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Art and Wellness

Art and Wellness
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During this period of Lockdown many of us are feeling isolated and facing difficult personal challenges, with our wellbeing often being overlooked. Finding fun online activities to do together is a wonderful way to distract from the current situation, letting your creativity flow and connecting with one another. Our life drawing class, Drink & Draw moved online last April and has gone from strength to strength, providing a welcoming community and the opportunity to learn a new skill and have fun while you do it! Through guided poses and casual chat, seasoned artists and first-timers alike are invited to explore the images they are presented with through various themes, poses and narratives.

Art has long history with wellbeing; however, the stigma of the mad artist has been shaken off and has been replaced with a form of creativity that takes care, that offers a pause in trying times, a fresh perspective, and one that has no subscribed form. Wellbeing covers our social, emotional, mental and physical health, and art helps to maintain a balance between the different aspects of our busy and stressful lives. The science behind the impact of art on mental health is resoundingly positive with the Government, WHO, and NHS all reporting statistics sensibility showing the benefits of art for every age group and background. Recognised globally for its social and therapeutic effects, art offers a holistic healing that opens up communication, observation, a material, freedom of expression and a joy that no medicine can.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, courtesy of www.FridaKahlo.org

Frida Kahlo is well known for her enigmatic paintings, but before she started to paint, she aspired to be a doctor, being accepted into a prestigious medical school in Mexico. However, a near fatal accident with a trolley broke her spinal column, collar bone, ribs, crushed her foot and pierced her abdomen, leaving her in a full body cast for several months. During this time, Kahlo’s father set up painting materials over her bed so she could occupy herself, and it ignited a passion that is now celebrated internationally. As a result of her life changing injuries, Frida Kahlo suffered from many bouts of depression, and is suspected of also having PTSD and bipolar disorder. However, art was Kahlo’s solace and enabled her to pour her physical and mental pain into exquisite imagery that also helped others to connect with her and their own similar struggles.

Sam Taylor Johnson, 'Pietà,' 2001.

Sam Taylor-Johnson physically challenged her physical body in her video work ‘Pietà,’ in which the artist, suffering from cancer at the time, holds Robert Downey Jr. across her lap – himself recovering from addiction, in a pose replicating Michelangelo’s work by the same name, portraying the Madonna revealing the body of Christ after his Crucifixion. Not only did Taylor-Johnson take inspiration from an emotionally powerful work but added her own layer of both suffering and resilience in her interpretation.

At Leyden Galley we have a history exploring wellbeing and art, holding two events last year at the Harley Street Health Clinic in 2020 looking at fashion, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, mind, body and enterprise alongside artist, Tina Crawford, another woman artist using personal experiences to produce reflective and intimate pieces. We continue our work with the community, joining Aldgate Business Improvement Districts with 4 exclusive Drink & Draw sessions as part of their free Virtual Wellbeing Month starting on the 15th of February. Offering a variety of free workshops throughout the month, Aldgate BIDs aims to reconnect to their community through supporting local businesses and rejuvenating this historical London district.

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