Art Therapy and Ecology 4

January 17, 2018

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Photos from Top to Bottom: Anya Gallaccio ‘That Open Space Within”, herman de vries ‘Forest Collage’ and David Nash ‘Ash Dome Drawing’

“Movement, change, light, growth and decay are the life-blood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work. When I work with a leaf, rock, stick, it is not just material in itself, it is an opening into the processes of life within and around it. When I leave these processes continue.” (Andy Goldsworthy)

Why Art in Nature? The purpose of art making in nature is to experience the natural environment as an outdoor studio and to work with living art materials. It’s an opportunity to explore working with both found natural materials that make marks (i.e. mud, grass, berries, flowers, and charcoal) and to also investigate working with larger sculptural forms that evoke the idea of shelter within forest habitats. Equally, the acts of walking and collecting can be understood as important artistic practices.

Collected objects from nature can be assembled into displays where textures, colours and patterns are highlighted. Since natural materials gradually decompose photography, sketching and writing can be used to document artworks made in the forest. The nature studio offers many experiences to perceive ecology, and to structure these perspectives into a variety of artworks that will explore lines, shapes, dimensions, and patterns found in the natural world. Land Art is an intriguing form of contemporary art which works within a variety of natural environments, transforming living materials into distinct compositions. Nature is unpredictable and constantly changing – these are also the features of environmental art made outdoors within different kinds of habitats.

“I use the world as I find it…A sculpture I’ve made along the way is a sort of celebration of that place, of me being there at that time in that state of mind. It’s a record of that moment in my life.” (Richard Long)

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Photos: Andy Goldsworthy, ‘Sticks in River’ (Top) David Nash ‘Ash, Branch, Cube’ (Below)

What is Land Art? Land art is usually made in relation to a specific landscape or location, using collections of natural materials found on site. Land art can be left within the landscape, to be affected by the elements, or it can be transported into a studio space or gallery. This form of art is subject to change, it is ephemeral subject to decay and the impact of ecological processes including the effects of weather. Land Art can also incorporate walking, as a way of drawing upon the landscape. Walking artists consider forest paths to be like lines of drawing, a way of making one’s mark by foot, or taking a line for a walk. Walking artists Richard Long and Hamish Fulton use collections of words to illustrate their journeys through landscapes. Long uses the term textworks to describe the way individual words can encapsulate the essence of nature walks.

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Photos from top to bottom: Andy Goldsworthy ‘Rowan Leaves with Hole’, Hamish Fulton ‘Rock, Fall, Echo, Dust”, Chris Drury ‘Shimanto River Sphere’, and Richard Long ‘A Line Made By Walking’

I want an intimate physical connection with the earth. I must touch. I take nothing out with me in the way of tools, glue or rope, preferring to explore the natural bonds and tensions that exist within the earth. The season and weather conditions determine to a large extent what I make. I enjoy relying on the seasons to provide new materials. (Andy Goldsworthy)

What Kinds of Natural Materials can be used for Land Art? Charcoal (collected from abandoned campfires), Berries, Grass, Mud, Seed Heads, Leaves, Moss. Pine Cones, Pine Needles, Roots, Weeds, Flowers, Stones, Logs, Bark and Branches

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Photos: A Textwork by Richard Long ‘Day to Day’ (Top) and Patrick Dougherty ‘Childhood Dreams’  (Bottom)

I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and “found” tools – a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn. (Andy Goldsworthy)


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Photos of Art Therapy Bundles, Made from Branches, Felt, Fibre Materials



Top Photo: Miguel Angel Blanco, ‘Library of the Forest’, nature collections in wooden “book” boxes that are journals of his walking journeys.

The idea of a book being a collection of objects that are ideas, moments of time, a landscape, and movements held within a box vessel, can be a vital medium of artistic practice within art therapy. A walk can be taken alone or accompanied by others, either can become documented as an art therapy journey that involves the surrounding habitat as living studio.  The words of thought and feeling held within the significance of objects selected, illustrate and enact a psychological quest. This is a language of wandering and finding significance in what is close at hand. The book is an installation that can be handled and read in many ways. Time is contained within the dimensions of the book’s architecture. The composition of the book, reveals itself as a structural building, a home place for an ephemeral story.

