Tuesday, January 28, 2014

#CBR6 Review #03: Art is a Way of Knowing by Pat Allen

I read this book as a part of my readings for a class in art therapy fundamentals. Personally, I think that this book is more suited to those who have an interest in art therapy, or particularly like the tales of people’s personal journeys. Because that is what this book is: the recounting of Pat Allen’s personal journey once she understands what art can do for her in an emotional and spiritual way. It also lays out some exercises and suggestions as to how the everyday person might come to explore their own soul and life through creating art. But would these tactics work for everyone as profoundly as they did for Allen? Maybe for some, but definitely not for others. That is the nature of art therapy, though, isn’t it?

Art is a Way of Knowing begins with Allen laying out how one can come to explore using art themselves, and as she does so, begins recounting some of the early events in her life. Things come into much more detail once she reaches discussing her time studying art, and finding that she did not understand the purpose of it anymore, only to come across some of the ideas of art therapy pioneer, Margaret Naumburg. It is from there that Allen really delves into telling about her life and how she explored different events of it using art and meditative tactics. These includetimes of depression, the birth of her daughter, and the death of her father.

Allen’s story and journey is presented in an intensely intimate manner, and it almost felt invasive to hear all of these details about her life and what she was experiencing. But that also made it quite moving to be able to share in the experience and really come to know her on a deep level. However, sometimes I wondered how she actually communicates with people in real life: her writing is quite whimsical and has metaphors throughout, particularly those discussing the “river” of the unconscious and trying to reach it. Sometimes I found this to be a bit frustrating, especially when you read about her life so closely and just want her to get help for her issues, which are clearly there, and yet she just keeps spinning the wheels and speaking with fanciful elusiveness.

At the end of the day, I am incredibly interested in art therapy (hence why I am beginning to take courses on it in university), and I too have personally experienced using the art process as a way of healing myself during times of loss. Because of this, I highly connected with Allen’s story in Art is a Way of Knowing. And yet, I can definitely see how some might not find it as interesting, and maybe even find it a bit cloying at times. But if you have an interest in art therapy, or enjoy recounts of personal spiritual journeys (as I mentioned earlier), you may also find that you enjoy this book. Particularly as a quick read, as it comes in just over 200 pages, and includes some photograph’s of Allen’s work along the way (which I must say, are quite diverse and all very intriguing in how she comes to see them).

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read website]

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