Noting the adventures in the lesser known but growing field of art therapy.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Book Review: Art from Dreams by Susan Levin
Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage,
Assemblage, and Poetry
By Susan Levin
Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey inCollage, Assemblage, and Poetry is a new book released in September 2014 that covers one
woman’s experience in processing her dreams through artwork and poetry. Susan Levin is an artist from Los Angeles,
and as she wondered what her dreams meant and went through Jungian analysis,
she decided to further explore her dreams by creating large pieces of found
object sculpture, collage, and assemblage pieces as themes began to arise.
a very brief introduction and foreward to the book, the first section is
entitled “My Jungian Dreams,” and included pictures of her artwork from this
process, and all are paired with poems that she later wrote to go with the
dream/artwork. Her titles invoke the
images of Jungian archetypes, such as mother, fate, home, mandalas, and even a
dream including Picasso. Levin’s poetry
is short and to the point, and gives, to some extent, illumination to the
artwork. Certain artworks are more
self-explanatory than other pieces, and Levin uses a variety of materials to
make up her sculptures and collages, oftentimes in a shadowbox style but in
others, she is more whimsical using items such as rusted saws or wood palettes.
Two of the book is entitled “Nocturnes,” and included artwork about her
continuing dreams. However, there is no
poetry associated with these works of art, and there is no particular Jungian
association or analysis with these, though more familiar images such as
mandalas or archetypal images appear. Levin
has titled them, given the dimensions and materials, but no other information is
written in the second section. In her
artwork throughout the book, she often uses large found objects, things that
might be found in an antique store or flea market, or even perhaps just thrown
out for trash. However, she repurposes
them in often very orderly and compositionally pleasing arrangements.
and artwork are both very personal things, and the poetry included in the book
adds a depth to both for the viewer to take in and decipher and interpret as
they see things through their own lens.
The book is nicely bound, and has an aesthetically pleasing layout of the
beautiful photographs of Levin’s artwork.
However, as an art therapist who is trained to study and to interpret
art (to a certain degree), I would have been very interested to hear Levin’s
thoughts on her own work. The only text throughout
the book is in the introduction and foreword, and the titles and information
for the artwork. It is a book merely for
viewing and is somewhat open-ended as to what each reader/viewer would take
away from the visuals. Even if Levin did
not feel comfortable getting into any details about her dreams and the artwork
and poetry related to them, which I would find entirely understandable, I would
still have been interested in reading about her process in creating them, what
it was like for her as she created her pieces, and even what she felt after she
finished. Insights that she may have
gained would have been intriguing for me to hear about, to know how the art
helped illuminate the concepts, archetypes, ideas, and symbols that she was
consciously or unconsciously representing.
I found the book intriguing in its concept and beautifully presented. However, being a therapist as well as an
artist, I felt wanting more to learn beyond the artwork, which was left only in
the view of the beholder. Though I have
training in interpreting certain trends in artwork, one of the emphases I put
in my work with my clients is that first and foremost I learn about it from the
creator before I rely on my interpretive impressions, and so I found myself
looking for this aspect as well in this book so that I could learn what the art
meant to Levin herself. For instance,
the mandalas that she included I could analyze through the Great Round of
Mandala Theory from Joan Kellogg to give myself a better grasp on what Levin
was capturing in her art, but I also would have loved to hear her thoughts and
meanings behind it as well. The art’s
connection to Jungian theory could be inferred to certain extent, but further
exploration or explanation could be more enlightening to those who are interested
in discovering more for themselves and seeing someone else’s journey that they
took the time to document both in art and in print.
I hope that this book can inspire others to pursue art as a means for
self-exploration and self-expression, whether it is for dream analysis or other
pursuit such as to express feelings, introspection, or inner processing. Levin’s example of taking the time to go
beyond Jungian analysis alone into her talent and motivation to create art for
a greater understanding can be a source of inspiration to would-be artists around
A five-year-old girl with autism has garnered praise across Europe, Asia and America for her astonishing artwork. Iris Grace, who lives with her family in Leicestershire, began
painting last year, and has already been praised by buyers, collectors
and galleries for her work's intense colour, immediacy, and open
composition. Her paintings are sold to private art collectors in
the UK and around the world for thousands of pounds each, with all
profits going towards art materials and therapy. Arabella
Carter-Johnson, Iris’s mother, said that Iris loves being outside and
that she can see “so much of nature in her paintings."