Websites for Inspiration 

  1. Green Museum The Online Museum of Environmental Art
  2. Women’s Eco Artist’s Dialog
  3. Chris Drury
  4. herman de vries 
  5. Richard Long 
  6. Hamish Fulton 
  7. Patrick Dougherty 
  8. Also Search online for Artist Anya Gallaccio

Materials and Preparation List 

Fully charged camera phone or camera for photography

Sketch book or notebook for drawing, for imprints of natural materials, creative writing, and ideas you wish to take away from the workshop

Pencils and pens, graphite, charcoal or pastels for drawing and writing in sketchbook

Tape for attaching foraged items into sketchbook

Containers or bags for foraged items. These materials can be used for artworks after the workshop.



Photos: Collections of nature by artist herman de vries



Photo: A print of a tree trunk and a drawing of a forest walk

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Photos: Ecole du cloitre Vic sur Seille, Les Photos de Marc Pouyet


Photo: Kriss MacDonald, “My Botanical Desk – Winter Nature Diary” 

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Photos: Shelters Made in a Ravensdale Forest, County Louth


Photo: Nils-Udo ‘The Nest’


Photo: Chris Drury ‘Pine Circle, Cone Sphere’

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Photo: Derek Jarman photographed by Terry O’Neill (The Guardian)

Derek Jarman (1942-1994) was an English film director, artist, writer, stage designer and gardener. His garden journals, reflections and nature based artworks are profiled in his book Derek Jarman’s GardenWritten before his death the book crusades the proliferation of personality in every garden, rather than codification and regulation. Out of a shore composed of flint and shingle, and near a nuclear power station in Dungeness, Kent, Jarman created a gardening legacy that acts as a stage for not only his own personal experiences, but a catalyst for the pursuits of others who follow his example. An activist opposed to lawns, garden chemicals and the dictation of order, Jarman encouraged a garden’s anarchy and wild abandon. His garden was without borders and conventions, extending in all directions and inwards to meet the realities of landscapes both human and natural. His home, a restored fishing cottage, became his sanctuary and studio for forays into various forms of contemplation and artistic enterprise. The garden is still today infused with the magic of surprise. “I saw it as a therapy and a pharmacopoeia” (Derek Jarman), its essential nature to assist with the experiencing of life cycles.


Photo: Derek Jarman’s Garden

“Derek Jarman gave his garden a certain narrative; perhaps he treated it a bit like a film or theatre set. His films were visionary, eccentric, romantic and rebellious, all of which could also be said about his garden. The plants were distinct players in the action…He put wild with cultivated, made art out of rubbish and declared the garden a gallery where nature played the most important part. He sought refuge in his garden, but chose a setting with no boundaries, where everything is an edge: shingle, sea, sun, wind all shifting and changing…It is a weird and wonderful place, but in many ways humble: a small house, a tiny garden, yet the maker showed us all how wild and brilliant our own spaces can be if we’re prepared to look sympathetically at the landscape around us, to make room for the flotsam and weeds in life as much as the jewels.” (Alys Fowler, “Gardens: Planting on the Edge in Derek Jarman’s Garden”, The Guardian, September, 24, 2014


Photo Source: Gardenista


Photo Source: Kriss MacDonald, Derek Jarman’s Garden

Either Way, Make a Move

March 6, 2017


Photo: Hazel Meyer, Hyper-Hyper (Artist in the Classroom, The Pedagogical Impulse)

A Workshop for the School of Arts Education and Movement
Dublin City University, Institute of Education

Pamela Whitaker, Groundswell

  • Classroom as Art Studio
  • Teaching as Performance
  • Teacher and Students as Artist Collective
  • Social Choreography in School
  • Students as Curators
  • Education as a Happening 

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Photo: Art Out Loud, Basement Gallery, Dundalk

I am interested in the theme of choreography, and how students can generate movement motifs through interacting with objects and words that stimulate physical actions and movement responses. Choreography is a change of space, new ways of going, and actions taking shape.


Photo: The Medieval Garden Challenge

Dance and Movement Benefits Children’s Physical Development, Emotional Expression, Social Awareness, Cognitive Agility, Mental Health, Communication

The classroom as an artwork can inspire movement, creation and also a disruption of ‘order’ (Stephanie Springgay, 2014). We will explore lines of connection between different spaces in a classroom, and develop routes of movement that interrupt expectation. We will be unconventional, in the moment, and attention seeking. Words, situations, and objects will move us on.

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Photo: Art Out Loud, Basement Gallery, Dundalk

The classroom as a happening is about animated learning. A situation is created whereby students re-define their educational surroundings. It is subject to flexibility. Art in this sense is related to environment, an atmosphere, and a studio of ideas. Happenings were first introduced by the artist Allan Kaprow. They are experiences where art, physical action, sound, words and environment are assembled within a specific time frame to promote participation and improvisation.

