Art and art therapy
Artist Stephanie Calvert is using her own art as therapy in creating work using materials from her childhood home and I find it inspiring in my work as an art therapist. The Huffington Post’s Katherine Brooks features Ms. Calvert in her piece, “One Daughter is Turning Her Hoarding Parents’ Belongings into Beautiful Art“. Stephanie’s home from ages 11 to 18 years was not a typical one–her parents moved the family into a former schoolhouse, which did not have working plumbing or garbage pick-up services and had limited electricity. The location was remote and Stephanie’s parents were avid collectors and began to fill the schoolhouse with objects.
In retrospect, she now identifies her parents collecting as “hoarding“, a compulsion in which people rapidly accumulate and are unable to part with physical objects. The amount of belongings that Stephanie’s parents took in was further exacerbated after several family members died and her mother “(held) onto their objects as a way of keep those people alive”.
At the time and for years afterwards, Stephanie had a great deal of shame around her home, her family, and her upbringing. She says, “I didn’t have the desire or the language to talk to people about it, so I internalized a lot. I felt like a freak”. Stephanie moved away from her family as soon as she was able but recently returned after her mother suffered a severe bike accident. She returned to the schoolhouse and noticed a lot of negative feelings returning. To cope with those feelings and find some inner resolve, she began to make artwork with the objects in the schoolhouse, with her dad’s blessing. She carved out a room in her former home to act as a studio and has found the process to be healing. She states, “if you allow yourself to work creatively with a difficult past, it not only gives you a different perspective on that past, but can also create peace, acceptance and love where it didn’t seem possible before”.
In my NYC therapy practice, I participate and bear witness every day in people coming to terms with painful parts of their past. Art therapy is a particularly useful in finding closure and new perspective regarding past trauma. Art materials give you an opportunity to process and work through this pain in way that is outside of and separate from your physical self. The Shame to Pride project is a great example of the healing power of art making. See below for a video of the project: