The American Art Therapy Association represents a diversity of professionals, students, and organizations across the nation. We recognize and celebrate the work of our members at all levels through our Featured Member series.
“Sabino Canyon in Tucson, Az is one of my favorite places. Being surrounded by nature is at once calming and exhilarating. The ever-changing landscape in this canyon never fails to amaze me.”
Watercolor, hand cut stamps and ink. 2015.
“I made this piece in response to my fieldwork supervision class. I used watercolor, hand-cut stamps and ink forming each bird stamp to represent a specific supervision group member. The birds perch on a spiral that connects us all. I wanted to represent the energy created and perpetuated by the supervision group. All contribute to the supervision process and are supported by it.”
Plant based oils, essential oils, and botanicals. November 2019.
“For the past several years I’ve dedicated almost all of my creative energy towards making handmade soap and other bath and body products. I normally consider myself a textile artist. I use natural fibers to weave, felt, or make paper; transforming the fibers into something new and useful, be it a scarf or paper. Soap making is a similar process, with a chemical transformation. You can experiment with different natural oils, essential oils, and botanicals to create something new and nourishing for your body. I love the metaphor of transformation and self-care, and the use of plant based materials.”
Sheep wool, bamboo, and driftwood. May 2019.
“The weaving represents the development of my artist and therapist identity by using natural materials from two locations which influenced my growth. My artistic interest started to emerge while attending high school in Pennsylvania, where I was able to create a collection of paintings inspired by human animalistic behaviors. I used my paintings as a self-meditative technique in overcoming my own internal struggles.
My interest in the effect of the creative process on mental health emerged and I pursued mu educational career in art therapy. After my introduction to the Ngwane culture, I found a new internal sense of control through the unmediated method of weaving. My personal beliefs and preferences related to the creative process align with the Gestalt theoretical approach. The weaving process allows me to focus on the environmental sensations and current thought processes. My therapeutic work with patients typically provides individuals with the focus on the here-and-now. The development of coping skills through self-meditation has increased my awareness of self and provided me with the opportunity to increase internal sensations of peace.”
Altered book, repurposed acrylic, and tempera paintings. 2018.
“This art piece was created for our 2018 STATA art show around the theme ‘A Compassionate Community.’ In the piece I was thinking about the importance of honoring the stories that have made us who we are. As a therapist, it is so important to really listen to a client’s experiences, to hear their thoughts and feelings with compassion and curiosity, to believe that they can “bloom” and thrive. I was also thinking about my own journey as a therapist, how I have grown and changed over the years, and remembering to practice self-compassion. As part of that, all of the flowers and leaves were created out of previous artworks I had done – both pieces from graduate school and pieces that I had considered unsuccessful for some reason.”
Graphite on board. 2014.
“Moving fluidly between abstraction and realism, my work examines the intricacies of connection, the human body, memory, and our relationship with the environment. Using found objects, organic material, paint, wax, and drawing mediums, I explore the idea of entropy and the transience of our being. By expounding on patterns that are mirrored between nature and our own anatomy, my intention is to show that everything is a degradation of matter and energy and we are part of a deeper quantum network. The core of what keeps me creating is my curiosity around connection; how we connect to one another, with our environment, and to our own existence. Working as an art therapist deepens this curiosity and has instilled a purpose to provide people with the opportunities to experience the transformative, restorative and healing qualities of art. I am a visual artist, art therapist, and singer/songwriter and all these facets intricately weave together to form an interdisciplinary practice that revolves around healing.”
Mixed media. February 2019.
“This piece was painted from a solo trip I took in Zion National Park. As an art therapist and entrepreneur, I have learned my best practice of self care to is going on a solo trip and hiking. At a point where I felt overwhelmed by professional and personal grief and distress, I took a trip in the winter to Zion National Park where I find by listening to Mother Earth She helps me to become reconnected and grounded. My artist style changes depending what is occurring in my life where I found this journey reminded me on the themes of reflection, slowing down and trust. This piece taught me to see the colors and vibrancy in my own life as the colors on the snow reflected it’s surroundings, when I found myself getting too connected to a desire to make the piece have a specific outcome, I threw paint onto the canvas and when it was dried I revisited the piece and re-established the details with various materials. This pieces says to me, ‘Stop. Look around. Otherwise you’re going to miss it.’ This piece and experience reminded me of not only being present with my clients but on the importance of being present in my own personal life so as to not miss the magic in the ordinary and these moments I will never get back.”
Pencils and oil pastels. June 2019.
“This piece is 1 of 6 in a small-scale series that explores body-focused repetitive disorders by depicting fingernails as a site of tension. Through the time-consuming and repetitive act of rendering hands in various states, I am both examining and reproducing the fixation on this small but highly symbolic area of the body. Why do anxieties often find expression in the picking at and biting of nails? Anatomically, our nails function as tools of protection, aggression and fine-motor manipulation. Socially, we maintain and present our nails to communicate how we want to be seen and understood. They become signifiers of gender, class and ideology. The pairs of images in this series emerge from the fraught intersection of instinct and self-management. The drawings mimic simple diagrams while exploring and complicating categories of woundedness and healing, disorder and order, violence and playfulness, compulsion and depletion, self-expression and self-destruction.”
Handmade paper with pulp printing. 2012.
“This image was from the memorial service for my son who was killed in Iraq in 2007. It was created during a Peace Paper Project workshop at Florida State University sponsored by the FSU Veteran’s Center. The paper was made from the cloth of the dress I bought for his service, which I could never wear again. Cutting the dress into small squares, I released them into water which fed into a machine that slowly ground the fibers down to pulp. I felt a sense of ease and release watching the fibers dissolve the tightness of painful memories and float freely in the cleansing water. The image was created by ‘pulp printing’, spraying fine dyed cotton pulp through a photo stencil; his flag-draped coffin representing the personal cost of war. The finished piece symbolizes my son’s release into spirit as well as my own transformation inspired by his self-less gift of life.”
Acrylic paint. 2018.
“I am fascinated by storm clouds with their quickly changing colors and forms as they build up across the sky. Watching this cloudburst approach across our path as we were driving through South Dakota was one of the most significant storms I have seen. To this day, the power of this storm still has an impact on me.”
Mixed Media 4×6 cards on watercolor paper. 2018.
“When my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer my family and I were devastated. Art was the only way for me to process such an emotional time. I made more art than any time in my life. While sitting in the waiting room, after a long day of caring for many family members during this journey and when I was able to reconnect with nature I would create art in some way. These cards are made up of personal photographs created into digital collages with painted backgrounds. My cards symbolize of what I needed most and as reminders of what I have.”
Silk mandala painting. 2019.
“I create the silk mandalas as an act of self-care to process my day after providing art therapy for my clients. I choose the mandala as it is a container for my feelings, a center point for my process, an ongoing spiritual guide in the work that I continue to do. The silk absorbs the paint, as it absorbs my thoughts, feelings and letting go, unselfishly, so that I might be refreshed to give again.”
Acrylic, collage and ink on paper. 2017.
“Memory is a focal point for much of my work as an artist and art therapist. I am interested in memories that we experience first-hand, as well as memories that are passed down to us. My creative process involves the layering of imagery and mediums. Patterns and symbols are often erased and distorted, while always building over a foundation of what has come before. Some characters are clear and in the foreground, while others are muted and pulse beneath them. It is this process that aids in giving visual form to the complex and ephemeral act of recollection.”
Acrylic paint on cardstock. January 2018.
“As I create, I am influenced by the nature around me in Juneau as well as scenes from different places I have lived or traveled. My artwork consists of themes regarding human nature, commonalities in the human experience, and serves as a type of visual journey of my life. When I create, I desire to make pieces that will resonate with others and create connection between the viewer and the art, or spark a conversation among viewers. I believe my desire to connect with others through my work is part of what led me to the profession of art therapy, as it is a venue where art connects the client and therapist to promote healing.”
Mixed media. 2017.
“My voice is amplified by the layers of my identity. A Muslim, a woman, a Palestinian-Malaysian. I find strength and guidance through my heritage and this mask provides coverage from hatred and animosity. In my work as an art therapist, I strive to recognize and support the layers of identify within every client. Together, we discover the path towards well-being.”
Acrylic paint on canvas. 2017.
“Mākua valley, located on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, was a vital docking point for canoes in ancient Hawaiʻi, and opened to vital fishing grounds. It was and is still a sacred place for Native Hawaiians. Sadly, during WWII, Mākua valley was (and continues to be) occupied by the U.S. military as an ordnance testing site. The destruction of Mākua valley left ancient temples, fishing shrines and wildlife desecrated. Though the military has not conducted live-fire exercises in Mākua valley since 2004, the valley remains full of unexploded ordnances.
As an art therapist, I hope to act as the mountains that protect and surround a valley; providing a space for safety, acceptance, nourishment, and growth. Like the clients I work with, Mākua survived extensive trauma yet it still stands and continues to flourish today.”
“This is a response piece to the continued frustrations dealing with my patients suffering with the broken shelter system. More and more people are coming in dealing with homelessness, and, as a therapist, it is hard not to feel powerless at times. I painted with acrylics, dispelling some frustration and finding it unfinished, found the collage piece that seemed to contain all that energy.”
2018. Acrylic on canvas.
“I started sketching people in public places as a way to pass the time and liven up an otherwise dull commute. What I found was that I developed a remote sense of intimacy with each subject. Public transportation is an odd space in that we all share it, but try our best to interact with others as little as possible.
This scene comprises several sketches from my commute over months. I sketched some of the individuals for almost a full commute, while others were only on the train for a few stops. Even though I do not know anything about any of these people, as I reviewed my sketches and translated them to the canvas, I felt as if I was painting the portraits of long forgotten friends.”
From nursing home portrait series. Pastel on paper. 2004.
“As an artist, my creativity is my voice. It sustains me mentally and emotionally in my best and worst moments. Growing up and in my adulthood, I often find art is my free space in life where I can recharge and gain self-awareness, have a window into myself where I choose to be at ease or be challenged, but ultimately art making for me is a place of change to use to connect with others.”
“This watercolor was created during a demo for one of my art groups. The technique we used incorporated wet on wet watercolor painting and plastic wrap. This technique allows for the beautiful blending of colors while also making space for the emergence of the unintentional and often surprising shapes, marks and patterns left by the lifting of the paint by the plastic wrap.
In a sense, this process invites us to be completely present and intentional while also letting go of control and trusting in the power of the creative process to reveal to us it’s beauty and meaning. I find that the approach required to complete this project is a wonderful metaphor for approaching life in general: maintaining presence in the face of the unknown and trusting in the outcome.”
“The sun represents the overpowering pressure of opposition. Notice the arms and body postures for some individuals in the painting as they enter the struggle. One individual is about to overcome and in the process begins to sink into the earth. Another individual notices the person sinking and prepares to help the individual from sinking deeper.
Each individual in the picture represents many individuals who will one day overcome their struggles, but the impact leaves a sting that changes their view. A view of how they see themselves and the world around them for they will never be the same.”
2016. Mixed media/watercolor.
“I’m able to create art fairly frequently. Most often I use a mixed media technique that I call reverse coloring. The first layer is wet-on-wet watercolor that, when dry, can serve as the basis for a design. It can be as simple as outlining the gradations of colors to create an abstract design – a doodle that results from the outlining of colors instead of coloring in the lines.”
2011. Oil painting.
“As an artist, one of my favorite things to do is to create self-portraits. It’s interesting to see how my style and interpretation of myself change over the course of time. Progression is such an integral part of therapy, so creating art about me helps me as a therapist and challenges me to think about what clients might feel if presented with a similar directive.”
2017. Mixed media.
“I am partial to collage and mixed media because I utilize these materials so often with my clients. “The Tractor” allowed me to revisit a childhood memory and to reframe it in a more self-empowering way.
The smallness of the tin has a secret treasure-feel about it. The altered tin holds my reconstructed memory safely…and tenderly.”
January 2019. Acrylic and graphite on paper.
“This art piece was made during our first Focus Group on Maggie and as I was trying to keep all the pieces together, facilitate the group, and not freak out about the things that had gone wrong before people showed u., I could see the image of hands appearing around the chaos. I immediately brought them out more with color and felt like I was being held by the strong, capable hands of my Creator and I could rest.”
December 2018. Watercolor.
“In recent years I’ve gravitated towards watercolor painting as a mindful self-care practice. I find that focusing on the way the colors mix together and flow across the paper keeps me grounded in the present moment. I enjoy letting go of expectations and seeing what unfolds.”
2015. Oil paint.
“In honor of Edgar Degas. The serenity and peacefulness of the ocean is balanced with the incoming storm cloud. This piece was part of a juried art show, ‘Up Jumped Spring’ hosted by New Rochelle Council on the Arts in 2017.”
“I realize as I look at this now, that to people on the West Coast, ‘Comfort’ may not be their title of choice for this watercolor. However, this painting began as random colors being dripped into a circle. As the colors ran together, a tree began to emerge, and I elaborated on that. I see it as a Yin and Yang balance of intensity and coolness, passion and peacefulness, destruction and growth. That opposites can coexist in the same space brings me comfort.”
January 15, 2020
“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to develop a graduate Art Therapy and Counseling program at West Liberty University in West Virginia. The State is in dire need of mental health and substance abuse practitioners, and this master’s degree will help address community needs.”
January 2, 2020
As we step into the New Year, we wanted to hear from the AATA’s new President Margaret Carlock Russo, EdD, LCAT, ATR-BC, ATCS about the year to come for our association and also take the opportunity to learn a bit more about Margaret as a clinician and an advocate for the field.
December 18, 2019
“My advice for the next generation of art therapists is the same as the advice that was given to me. Use the tools that you offer to others to guide your own path. By employing our own creative process as a resource in our lives, we can understand the personal challenges and rewards of self-investigation. Without our ongoing personal practice, our requests for client involvement in image making can fall flat. I encourage art therapists to use their imaginations to explore, expanding the potential and public awareness of art therapy.”