“She will watch water, trees, wind, leaves, flowers, birds, clouds… she is so interested in movement and how it changes things.” She added that Iris is “very musical” and has been since she was a baby.“It
was the one thing that always calmed her,” she said. “Iris is
particularly into classical music at the moment and knows all of the
orchestra instruments. She adores the violin.” Iris’s cat Thula is another source of inspiration, and features regularly in her work, such as her painting ‘Raining Cats’.
'Raining Cats' by Iris Grace
“There have been a lot of references to Monet because of the
Impressionistic style. We have had many artists, dealers and galleries
contact us who are very complimentary about her work which is lovely,”
Iris's mother said. “For us though the joy that Iris gets from
creating her pieces is the highlight, how it changes her mood, how happy
it makes her.” Due to a lack of awareness, people with autism and
their friends, family and carers often struggle to explain just how
strong an impact it can have on a person’s life. Iris's mother said that
her daughter had great success with play therapy, music therapy, and
now a new form of speech therapy which uses video, created by a company
“By following Iris’s interests, her ‘spark’, I have been able to engage her in many things,’ Iris's mother said. "We have started our own activity club that supports children with autism, and run that every Saturday morning."
Iris at work
Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher have shared Iris’s work on social
media, while three-time BAFTA award winner Olivia Colman showed her
support by reading a poem for a video about Iris. Several
high-profile figures are active in raising awareness of autism,
including actor Daniel Radcliffe, who is a patron for the Autism
Research Trust. “I am sure his [Ashton Kutcher’s] post has had a
huge impact, said Iris's mother. "Our society now is so interested in
what celebrities say or do that any comments from them will undoubtedly
You can learn more about Iris's work on her website
Here is an interesting article that shows
studies that are determining that schizophrenia is caused by a
combination of different genetic factors, and is actually eight
different genetic disorders that work together - in various combinations thereof - to create the differing presentations of schizophrenia (i.e., positive and/or negative symptoms).
In perhaps the most important
study in schizophrenia’s history, researchers have identified that it is
not a single inherited disorder as previously believed, but rather
eight separate genetic disorders.
After analyzing the DNA of over 4,000 patients with schizophrenia,
the investigators of the study have determined that schizophrenia is not
a single inherited disorder as previously believed, but rather eight
separate genetic disorders that can combine into “clusters” which carry
significant risks for schizophrenia.
As senior investigator Dr. C.
Robert Cloninger notes, “[genes] don’t work by themselves. They
function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how
they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the
orchestra are but how they interact.” Rather than focusing on the
individual genes that have been associated with schizophrenia, this team
looked instead at the interactions between genes in order to isolate
the causes of the illness.
In an audio interview,
Cloninger observes that this multi-faceted etiology of schizophrenia
matches the plurality and complexity of its symptoms: “There isn’t just
this one kind of schizophrenia but actually several different syndromes
where some people have positive symptoms like hallucinations and
delusions [and] others have negative symptoms where they’re not able to
think logically and these different syndromes are associated with
different groups of genes.” Instead of looking for one gene that could
account for all of the possible configurations of schizophrenic
symptoms, Cloninger and his colleagues looked at the way in which
different configurations of genetic variations produce different
symptoms in individual patients.
Washington University’s new
research could be the most important breakthrough in schizophrenia
research since the illness was first diagnosed. Their findings hint
toward new treatment possibilities for an illness whose symptoms are
almost as difficult to alleviate as they are to understand. And the
clarity of their discovery could finally put the persistent cultural
myths surrounding schizophrenia to rest and help the public better
understand this severe mental illness.
