What can art do to help us? In the midst of a global health crisis, this question becomes even more urgent. While museums remain shuttered in many nations, there is science-backed evidence that seeing or making art can play a crucial role in healing our bodies and minds.
French neuroscientist, musician, and author Pierre Lemarquis has recently published a book on this fascinating subject. L’art Qui Guérit (translated: Art That Heals) takes the readers on an art tour through the centuries, spanning the Paleolithic period until the end of the 20th century, interpreting works through the lens of their healing powers—both for the viewer and the maker. The author weaves together art history, philosophy, and psychology while citing astounding current findings from his field of neuroscience about the healing power of art.
Research on the subject has been accumulating for some years. A 2019 World Health Organization report, based on evidence from over 3000 studies, “identified a major role for the arts” prevention of illnesses. And in 2018, doctors in Montreal, Canada, made headlines when they started prescribing patients who suffer from certain diseases with museum visits to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
“A current is making its way in this direction,” says Lemarquis on a video call with Artnet News. He divides his time between actively “bringing back” the arts to the medical profession, working as a clinical neurologist, and teaching brain function at the University of Toulon in southern France....
When We See Art, We ‘Participate’ In Its Creation
In the last couple decades, neurological findings have shed light on what happens to the brain when it experiences art. Lemarquis’s book details this new sub-field of “neuroaesthetics” which uses technologies like functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to examine which brain pathways are engaged by either making or contemplating an artwork, and to what extent they are stimulated.
Analyzing symbolism and subject matter, Lemarquis also writes that feelings of “rebirth” are made possible. He cites visits to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, as well as Niki de Saint Phalle’s giant 1966 sculpture, the HON – en katedral, where visitors could enter the sculpture’s vaginal opening.
What may seem intuitive, but is scientifically demonstrated in Art That Heals, is that art of all kinds acts on our brains in a multi-faceted, dynamic way. Neural networks are formed to achieve heightened, complex states of connectivity. In other words, art can “sculpt” and even “caress” our brains. So when we say a work of art moves us, that is physically the case.
Original article on artnet >>