Inspired by Pain
I liked Sinead O’Connor’s music back in the day, but her rage, put me off a little. I had no idea why she was so terribly angry.
Now, having read this article, I know.
The notion of suffering being part of the artist job description is pretty widespread, but open to interpretation.
Some people’s pain inspires creative work so magnificent that the world becomes aware of their torment, though the details may remain obscured. For some, their suffering may yield art that will never be shared with even one other person. It still matters.
During college I did an internship in Art Therapy. Every week I worked with three art therapists and a group of troubled teenagers who rode the proverbial short bus from the seedy sections of Boston (Roxbury, Dorchester, Southie, etc.) to affluent Brookline.
Danny and Marco used art very differently.
Danny was obsessed with airplane disasters. EVERY drawing he did depicted planes cracked in half, consumed by flames, with black smoke filling the sky. When he got overwhelmed by his own art, he ran from the room. It became my responsibility to cajole him back in. I always succeeded, but first we had to play his game, which included swearing at me, hiding so I had to go find him, and threatening to hurt me when I did find him. Underneath the “game” was pain, of course. His father was disabled and, as I learned firsthand, his mother was a BITCH. Danny invited me to dinner at their house. I got permission to go as a covert operative, since he never told the therapists anything about what went on at home. Throughout the entire torturous meal Danny’s mother taunted him, belittled him, and make snide remarks about his “useless” father. Freudian interpretation of Danny’s drawings suggested castration anxiety. My observations seemed to support that theory.
Danny’s art was inspired by his fear and his rage. Pouring them out on paper was the beginning of catharsis. After completing catharsis, he could connect. At least a little.
Marco was equally obsessed with his popsicle stick house. Each week he got right down to business and worked straight through to the end of the session, usually skipping snack. None of the kids EVER skipped snack, and with good reason. Marco never told us about life at his house either. But his younger brother Andre did. Theirs was a single parent household. Mom had many male “friends”, most of whom were involved in gang activities. Chaos. Poverty. Violence. Over the months, Marco created a multi-story popsicle stick house with several rooms. Once the house was complete, he used more popsicle sticks to build tiny furniture. Then he carefully painted everything in vibrant hues. We suggested he create some people to live there. He made only one. Himself. He created a space where he controlled everything. A home that was clean, safe, and well-appointed.
Marco’s art was also inspired by his fear and his anger. To cope, he built a better world in the most literal sense.
Though I have no contact with either, both boys continue to inspire me. I write things out of my system that have to be gotten out. And I create worlds for my characters, worlds I can visit whenever I need to.
Is writing ever “therapy” for you?
And now, Sinead O’Connor
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