Early treatments for schizophrenia were as ineffective as they were dangerous. As Rachel Whitehead of Rethink Mental Illness writes for the Guardian,
early 20th-century physicians treated schizophrenic patients with
injections of sulfur and oil. In the 1930s and ’40s, physicians
struggled to find a more tenable treatment. As an article in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry
notes, Swiss psychiatrists attempted to treat schizophrenia by inducing
sleep for long periods of time, often resulting in pneumonia and death.
Other psychiatrists attempted to treat schizophrenia with carbon
dioxide gas and artificially-induced comas. In the 1950s, the first
antipsychotic drug was invented and treatment for schizophrenia has
revolved around the use of pharmaceutical drugs ever since.
don’t work by themselves. They function in concert much like an
orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not
just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.”
schizophrenic patients are treated with a combination of antipsychotic
medications (e.g. Clozapine) and therapeutic treatment, most notably
cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). While schizophrenia is much more
treatable now than it was a century ago, antipsychotic medications still
carry significant side effects. Clozapine, for instance, can lower a
patient’s white blood cell count to dangerous levels, substantially
reducing the body’s ability to fight infection. And as the National Alliance on Mental Illness
(NAMI) notes, Clozapine is “hard on the body and causes a risk of
diabetes, weight gain, myocarditis, and other medical concerns that need
to be planned for.”
Potentially serious side effects aside, recovery from schizophrenia can take years of treatment. One study in the American Journal of Psychiatry
found that “the overall rate of recovery during the early years of the
illness is low,” with under 14 percent of subjects maintaining “full
recovery criteria for 2 years or longer.” Another study, in the British Journal of Psychiatry,
examined long-term outcomes, finding that only 16 percent of people
with “early unremitting cases” of schizophrenia could recover in the
later years of the illness. Both studies concur that the symptoms of
schizophrenia are eminently treatable with around half of schizophrenic
patients finding substantive relief from their symptoms, but “full
recovery” remains an elusive and arduous task. Many people with
schizophrenia will die from suicide and unnatural causes before they can complete or even receive treatment. As one review article in the Archives of General Psychiatry notes, nearly 5 percent of people with schizophrenia will die by suicide alone.
After a century of ineffective treatments, risky medications, and
stalled genetic research, the new findings from Washington University
could be an important step forward in treating schizophrenia. For one,
the treatment of schizophrenia could be further individuated to match
each individual patient’s needs. By sorting the patients in their study
by their symptomatology, the research team at Washington University
could identify which “clusters of genetic variations” led to which
symptoms. As Dr. Igor Zwir notes in the Washington University press release, “it soon may be possible to target treatments to specific pathways that cause problems.” And as research into gene therapy for schizophrenia
continues, Washington University’s findings will give researchers new
pathways to pursue to target symptoms of schizophrenia. In the future,
the Washington University study may mark the tipping point in the
successful treatment of schizophrenic patients.
In addition to potentially revolutionizing the diagnosis and
treatment of schizophrenia, this discovery could finally put to rest
longstanding rumors about the causes of schizophrenia. Because past
researchers typically looked for a single gene that caused
schizophrenia, scientists knew that the illness was inherited but
struggled to understand what other imbricating factors could account for
it. The National Institute of Mental Health,
for instance, observes that having a relative with schizophrenia
significantly increases its risk but leaves plenty of room open for the
influence of “environmental factors” such as malnutrition.
The Johns Hopkins Health Library,
too, notes “many factors—genetic, behavioral, and environmental—play a
role in the development of this mental health condition.” While
environmental factors certainly play a role in the development of any
genetic disorder—schizophrenia included—the continued mystery of
schizophrenia’s genetic origins has perhaps left too much room open for
rampant speculation about the sort of environmental factors that cause
Some still believe the mid-20th-century rumors that
schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting, alcohol abuse, or other forms
of trauma, so much so that many resources on schizophrenia still find it
necessary to explicitly refute these myths. NAMI notes that 6 percent
of people still believe that “people diagnosed with schizophrenia did
something to cause their condition.” These myths about the causation of
schizophrenia stigmatize it, allowing the public to willfully
misunderstand it by blaming it instead on the families who suffer the
most from its symptoms. Despite the fact that millions of people and
approximately 1 percent of Americans
have schizophrenia, misinformation about the illness promotes the
belief that schizophrenia is the result of some sort of moral failing
and not genetic variation.
