Hands to heART
It is my privilege to introduce this catalogue. The artwork is beautiful, provocative and powerful as are the opportunities for self-expression currently available to cancer patients at Cedars-Sinai. This art illuminates the emotional challenges that are a part of this disease and the ways that the creative process can help.
Art therapy has a long history at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Helen Landgarten pioneered the approach at Thalians Community Mental Health Clinic, the outpatient arm of CSMC’s department of psychiatry in the early 1970’s. Supported by Dr. Saul Brown and others, she began a certificate program, developed a master’s program and ultimately crafted the graduate program currently at Loyola Marymount University. Her humble explorations spawned over 800 art therapists.
Although art therapy thrived at CSMC for many years, in time the hospital diminished its psychotherapeutic services, closing its out-patient clinic and its art therapy program. Suzanne Silverstein, one of Helen’s earliest students, is the only art therapist at CSCM, currently directing the Share and Care program for at-risk children in the community.
Recently, due to the vision of Dr. Arash Asher, art therapists began providing services in the hospital’s Wellness, Resilience and Survivorship program. The work with cancer patients and survivors has been astonishing; helpful in palpable ways to the participants and compelling in measurable ways to the clinicians.
In a small and poorly equipped kitchen, dozens of cancer patients have found companionship, relief, self-expressive tools and compassion in the special magic that occurs when art making is supportively and knowledgeably facilitated.
This exhibition has been curated to maximize awareness of the experiences the cancer impacted participants are exploring. Often the art powerfully speaks for itself and sometimes the artist’s statements clarify the experiences depicted. The art leads to a deepened awareness of the existential crisis of a cancer diagnosis and a broadened appreciation for the ways that artistic expression can soothe, inform and guide patients, family members and care givers on healing paths.
We look forward to expanding programs, sponsoring research and generally disseminating knowledge. Art therapy contributes to healing and CSMC is taking a bold step to integrate this modality in the services in offers.
I welcome the reflections of Arash Asher M.D., Heather Tarelton Ph.D, and Suzanne Hudson Ph.D. who expand our understandings of this work from their medical, scientific and art history perspectives.
Debra Linesch Ph.D.
Professor, Graduate Department of Marital and Family Therapy
Loyola Marymount University
Considering Rehabilitative Cancer at Cedars-Sinai
A recent study suggests that many medical doctors, educated toward ‘perfection’, experience burnout. I was offered a different perspective when I was gifted a collection of stories by a pioneer in wholistic care, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen. She taught that perfectionism is possibly an addiction in many of our lives. She said that if we experience life as perfectionists, we lose the capacity to experience wholeness. Perfectionists tend to look for what is missing, what is “broken”. Remen suggests that, however difficult it may be, life is never “broken”. When I pursued a career in cancer rehabilitation and supportive care, I reflected on how many of my patients feel “broken” by receiving a cancer diagnosis. Patients seek the best in medical care, hoping to be cured because they feel imperfect. But Remen reminds us that there is a difference between being cured and being healed.
As part of our commitment to treating the whole person, Cedars-Sinai Cancer Center offers programs to bridge the gap between perfection and wholeness. The art therapy programs we have integrated into our Wellness, Resilience, and Survivorship program have been integral to this goal. Believing that creativity has value, the inclusion of art therapy expands the holistic approach. I’ve learned that for some, processing thoughts and feelings through art can provide healing and lessons of wisdom, strength, and courage--in a way no medication can.
Arash Asher, M.D.
Director, Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship
Cedars Sinai Medical Center
Considering Imagery Impacted by Cancer
The long and varied history of art presents a record of human self-reflection and expression, often in the face of shifting circumstance. Instances of transformation are evident throughout. These extend from mythological shape-shifting—externalizing the process of a self that undergoes a passage into something new—to the rather less fantastical (if no less profound) development of a mortal life: through birth or adolescence, marriage or childbirth, sickness or equanimity, aging or death. In the representation of these experiences, we discover bewilderment and pain, crisis and sometimes provisional resolution, even acceptance and joy. Above all, we recognize the mutual hope for connection that animates the act of putting pencil to paper or brush to canvas with the reciprocal engagement of someone there to look at it. Art might serve, first, for the maker, as an attempt to make meaning out of a life, to find in a crisis—of health, as is the case here—a way to cope and to give of this experience to others; then, it continues to matter to those who bear witness to these efforts after they were achieved. We might find in the work of those who have come before us, as well as those who are our contemporaries, a way to access a remote experience. Or we might recognize something differently true, in being much closer at hand. Either way, looking closely and also openly at art extends the possibility for understanding another perspective. The history of art is one of action and reaction, offering and response. This is its gift, and the responsibility it engenders.
