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

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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.

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Photos: Collections of nature by artist herman de vries

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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

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

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Photos: Shelters Made in a Ravensdale Forest, County Louth

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Photo: Nils-Udo ‘The Nest’

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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.

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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

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Photo Source: Gardenista

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Photo Source: Kriss MacDonald, Derek Jarman’s Garden

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Art Therapy and Ecology 3

January 16, 2018

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Photo: An art therapy forest studio, County Louth

A Forest Studio

A forest studio can be foraged for art materials, it can also be the site for installations, walks, photography, writing, sketching, printmaking, journaling, enactments and the making of artist books. Celebrations and gatherings also invite festivity into the forest. 

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Photos: Ravensdale Forest Land Art and Archway Blackrock Forest Garden, Co. Louth

“Sitting in a wilderness [forest] garden you can almost hear the generative power of nature. It is like watching a speeded-up film, when buds uncurl, flowers open and shrubs expand as if by magic. If we were to leave a patch of land free from human intervention – no cropping, mowing, digging or ploughing – it would quickly revert to its natural state…It is this feeling of wild, unfettered energy one seeks to create in a therapeutic garden” (Dondald Norfolk, The Therapeutic Garden)

Forest gardening is a practical means of cultivation, it involves low maintenance in regards to watering and weeding. The forest garden appears chaotic and dishevelled, and yet its layered design is a complex arrangement of companion planting. It is a self-regulating habitat, an ecological system, which benefits both mind and body. “If a garden is to mirror [human] nature it must be varied, irregular, random and wild” (Donald Norfolk, The Therapeutic Garden).

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Photos Top to Bottom: Willow woven hut for children, land art workshop display and willow woven seat in Blackrock Forest Garden and Ravensdale Forest, Co. Louth

A community garden can also be a habitat for art therapy, art and participation, or arts and health. Blackrock Playground Park (Blackrock, Co. Louth) has a dedicated edible forest garden. The garden was originally planted with local environmental volunteers, children and families living around the park. Working with neighbours (of all ages) to cultivate a “commons” or supportive habitat within the pathways of everyday life, an edible forest garden is an example of therapeutic gardening that embraces nature as a regenerating source of well being. Edible wild plants, hedgerow and orchard fruits, herbs, vegetables, medicinal plants and living art materials (e.g. willow for living sculptures, plants for natural dyes, and symbolic plants associated with Irish seasonal traditions) grow together as a large scale public artwork. Not only is the food plentiful, its design is self sustaining, engaging itself in its own reproduction and fertility.

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Photo: Blackrock Forest Garden, County Louth

“Many gardening words and expressions illustrate how steeped the language of cultivation is in the vocabulary of personal growth and nurture…transplanting, uprooting, flowering, blossoming, digging deep, grounded, putting down roots, cutting back, branching out, growing new shoots, shedding, weeding out…”

Quotation from Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut, The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives 

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Photo: A family artwork for Samhain, Blackrock Forest Garden, County Louth

“The range of art materials available from an outdoor art therapy studio invites perceptive stimulation and can be combined with more commonly used art therapy materials in either indoor or outdoor settings. Land-sourced art materials (e.g. soil, clay, stone, sand, seaweed, shells, weeds, charcoal, ash, water, grasses, pine cones, pine needles, roehips, seeds, flowers, ferns, nuts, lichen, [moss], mud, bark, herbs, leaves, berries, and edible plants), along with landscape-inspired fibre arts materials (e.g. wool, felt, thread, handmade paper, beeswax, fleece, and natural fabrics), and construction materials for installation spaces (e.g. wood, branches, and straw bales) all invite imaginative responses that add to the participation evoked by more traditional art therapy materials…

Land sourced art materials, fibre art materials, and construction materials can extend the textures, dimensions, and sensations gained from more frequently used art [therapy] media. For example, paint, glue, clay or melted beeswax can be combined with leaves, pine needles, grasses, seeds, rosehips, or flower petals. Paper can be marked with mud, charcoal, soil, ash, [pollen, flower pigments], and berry juices…Pinecones, dried herbs, flowers, and leaves can be strung together and suspended from an indoor ceiling or used to embellish an outdoor den, or even worn draped across the body. Mud, dirt, berry juices, and charcoal can “paint” the skin for use in art therapy enactments, with the pigments of these materials colouring the body canvas.”

(Quotation from Pamela Whitaker, “Groundswell: The Nature and Landscape of Art Therapy” in Materials and Media in Art Therapy: Critical Understandings of Diverse Artistic Vocabularies by Catherine Hyland Moon)

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Photo: Grand Canal Dock, Dublin

References for Art Therapy and Nature

Green Studio: Nature and the Arts in Therapy by Alexander Kopytin and Madeline Rugh (Editors), Nova Publishers

Nature-Based Expressive Arts Therapy: Integrating the Expressive Arts and Ecotherapy by Sally Atkins and Melia Snyder, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life by Ian Siddons Heginworth

Environmental Arts Therapy Website by Ian Siddons Heginworth

“Taking Art Therapy Outdoors: The ‘Greening’ of Art Therapy Practice” by art therapists Vanessa Jones and Gary Nash, BAAT Newsbriefing, July 2017. Contact Vanessa Jones and Gary Nash at the London Art Therapy Centre, where they teach a course called Environmental Arts Therapy Training with drama therapist Ian Siddons Heginworth. They also offer introductory level courses. Courses are held on weekends in London parks and woodlands. London Art Therapy Centre