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Photo: Graffiti Inspired Movement in a Pedestrian Tunnel


Photo: The Medieval Garden Challenge

“SOCIAL CHOREOGRAPHY engages everyone’s perception and knowledge of….[movement]…inquiring if and how individuals can imaginatively order and re-order aspects of their personal, social, cultural and political lives.” Michael Klien, The Institute of Social Choreography

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Photo: Sophie Nüzel,

Stephanie Springgay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She considers a classroom a work of art.

As an experimenter, the artist-teacher does not mold students into a work of art, as if the students simply become raw materials. Rather artist-teacher-student-classroom become a creative assemblage filled with the potential to open itself to future creative instances. If a classroom operates as a work of art, not as an object manipulated from the outside, it becomes enmeshed and enlived. A “classroom as a work of art,” we argue, re-conceptualizes the artist-teacher as productively co-mingling with students and space. Stephanie Springgay, The Pedagogical Impulse,

All the listings below are links to Springgay articles:

The Pedagogical Impulse: Aberrant Residencies and Classroom Ecologies

The Pedagogical Impulse: Research-Creation at the Intersection Between Social Practice and Pedagogy

How do you make a classroom operate like a work of art? Deleuzeguattarian methodologies of research-creation

Cloth as Intercorporeality: Touch, Fantasy, and Performance
and the Construction of Body Knowledge, International Journal of Education and the Arts


Photo: Landmarks: Nature, Art, Schools Workshops in County Louth

image-5.jpgPhoto: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Therapy Classroom Installation


Photo and Article Link: Teaching with Contemporary Art in the Classroom by Joe Fusaro


Nari Ward: In Large Part

March 19, 2016

I get inspired by things that don’t fit in (Nari Ward, Spirit of the Street, Financial Times, December 4, 2015).


Photo: Nari Ward, Iron Heavens, 1995 (oven pans and burnt wooden bats)  in

Ward’s dramatic sculptural installations are composed of systematically collected material from his urban neighborhood. By revealing the numerous emotions inherent within found everyday objects, Ward’s works examine issues surrounding race, poverty, and consumer culture (

Nari Ward’s giant productions of found and reassembled objects are larger than life, despite being composed of everyday materials. He executes large scale physical constructions to evoke an experience of resonance within the reconfiguration of daily existence. His artistic residence is New York (although Jamaican-born) and the repercussions of his art are significant for all kinds of places and for all people. Ward explores the power of objects, their social formation, and their significance as cultural icons. He encounters chosen items and makes them other worldly, despite them being firmly entrenched within the crafting of human experience. His practical manipulation of matter is executed through labouring with a material. Each element holds an impression of his bodily contact, the personal markings of time spent in connection.


Photo: Artist Nari Ward on His Latest New York Show,, November 2, 2015

It’s all about engaging emotions. I want to take that energy and propel it into some other form (Artist Nari Ward on His Latest New York Show,, text by Thessaly La Force, November 2, 2015).


Photo: Nari Ward, Saviour, 1996 (garbage bags, cloth, bottles, shopping carts, mirror, chair, clocks) Pérez Art Museum, Miami

I need that mind/body connection that happens with labour and repetition. You get lost in it to the point where ideas come to you (Nari Ward, Spirit of the Street, Financial Times, December 4, 2015)

Ward’s example is a call for art therapists to thing “big” in regards to reassembling found and domestic finds. The objects compose a collection, a diary of events related to finding materials and also importing a sense of personal significance, where ordinary becomes something else. The installation of these large works reside within a locality, each piece a strident voice proclaiming an occupation of space and a demonstration of personal and social issues. Within art therapy putting ourselves out there can become a commitment to large scale exposure, not to be missed.




Photo: Human Writes, William Forsythe, performance to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“Our work is about moving between positions and passing through positions, not maintaining positions” (Dance Geometry, A Conversation with William Forsythe,


Photo: Lectures from Improvisation Technologies by William Forsythe 2011,

Art therapy activates the movement of spatial dimensions, marking out both familiar and new planes of existence. As a potential choreographic enterprise, art therapy draws us into movements which open up perspective. Each artwork is a new situation, an arrangement of subjectivity that is both familiar and recently acquired. The physical act of art making relates to extensions and crossing boundaries into additional planes of reference.


