Month: January 2015

Keeping sane while maintaining the craziness: Art according to neurologists

Perusing FB this morning, I came across a Huffington Post article discussing a study that suggests that making art is good for your brain. I feel obliged to offer this article with a few grains of proverbial salt as it only canvassed 28 subjects, however it’s conclusions are encouraging – and why let a few details get in the way of a good theory!

After 10 weeks of actively producing art vs 10 weeks of art appreciation, it was found that:

“After comparing the before-and-after tests, the team led by neurologists Anne Bolwerk and Christian Maihofner observed “a significant improvement in psychological resilience” as well increased levels of “functional connectivity” in the brain amongst participants of the visual art production group. The art-appreciation group fared worse on both.”

The irony is that they then show a picture of Jackson Pollock in action to make some kind of bizarre point – not 100% sure what that’s all about –Jackson? Really? If there was any one that suggested that art, mental health and short spectacular lives might be linked, it could possibly be Jacko!

Still as the article points out, Picasso, Matisse (and I’d like to add Dali and Margaret Ollie – the list goes on and on) all painted prolifically to a ripe old age. There is a link to another article that discusses neural activity in creatives – also a rather tiny sampling, but definitely encouraging for the active artists out there!

Personal experience tells me that the act of creation involves many facets of my brain and acts as a form of ‘mindfulness’ (all the rage in psychiatric circles at the moment). There is no time to think of the past or future – it’s an act that lives in the moment. Recent studies suggest that mindfulness is incredibly beneficial to mental wellbeing. Interestingly, doing gallery duty last month with a gang of spritely and elderly artists, I was overwhelmed by their energy, enthusiasm and repertoire of filthy jokes. By comparison I walk past a lovely lady every morning who I chat with occasionally of a similar age who really struggles with health issues and sometimes fails to recognise me. Perhaps I’ve inadvertently seen a snapshot of what this article is suggesting? Who knows. I’m not a neurologist or a psychologist, but I have to agree with the quote below from Judy Chicago:

Artists don’t retire. Every artist’s dream is to drop dead while they’re working.” Maybe it’s not their dream, it’s just their M.O.”

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