collage: acrylic and magazine images on paper, Collection of Diana Connolly

Recently, I've pondered home as a symbol and a reality. In the wake of Japan's earthquake/tsunami and the rash of virulent tornadoes over middle America, the fact that one's hearth can be destroyed in seconds made me think about the various values held by the place where we reside.

"Many Chambered House," ©2004, 3' x 5", Collage: acrylic, colored pencil, calendar imagery and ink on paper, Collection of Virginia Shubert

Across our country, home prices have tumbled, particularly in areas deeply connected to me: California where I live, Florida where my son resides and Michigan, where half of my family originated. We've been lucky enough to maintain our home for many years but it has come home to me how quickly that privilege can be taken away.

As children, we moved frequently from state to state, house to house, apartment to apartment. While many kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up, I fantasized about having a home of my own (think:Virginia Woolf's A Room of her Own.)

Even as that vision took shape, my desire must have remained sublimated, because I also ended up making art about homes. Recently, I saw a message on my facebook fanpage from a collector, who bought one of my paintings nearly 20 years ago. The woman was kind enough to take a picture of the work and when I saw it, I recognized an early "home" piece.

"Piecing the Night," ©1992, H.K. Hunter, 8.5" x 7", watercolor on paper, collection of Michelle Heinz

That made me curious. I pored over my i-photo files and pulled out the "homes" I'd made in recent years. I've selected a few to share with you here.

"Katrina," ©2005, 11" x15", Collage: acrylic, ink, calendar imagery on paper, Collection of the University of Iowa Hospitals

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on home as you've watched the images of devastation flash across your television screen or heard the news about another small town leveled.  Has your art been affected by these current and timeless events? Are images of home on alert in your imagination?

Flood, ©2009, H.K. Hunter, 11" x 17", Collage: acrylic, ink, caran d'ache, foil and calendar imagery on paper, Collection: Anonymous      


I'll be posting intermittently this summer; I want to take advantage of long days and cool evenings in the studio and finish working on a chapter for Cathy Malchiodi's upcoming book, "The Arts in Healthcare."
I look forward to keeping up with you on your blogs and wish you a reflective Memorial Day weekend; visited by memories of the ones that have gone before you.