Suzanne Hudson Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Art History and Fine Arts
University of Southern California
Holistic Cancer Survivorship: Considering Research
As a molecular biologist and cancer epidemiologist, I have been trained to approach problems with a very objective lens. I’ve focused on implementing interventions in order to understand an exposure-outcome relationship and I’ve excelled at filing observations into pre-existing categories of possibility. And, of course, those observations that don’t fall nicely in line with the average have been discounted as “outliers”.
Through my work with cancer survivors, I have gained a greater appreciation for “patient reported outcomes”...also known as...”what is really bothering the patient the most and serving as a barrier to improved mental and physical health”. In addition to the normative observations of “increased this” or “decreased that”, I have learned that the biggest issues across the board were a loss of identity, a loss of self-efficacy, a loss of all the activities, patterns, thoughts, and experiences that once defined a normal life. A loss.
When I began working in partnership with art therapists to examine the impacts of exercise and art therapy on health and quality of life, I viewed art therapy as another tool by which to intervene on an outcome. However, I have come to appreciate that art therapy is not an intervention tool, but rather a setting of the stage to facilitate gain. To oppose the experience of loss by providing an opportunity for an individual to heal self and the added bonus of a group of survivors finding healing as a community.
My participation in art therapy research has forever changed what motivates me as a scientist and what I value as a research outcome. Consequently, I am not just a more open-minded person. I am a better scholar.
Heather Tarelton Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Health and Human Sciences
Loyola Marymount University
From the Perspective of Student Art Therapists
As second-year graduate students from LMU’s Art Therapy program, we are excited to introduce the focus of our Master’s research project, a concept we coined as exhibition as intervention. Our goal is to create a space that brings awareness to the possibilities of exhibition to amplify the voice and increase empathy between artist and viewer. Originally, our vision was to hold the exhibition at Cedars-Sinai to supplement the 2020 Art Therapy Research Symposium. With COVID-19 placing restrictions on public gatherings, the exhibition had to transform from a physical experience to a virtual one. The catalog which began as our secondary focus to the exhibit, shifted to become the primary source of communicating our intentions. Informed by the literature of our research, we felt a catalog best collected and organized the data, which in this case was the produced work of the artmakers. It is our great privilege to present this catalog with the works of artists engaging in the creative process to make meaning of their experiences with cancer.
Informed by a Gallery Practices Background
The idea of ‘exhibition as intervention’ may seem an audacious one, but it is one that I have been considering for many years now. My experience working in museums and galleries allowed me to be witness to the deep connections possible within this collaborative space of viewing and exhibiting. It gives permission for the artist to continue the creative process and go beyond the product. It allows the viewer intimate, non-verbal experiences which trigger emotions and feelings. For me, to be able to create an exhibition of works of art is to honor every experience felt within the space. As our plans shifted dramatically from the physical to the virtual, my approach on how we would exhibit also had to shift. My belief in a collaborative approach to meaning making has shaped my identity as an art therapist and clinician, and guided my decision to continue to work with the art makers in a collaborative way despite our limitations. I am humbled by the strength and vision of the artmakers to share such intimate experiences with the world and I am proud of what we have accomplished together.
Andrea Lemus Verano
Informed by a Fine Arts Background
With the ever-changing state of our current global climate, our physical exhibition was not immune to adjustments that would shift our approach to the execution of our research project. With the physical experience of the exhibition no longer possible, we shifted to a virtual platform while still maintaining ‘exhibition as intervention’ as our primary goal. With my previous education in studio arts and prior professional experience in graphic design, these skills took the forefront in navigating these new challenges. The art was first viewed from a microscopic level; tenderly removing backgrounds and cleaning up photos, sometimes pixel by pixel. While I did not physically touch the art I found that as much, if not more, attention was given to each piece as opposed to traditional practice of preparing and displaying art, as I wanted to showcase each artwork at its highest level of quality. Microscopic transitioned to a macroscopic focus as the artwork was organized and methodically placed into the catalog. After the artwork was placed into their respective sections based on the context in which they were created; color, value, form, and space, all played a role in the placement of pieces to create the overall design. I believe this catalog showcases a collaborative and creative process of working with the artmakers and using informed experience to create what is before you today.
Continue to Art Psychotherapy Group
The Imagery of Art Therapists Impacted by Cancer