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11/07/2010


The Healing Power of Art • by Peggi Meyer Graminski


Peggi Meyer GraminskiWhen I first visited CRESCENDOh.com the words "Art Saves" caught my attention right away. Yes, art does indeed save — I believe this to be true; it consoles, it heals, it raises our spirits, and it saves. I know, for it has saved me over and over again...

When I was a child, growing up in a large family with three older siblings (and one younger brother) I was always coloring, or drawing, or writing stories to go along with the pictures I made. I spent many hours letting my imagination wander, up in the attic surrounded by my box of 100 Crayola crayons and construction paper. While downstairs my family discussed the Vietnam war, which son would drive the family car that night, my aunt's fight against breast cancer, and other topics I as a child was understandably left out of, I was able to create my own world of castles, and princesses, flowers and seashores. My love of art had blossomed, and it has stayed close to me my whole life.

The First Time
The first time I knew that art had saved me was when my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer was already in its final stage and her health rapidly deteriorated. At the time I was married and the mother of two — my daughter was 10 and my son, eight. We lived in the same town in Arizona as my parents, and we always did everything together — hiking the canyons, getting together for Sunday dinners, taking the kids to swimming lessons in the summer, enjoying the holidays, watching the stars from my parents backyard on warm summer evenings. Those were the best of times ... but when my mom became ill it was as though the world had stopped ... my doctor prescribed anti-depressants and muscle relaxers for me and they helped somewhat. I was able to be there for my mom, and my dad, and my children — and at night when the house was quiet I would completely immerse myself in my artwork, pouring my despair into each collage, often attempting to incorporate an element of hope, putting all the words I couldn't voice into each piece I created. More than any medicine my doctor prescribed, I knew it was my art that was keeping me sane. When my mother passed away in May 2000, on Mother's Day, I continued to create these mixed-media collages and also began working with Paint Shop Pro, teaching myself how to create digital collages and altering photographs — it was an excellent therapy, and allowed me to work through many of my feelings during that time.

The Second Time
In 2005 my wonderful Dad was told that his prostate cancer, which he had been living with for several years, was spreading and worsening. Since my mom had passed away, my dad had become very close to my husband and me, and our children. He had always loved art, and during that time we enrolled in printmaking classes together at the local college and he helped a friend start up and manage an art gallery in Bisbee, Arizona. All through his illness, up to the last few weeks of his life, he stayed active with his art, and his life, and by watching how he handled himself with such grace and dignity I was encouraged to make it through this time. After he passed away in 2006, I was again "lost" and I turned once more to my artwork. I look back now at my blog, at the art I created during that time and my pain and loss, to me, is evident in each piece — but when I look closer I also see another process taking place — healing and strength returning.

What I've Learned
I know now that life can bring the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. I know that sometimes things will happen, and we have to find our own peace with them, we have to keep moving forward, one step at a time by being grateful for the things in the past that brought us joy, finding personal strength in them and a higher force. I also know that art will always be with me. I have always tried to "put on a happy face", but I believe it is important to acknowledge that pain and sorrow have touched my life, and that overall I am stronger and hopefully more compassionate now because I made it through those times. I am proud to be an artist, and I am honored when someone looks closely at a piece I've created and tells me it "speaks" to them. We are all artists — each one of us needs to find our own special creative outlet that allows us to bare our souls, our fears, our joys, and ultimately allows us to heal ourselves. Art connects us to each other, and it will save us if we let it.

Peggi Meyer Graminski is a mixed-media artist who lives in Glen Carbon, Illinois with her husband and two children, and a spoiled (but super cute) Maltepoo, named Holly. To see more of her work, visit desertphotography.blogspot.com. She may be reached by e-mail at peggi_meyer_graminski@yahoo.com.

Peggi Meyer Graminski

Peggi Meyer Graminski

Peggi Meyer Graminski

Peggi Meyer Graminski

Peggi Meyer Graminski

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