the fact that millions of people and approximately 1 percent of
Americans have schizophrenia, misinformation about the illness promotes
the belief that schizophrenia is the result of some sort of moral
failing and not genetic variation.
the ignorance that continues to surround schizophrenia actively
compounds its treatment on a cultural level. As NAMI notes in a report
on the perception of schizophrenia, the “lack of knowledge” surrounding
schizophrenia constitutes a “public health crisis” inasmuch as
investment in treatment options requires widespread public awareness
about the disorder. Only a quarter of Americans feel as if they are
familiar with schizophrenia, with only Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple
sclerosis ranking lower on the scale. A substantial percentage of
Americans, too, still fear people with schizophrenia at work or in their
personal lives even if they are undergoing treatment. NAMI believes
that this “knowledge gap” must be closed to promote a culture in which
people view schizophrenia as a treatable illness. If more people could
recognize schizophrenic symptoms and openly care for those who suffer
with schizophrenia, more people with the illness might seek treatment
during the critical early stages.
The new research from Washington University could be influential in
closing this knowledge gap, as it seems to be the most definitive
information about the origins of schizophrenia uncovered so far. In a
country where six times as many people believe false rumors about
schizophrenia as suffer from it, the conclusive discovery of the genetic
clusters that contribute to schizophrenia should finally start to bury
past misconceptions about the illness. In addition to possibly
transforming future approaches to the treatment of schizophrenia,
Washington University’s recent findings could also finally give a
misinformed public the clarity it needs to promote widespread
understanding of this devastating mental illness.
Fifty-one-year-old Ray Paul is passionate about art."Playing with the paint, I love color, I love working with details,
too and expressing myself and forgetting all the outside world while I’m
painting," he said.
An artist since first grade, Paul has been painting for decades. "Abstract, expressionism mixed with some surrealism and probably pop art with the bright and bold colors," said Paul. Bold colors were put to the canvas differently after a cancer
diagnosis in 2011. Paul turned to art to help him get through treatment.
"I look at it as kind of attacking the cancer because it’s right
there in front of me and I’m able to see it and go at it," said Paul. Paul’s collection, “My Sarcoma,” tells of his cancer journey through paintings, his body the canvas. "We were able to get images of my tumor cancer cells and have them
printed onto canvas,” said Paul. “And I was able to use that as a
substrate to paint over the top of."
The artist says painting helped him heal through four tumors in three years. "It’s definitely a refuge," Paul said. "It’s almost like a Zen kind
of thing, you forget about the cancer, you forget about all the trials
and tribulations and you can lose yourself in the work."
The collection is currently on display at Moffitt Cancer Center’s Healing Arts Gallery. "I’m hoping this gives them a chance to stop, reflect and maybe lose
themselves in the color and the paint and maybe to have a smile,” said
Paul. “Maybe make their day a little brighter."
Paul, who is now cancer-free, hopes his pieces show patients, their
families, doctors and staff at Moffitt both the raging battle and the
beauty of hope.
I am a registered, board certified, and licensed art therapist in the DC Metro area, and have been working in the field since 1999. I currently work with adolescents in a partial hospitalization program, which is a mid-level program used as step-down treatment from mental health inpatient hospitalization/residential treatment or as a step up from outpatient counseling. I have also worked in home-based counseling and inner city ED school settings. In addition, I provide on-site field supervision to George Washington University graduate interns at my placement as supervisory faculty as well as supervise ATR candidates for their registration.
Medical Billing "Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed."
"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write,
if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be,
he must be."
~ Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) American Psychologist
"He who works with his hands, is a workman.
He who works with his hands and his head, is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands, his head, & his heart, is an artist.
~ Francis of Assisi "Art teaches us beauty, humility and humor. You cannot be a healthy human being without art and music in your life."
~ Michael Horse (Native American Actor/Musician/Artist) "Art does real and permanent good."
~ Bob and Roberta Smith
"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up."
"I found I could say things with color and shape that I couldn't say in any other way – things that I had no words for."
"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
- Pablo Picasso