Photo: Artwork by Peter Welz in Collaboration with William Forsythe, 2005

The dimensions of artworks can be inhabited as kinesthetic journeys, stimulating physical and mental configurations. An artwork can be a choreographic reference, a stimulus that potentially enlarges our physical and mental proportions. Art beckons not only as an object but as a research tool, that can re-route both body and mind into unfamiliar experiences. It is the confidence to examine and inhabit the unfamiliar that often acts as a remedy for fixation. To act out is to animate and recover from predictability and containment. The risk taking in art therapy can relate to simultaneously moving in more than one direction. Combining known perspectives with difference, and learning to understand the artwork as a choreographic object, invites new forms of thinking that are physically generated.



Photo: Dance Drawing and Wire Sculpted in Movement Based Art Therapy

“A choreographic object, or score, is by nature open to a full palette of phenomenological instigations because it acknowledges the body as wholly designed to persistently read every signal from its environment” (Choreographic Objects by William Forsythe,

The influence of artworks as stimuli for movement motifs can be understood as a call for attention. The ability of an artwork to transfigure orientations in both mind and body, can be a therapeutic asset. The possibility of displacement, of transforming established ways of conduct within the world at large, is therapeutically beneficial. This is often at the heart of therapeutic release, the call to go beyond restrictions and to experiment with dynamic changes in action.


Photo: Self-Directed Movement Studies

Moving Dimensions of Art Therapy

1. The inclusion of physical thinking within art therapy involves kinesthetic responses, giving space for physical animation as thoughts and sensations appear.

2. Therapeutic choreography animated by processes of art making may create new dimensions of identity.

3. Art therapy environments collaboratively composed (in conjunction with service users), should be open to transformation increasingly incorporating new materials, ideas and physical arrangements.

4. Taking risks can relate to experiments with space, where artworks inhabit the environment as forms that trace out physical paths and their corresponding sensations.


Photo: Tape Drawing, Diagram for Movement Produced in Art Therapy

“Choreographers are composers; subjects are continually reiterated and played in another key…In choreography, there’s all kinds of motion going on, countless levels of kinetic juxtaposition, many beyond the immediate, visible sphere of dancing…the effect of ideas in motion” (William Forsythe: Artists in Conversation by Gabrielle de Ferrari,

William Forsythe (New York, 1949) originally trained as a ballet dancer and became the director of Ballet Frankfurt from 1984-2004. He later founded the internationally renowned Forsythe Company, where his choreography involved the visual arts, architecture, the moving image, written and spoken words. Starting in 2015 Forsythe will begin teaching at the University of Southern California and join the Pais Opera Ballet as an associate choreographer. 



Miguel Angel Blanco has developed a collection of wooden boxes as a forest library, containing the findings from intentionally symbolic walks. These collections are his journals imprinted with journeys taken from the past thirty years. The Biblioteca del Bosque (Library of the Forest) is housed in the basement of his home in Madrid. Miguel’s walks are primarily taken within the Guadarrama Mountains outside of Madrid. The library as a whole is an evolving sculpture, it is also an ecology of life, documenting Miguel’s communications with nature.

His library comprises more than a thousand wooden “book-boxes” each of which is a reliquary or cabinet containing the objects and substances (snakeskin, quartz crystals, resin, elm leaf) gathered along the course of a particular walk. Each of these micro-terrains represents a completed journey; but the library itself – ever growing – is a compound pilgrimage without visible end (Robert Mcfarlane, ‘Rites of Way: Behind the Pilgrimage Revival’, The Guardian, June, 2012).




Miguel Angel Blanco, Artist Statement

The Library as sculpturing life project, is a work open to nature’s vastness, carried out with the same slowness and steadiness with which a tree grows, a symbiosis between the right angle and the biologic form. I share with oriental art the wish to achieve an organic composition, in which fullness represents substance and emptiness the circulation of vital breaths, joining in this way the finite and the infinite, like creation itself. Maybe the goal of the work could be to understand the universe’s secret language, to create a great mystery from the starting point of a piece of fern or a drop of resin. To be an echo of the ephemeral. To establish communication with the universe and receive an answer from it…

Art is experience. The simple action of walking about the forest’s paths opens the eyes to the essential, increases receptivity and tunes the senses. The walker is on the watch, on a constant alert, trying to see in the landscape more than the usual, expanding reality. The forest creates an inner state of serenity, pureness and optimism (Miguel Angel Blanco, The Forest’s Library,


The idea of a book being a collection of objects that are ideas, moments of time, landscape, and movements held within a box vessel, can be a vital medium of artistic practice within art therapy. A walk can be taken alone on accompanied by others within an art therapy journey that involves the surrounding habitat within a rite of discovery. The words of thought and feeling held within the significance of objects selected, illustrate and enact a psychological quest. This is a language of wandering and finding significance in what is close at hand. The book is an installation that can be handled and read in many ways. Time is contained within the dimensions of the book’s architecture. The composition of the book, reveals itself as a structural building, a home place for an ephemeral story.

