art therapy

Recognizing the artist’s journey

A show at Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center by developmentally disabled adults illuminates the idea that all art is art therapy

As the curtain opens on 2019, I’m reflecting on an unexpected awakening of sorts that has played out several times now in my encounters with visual and sculptural art around Yamhill County.

Let me explain.

When Oregon ArtsWatch brought me aboard last summer, I made it clear to the editors that theater and film were my specialties (to the extent I have any), but I lacked the training, experience, and even the language to “review” exhibitions of painting, drawing, and sculpture effectively and intelligently. That was OK, they replied. I wasn’t expected to produce criticism with a capital “C,” and I surely never will. I was relieved that the mission was simply to report.

The “Histories Take Form” show includes Marc Roder’s untitled acrylic-on-paper painting.

So it’s odd that visual art has spoken to me most meaningfully in the past six months or so. I’ve been fortunate enough to drop by shows alone when the exhibition space is empty, or nearly so, and discovered that if one spends even a few minutes of quiet time with a painting or sculptural piece — if you simply let yourself be with it — it will open up to you in some fashion. Regardless of the artist’s intentions, the thoughts and feelings you bring to the experience settle and coalesce as you let the image or sculpture into your head. Given the right conditions and the proper frame of mind, epiphanies can happen.

That’s what happened a few days ago when I found myself alone at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. HEATWAVE still occupied the Parrish Gallery. That was a terrific exhibition of fiber art made by artists who obviously have spent many years at their craft, perfecting their skills and techniques to a point where they are arguably among the best at what they do.

The Parrish Gallery is what you see straight ahead when you walk in. At the west end of the sprawling lobby you’ll find another, smaller installation. It’s called Histories Take Form, and it features drawings, paintings, and mixed media created by artists who do not have same level of training and skill as the HEATWAVE artists.

Yet this show helped me understand that even making that distinction — creating categories for art based on objective criteria — is to miss the point of what art is, what it’s for, and whom it’s for.

Continues…