Art as Therapy for Cancer

This collection of films regales the viewer with a visual feast of three beautifully filmed videos. Each illustrates another facet of art helping individuals to navigate their cancer experience. Art provides an irreplaceable psychological healing experience during the trauma of cancer.

“Paint Me a Future” (29 min.) explicates the inextricable relationship between art and medicine. Immersion in the art experience provides a transformation of pain and suffering. Memorable testimonials by cancer patients are interspersed with astonishingly beautiful artwork as well as commentary by several noted art therapists: Shaun McNiff, Cathy Malchiodi and Ellen Urbani Hiltebrand. Oncologist Dr. Daniel Gruenberg underscores art making’s role in helping patients become actively involved in their healing processes.

“The Creative Journey toward the Self: The Art Therapy Experience to Recover from the Trauma of Cancer” (22 min.), presents the 10-week group art therapy experience designed by art therapist Paola Luzzatto. Hired in the mid-1990’s by Memorial Sloan Kettering oncologist, Dr. Jimmie Holland, who championed art therapy in cancer care, Luzzato was one of the first art therapists to work with cancer patients. Narrated by art therapist Bonnie Gabriel, process, technique, and outcome are deconstructed as patients offer testimonials of their personal creative journeys. A clip of a session conducted by Luzzatto, filmed by PBS, follows.

“Being Whole” (29 min.) underscores the salience of mind-body healing in breast cancer where the irrepressible need to express one’s pain and trauma via imagery is given voice in art therapy. Commentary by Drs. David Spiegel and William Shieber, followed by art therapists Carol Lark and Cathy Malchiodi bear witness to the need to both reconstruct identity for emotional healing to take place, as well as have substantive social support when living through a life-threatening illness. Patient testimonials with accompanying artwork are featured. Suzanne Marshall pieced her trauma story into a quilt. Paulette Carr, a member of the art project “Healing Legacies,” said it very well when she stated  “It was just so miraculous that you could make the clay say what you couldn’t bring up out of your throat.”

Total Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, 49 seconds

 

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