Miguel Angel Blanco, Artist Statement

The book, ultimate tool for the transmission of knowledge, is not composed of words in my case. The language spoken is another. It is the fragment of nature capable of communicating a whole world, which words can only approach. Silent invocations. All components of my books originate in nature’s realms, even the wood of the boxes and the different papers – subtle transformation of wooden hearts – of the pages on which I draw. In fact, books have an important relationship with trees, even etymologically, for the Latin word liber (= book) also means the living part of the tree’s bark….

The box is a small recondite sanctuary, a sancta sanctorum. Sealed with glass, hermetic, to preserve its contents, it is at the same time ark, essence-container, shrine and crucible. Moss, lichen, barks, needles, pine cones, pollen, brambles, fungi, wax, roots, earth, minerals or resins are some of the materials I have collected. Materials that liberate secret images. Unfathomable abysses, deep lakes, infinite spaces, storms, creeks, fires… may open inside a small box. One may even contemplate the creation of the universe in a drop of resin. Microlandscapes. The box-book is the memory of the immemorial. But we will never be able to span the infinity of the inner dimension (Miguel Angel Blanco, The Forest’s Library,



Miguel Angel Blanco, Biblioteca del Bosque

Robert Mcfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot.

The Art of Arrangement

June 16, 2014


Composing an arrangement of personal keepsakes and found objects can be an aesthetic practice within art therapy. It creates a situation that brings together objectified forms of what is meaningful and pertinent into a therapeutic context. Singular objects generate a collective enunciation of associations. Found objects, as ready-mades, evoke relationships to experiences and events. The act of placement is also the art of juxtaposition, finding a place for everything, but also changing the order of things as needed. Every component can be re-positioned, nothing is fixed or secure, but rather exists as a temporary stage from which to find one’s bearings.


Personal mementos may be relics of the past and/or contemporary objects that provide comfort during times of transition. They are familiar and tactile forms that can be collected and used as focal points for discussing current and changing circumstances. Each relationship between items is an emerging possibility. The idea that nothing is stable, or still, breathes new life into the potential of moving things around in order to gain a different perspective.

Art therapy can illuminate the significance of personal collections that restore memories and also represent personal interests and captivations. The significance of arranging what is already at hand reflects an individual’s visual culture. It shares what has been lived and what is currently being manifested in the course of daily life. Bringing into art therapy these lived expressions, changes the nature of the therapeutic encounter. The art therapist does not start the conversation or structure the session, instead they are a witness to an act that is an encounter with lived possessions. The art is in the act of arrangement, the display of what has been selected, and the assembly of associations. Art therapy is not always about making, but re-making what is close by and relevant.





Pieces Found Along the Way

November 8, 2013

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The Irish artist Tony O’Malley (1913-2003) was well known for his paintings, however his wooden collages or constructions are captivating assemblages of his everyday journeys. The Royal Hibernian Gallery in Dublin has produced an intriguing display of these three dimensional drawings or inscapes. The wooden collages seem to formulate constructions of a home away from home, a series of storyboards portraying O’Malley’s Irish memories while living in Cornwall. Abandoned pieces of wood have found a new purpose within O’Malley’s wall sculptures. Discarded and lost fragments are composed into a new whole, a collection of waste materials transformed into new compositions of meaning.

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O’Malley is a self taught artist who began generating artworks in his 40’s. His constructions are composed of wood, string, yarn, nails, and oil paint. The compositions are personal symbols, re-instating the discarded into a reclaimed dignity. The collages forge new relationships; they are collections from walks deeply felt. Wandering, finding what is needed, and making odd things come together is an art. It is a formulation of personal icons, that could also find a place within art therapy.

In O’Malley’s sculptural collages, there is a sense of reconfiguring what could easily be forgotten. He integrates what has been lost into the found. Bits of string, yarn and nails hold pieces together. There is a sense of being in O’Malley’s work shed when viewing these artworks. A work shed with wood, tools, twine, hooks, fixings, and paint cans, a personal space for rummaging and reconstituting meaning. The shed as an enclosed studio or cabin of the imagination, holding found and hardware materials in drawers, shelves, and workbenches. The sound of hammering, the smell of paint, and a process of inscribing lines on the surfaces of old relics of once functional items.