The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut

The Healing Forest in Post-Crisis Work with Children: A Nature Therapy and Expressive Arts Program for Groups Ronen Berger and Mooli Lahad, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The Nature Therapy Centre by Ronen Berger

The Therapeutic Garden by Donald Norfolk, Bantam Press

“Groundswell: The Nature and Landscape of Art Therapy” in Materials and Media in Art Therapy: Critical Understandings of Diverse Artistic Vocabularies by Catherine Hyland Moon

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Photo: An art therapy forest studio, County Louth

Community Gardening: Cultivating an Art Therapy Studio

Benefits to Wellness

  • Skill Sharing and Learning among Peers
  • Collaboration, Mentoring, Teamwork
  • Social Interaction
  • Achievement and Self Esteem
  • Cultivating nature, Enhancing the World for Oneself and Others
  • Working with symbols of Regeneration (Growth) and Cycles of Change
  • Physical release of Tension and Stress
  • Pride of Place, Making a Difference in the World
  • Mind Wandering and Reverie in Gardening and Aesthetic Experience enhances Cognitive Flexibility for Problem Solving
  • Soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae releases Serotonin to Decrease Anxiety and improve Cognitive Functions, Enhance Mood and Coping Abilities.
  • Foraging and Harvesting assist in the release of Dopamine which may promote  Energy and Enthusiasm.

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Photo: Artist Susan O’Malley, A Healing Walk, commissioned by the Montalvo Arts Centre, Saratoga California

herman de vries: to be all

November 19, 2015

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Photo: herman de vries standing at the Kilianseiche near Falsbrun, Steigerwald (2006) [photo susanne de vries, Eschenau]

For herman de vries, human existence is rooted not in thought but in consciousness; this consciousness is primarily sensorial. Natural phenomena and processes first of all evoke the meanings of their physical presence; as an extension of that, the works and installations of herman de vries possess an immanent poetry that can be experienced directly…each natural element is itself and nothing else. (herman de vries, Visitor’s Guide, Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2015).

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Photo: herman de vries at the Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale by Judith Jockel

The Dutch artist herman de vries (b. 1931) does not differentiate between nature, art and existence. His exhibition at the Venice Biennale entitled, to be all ways to be, studies properties of nature as a way to comprehend consciousness and knowledge.

His collection of natural elements interspersed with debris acts as a commentary on the juxtaposition of ecologial and cultural habitats. The artworks are an encounter with nature as a force that transforms everything. de vries collects distinct categories of nature (i.e. soil and plant collections) in order to enlarge their energetic significance upon human life. His ethos is to enhance each person’s sense of reality through sharpening their perception.

Everything is all ways significant for all. (herman de vries, quotation in herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding, 2006)

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Photos: IMAGE CREDIT http://www.hermandevries.org, herman de vries at the Kunsthalle Schweinfurt arranging the ‘steigerwald cosmology’ (2010)
photo Katharina Winterhalter/Main Post

herman de vries interrogates his surroundings by researching a particular land area. His philosophy of being with the immediate and the actual, incorporates the belief that nothing is stable, with every moment becoming a new manifestation of reality (herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding). Through walking, observing, collecting and presenting his discoveries, he invites each one of us to become more intimately involved with our habitat. Each walk becomes a journal and an immediate experience of being, an inclusivity of everything and the significance of ‘all’. The body intertwining with its environment absorbing the complexity and pulse of natural phenomena.

The world is my chance, it changes me everyday. (herman de vries, quotation in herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding, 2006)

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Photo: herman de vries Journals http://www.hermandevries.org
IMAGE CREDIT im winter auf dem grossen knetzberg • ein journal, 2013 [Photo Bruno Schneyer, Zeil am Main]

The methods and reasoning put forth by herman de vries are an invaluable resource for art therapists interested in resourcing the natural world for art, field trips, and metaphorical discussion. His dedication to astute observation, the ordering of findings, and attending to the details of human nature are about working with every day discoveries. Each walk is a quest for enhanced concentration upon existence in all its complexity. A journey’s documentation becomes a journal of perception in contact with greater essences of life.

A personal journal is a record, but it is by its very nature subjective and partial…It’s purpose is to record a process or a progress in time, in a particular place or on a particular journey, and to use the events as the basis for reflection and speculation…It is worth noting that the Latin diurnalis (daily) is the root both of ‘journal’ and of ‘journey’ (originally the distance travelled in a day): ‘journal’ thus encapsulates the idea of movement through time and space. de vries has made several journals, usually in the course of a journey or a visit to a specific place or area, each of them having in common the ordered bringing together of a series of framed ‘entries’ of material gathered in the period of the journey or stay.

The heterogeneity of the materials reflects always the diversity both of the artist’s experience and of the landscape in which they have been gathered. They may include plant forms, animal traces, mineral objects, and human artefacts: leaves, twigs, seeds, stems pieces of bark, lichen, fungus, shells, feathers, stones, earth and ash rubbings, fragments of ‘rubbish’, text works, photographs. They demonstrate, by implication, unity in diversity by means of the visual order of their presentation in grid-like arrays. Each ‘entry’ may seem to be a fragment of reality: put together they present an image that implies both a thrilling chaos and a beautiful order in things. The visual ordering accords with the underlying principle that in every part of complex reality there is both the natural disposition to form and order and the impulse to entropy. (Quotation by Mel Gooding, herman de vries, chance and change, 2006).

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Photo: Burned III, After a Summer Bonfire, de vries, Dutch Pavillion, Venice Biennale

References

http://www.hermandevries.org

herman de vries: chance and change (2006) by Mel Gooding