‘Healing Art Stories” is more a testament than an exhibit.
Its curator, noted artist and art writer Janet Purcell, understands firsthand the connection among art, health and hope.
“I’d been a caretaker for my late husband who had multiple sclerosis and finally became totally paralyzed and died,” the Hopewell-based Times of Trenton columnist says. “During that terrible time doing my art helped me find a place of peace and helped me heal after his death. I knew of other artists who had and were having the same experience.”
“I agreed (to curate a show) and said we needed to not only see their art, but we needed to hear their stories. So I told each artist I invited they would be required to write an essay about how creating their art has helped them heal.”
As shown in the following excerpted comments, their remarks are revealing:
“Creating art aided me during a recent crisis,” says Hopewell painter and mixed media artist Aurelle Purdy Sprout. “While recently hospitalized for stage one lung cancer, the process of enduring surgery, to waking up and realizing that I eventually would be all right, gave me such joy that I couldn’t wait to recover — first of all to be part of life itself — but also to return to the world of art. Even while in ICU, the surgeon (also a painter) and I shared via Smartphones our respective artwork/websites! What a rush of excitement and hope! (Creating art) feeds my curiosity, grounds my body, lifts my spirit, and connects me positively with life itself.”
Titusville painter NJ DeVico writes: “Having a terminal disease … When I work — actually, it’s more like play — I go into a zone and don’t worry about anything: Not my platelet count, not my next chemo session, not the pile of hospital bills accumulating, nor my health insurance woes. The world is just me and my juicy, intense Sennelier oil pastels. Living color. I almost died after my bone marrow transplant didn’t work. That’s when I got comfortable doing abstracts. It was the first time I didn’t care if anyone might say or think, ‘My five-year-old can do that.’ Yup, when you realize the end could be near, you don’t give a damn about a lotta things that you wasted time on before. It’s quite liberating. I’m not unlucky because I’ve got leukemia. I’m lucky because I’m an artist.”
“I lead two lives,” says Hopewell mixed-media artist and Capital Health Arts and Healing Committee member Jane Zamost. “The first as a studio artist and the second as a healing one at my local hospital. For me, the medium utilized is irrelevant; it is simply the act of creation that stirs me. When working in my studio, guiding patients at bedside and witnessing people’s responses to art, I am continually amazed at the restorative impact that art holds for both its maker and audience. The heart slows, the mind focuses, the rhythm of the room transforms. This response to art has made my business desires crystallize — to bring forth optimism to homes and hospitals. Where art soothes, hope rises.”
And Hopewell Township sculptor Janis Blayne Paul will only say, “My work is always rooted in the intention for wellness, compassion, hope and healing. Each work of art is an exercise in mindfulness. Creating art that resonates and brightens my spirit inspires a purposeful life. That is does so for others as well is more than I could have hoped for.”
Other artists speak through third-person statements. Tyler Bell, a 24-year-old Pennington resident with autism, says,“painting makes autism take a back seat, removing anxiety and stim and revealing the gifts and the soul hidden behind the mask of this disorder.”
Although Purcell says, “This show is important to me,” it seems bigger than that and a lifeline to hope for the artists — and others.
Healing Art Stories, Capital Health Medical Center, Hopewell. Through Monday, Oct. 16. (609) 537-6073.
A version of this story appeared last month in U.S. 1 Newspaper.