O’Malley’s constructions are the materials of a personal memoir, the inscapes of a traveller walking down beaches and back roads searching for more of himself. The found pieces of his journeys are not unlike pages of a journal, each a fragment of memory, a collection of passages.

Photos: From the exhibition Tony O’Malley Constructions, at the Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery in Dublin. 

Everyday Readymades

October 24, 2013


Photo: Everyday Objects by Rhea Batz

“Experimentation also involves attention to the normally unnoticed” (Allan Kaprow, Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life)

Does newly produced art have to always be made in art therapy? Or, can art therapy also incorporate personally significant collection of everyday objects? The readymade objects that inhabit domestic life, work, leisure and daily experiences are many. Gathering and assembling items that have symbolic meaning can act as a condensed personal archive. Combining different dimensions of life into a mini-installation, or life sculpture, brings into relationship many kinds of experiences. Allan Kaprow used the idea of “life like art” to describe art that reminds us of the rest of our lives. He encouraged us to be conscious inventors of the life that also invents us. How can we revision the materials we interact with on a daily basis as artworks in art therapy?

It’s a strange thought, that personal identity and qualities of mind and character can be discovered not only in people, but also in objects, landscapes, jars or boxes. If this seems a bit odd, it’s because we have, by and large, emptied the visual realm of personal character. Yet when we feel kinship with an object, it is because the values we sense that it carries are clearer in it than they usually are in our minds (Alain de Botton and John Armstrong)

In his book The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard describes how domestic objects are in essence hybrids in their role as subject-objects. Subject-objects are intimately felt, they are handled items that reflect what we hold on to for practical and symbolic reasons. A subject-object could be a piece of clothing, photograph, pen, mobile phone, a piece of jewellery, an inherited ornament, or something picked up off the street. The organisation and display of a ready-made assemblage can be a vital composition, highlighting the life situations of an art therapy participant in a concrete way. Reconstituting ordinary objects into a re-mixing of meaning  (or finding the valuable in the taken-for-granted) is not only a guide to self-knowledge, but a way to replenish awareness of what’s around us.


Photo: A Display of Shoes and Sticks, Belfast Art Therapy Summer School, 2013

A recent article in the Financial Times by Susie Boyt called “Identity in a Biscuit Tin” describes the work of Christian Boltanski, whose recent installation at the Pompidou Centre in Paris is composed of 646 old biscuit tines, containing 1200 photographs and 800 documents gathered by the artist from his studio over a 23 year period. Boyt writes, “standing in front of Les Archives made me think of so many things: exile, humility, childhood, home, concealment and display, and how we as humans come to measure and regard our own personal history, our memories, and our suffering”


Photo: Les archives de Christian Boltanski 1965-1989,  placed in biscuit tins.

From personal objects arranged as a documentation of experience, to biscuit tins as containers of personal history, the subject of what is an art material in art therapy requires critical consideration. Using everyday readymades is a means of inviting art therapy participants to “come as they are” to “be themselves” rather than fitting into art materials that don’t suit how they live their lives.

It’s a strange thought, that personal identity and qualities of mind and character can be discovered not only in people, but also in objects, landscapes, jars or boxes. It this seems a bit odd, it’s because we have, by and large, emptied the visual realm of personal character. Yet when we feel a kinship with an object, it is because the values we sense that it carries are clearer in it than they usually are in our minds (Alain de Botton and John Armstrong).

It is important for people to feel at home in art therapy, to feel relaxed and share who they are. The Irish artist Kate Murphy’s writes that home

…is an extension of The Self, an archetype of both physical and psychological boundaries and the primary site of the development of personal, cultural, gender and sexual identity. The house or dwelling, as an artefact, serves as a source of materials, forms and objects with which to investigate notions of social convention, ritual, nostalgia and the unconscious.  (Home) is personally grounded in expressions of longing, loss, embodiment and the duality of protection versus isolation (Kate Murphy, Exhibition Catalogue).

Subject-objects picked from home and found in life, sculpt a series of stories waiting to be heard. These items are  the autobiographical grounds of subjectivity as it travels through neighbourhoods, streets, paths, and different zones of life activity.


The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong

“Identity in a Biscuit Tin” by Susie Boyt (Financial Times)

The Blurring of Art and Life by Allan Kaprow

Kate Murphy,