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Published November 09, 2011, 11:30 PM

Rediscovering art brings us view of beauty

Like many of us, my first foray into the world of art was through crayons.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices blogger, INFORUM

Like many of us, my first foray into the world of art was through crayons.

I distinctly remember my drawing of a bunny at the age of 4, with all body parts made of circles. It won a prize at the birthday party, perhaps only because it looked like a cartoon bunny … some of the others were more “abstract.”

I don’t remember doing much visual art in grade school. I tried the violin for a couple of years, and was a disappointing piano student. Sorry, Mrs. Burns. I did enjoy singing in chorus and high school musicals and can’t believe my shy self had the guts to sing solos and remember lines.

I lacked the precision needed for dance team, but never thought to explore creative dance. I did not take art class in high school. Looking back, I wish I had, but probably felt I needed more science classes.

My mother Marge took many art classes as we were growing up, and we sometimes came home to a kitchen table filled with the medium du jour. With seven kids at home, it was hard for her to get things done, as she didn’t have a dedicated space to work in. She was very talented, and I am happy to have a piece with deep purple tulips with gold-leaf accents.

Our family titled the piece “Museum Quality” somewhat teasingly after she told us her instructor felt it belonged in a gallery. I also have several of her watercolors at my office. She is really my inspiration for appreciating art.

In college, I began to appreciate art. Professor Albert Elsen took us through the ages, giving art historical and cultural context. I recall Giacometti sculptures and seeing the light in Rembrandt’s work. I took a trip to San Francisco’ Museum of Modern of Art and discovered the work of Arthur Dove. I was thrilled to see an Arthur Dove painting at the Plains Art Museum a few years ago. It made me feel like I was an art connoisseur.

During medical school in Dallas, our first major event as new students was a welcome party at the home of Mrs. McDermott, the widow of the founder of Texas Instruments. Her art collection was the highlight of her home, and I saw the work of Monet, Chagall and others up close and personal. She also funded seasonal landscaping at the school, reinforcing the importance of beauty in the environment, even in a county hospital setting.

My first piece of art was a photograph I received from my parents for Christmas. The picture by Lynn Fundingsland, longtime director of the Fargo Housing Authority, was of an old wooden house with peeling white paint and a clothesline full of colored laundry gracing the front lawn. The juxtaposition of the peeling paint and the freshly-washed vibrant clothes appealed to me.

I have had the opportunity to purchase art for personal pleasure and gifts. I have focused on local art as I feel there is such incredible talent in our area, and in some cases, I have the opportunity to interact with the artists. My office is filled with color and interesting pieces that bring pleasure and spark conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever left the Spring Gala or the Eighth Street Art Fair without new art!

In my work, I seek to restore beauty to those who, by trauma or time, feel they’ve lost their beauty. Having an appreciation for art has inspired my clinical practice in surprising ways.

I’ve come full-circle, and have discovered that little artist inside once again. I’ve gone from bunnies to butterflies and have created two butterfly paper collages. One was sold at a charity auction and the other was commissioned by a mother for her daughter’s birthday in exchange for a DMF (Dakota Medical Foundation) donation.

The act of writing these columns is a creative expression that I didn’t know I was capable of until I set my mind and my fingers to do the work. I also truly enjoy the crayon drawings and mixed media pieces (can you say macaroni and finger paint?) of my son, Grant.

Now that I know more about art, I am excited to give him various experiences to see what he likes – music, dance, theater and visual arts. Research shows that studying and practicing the arts enhances creativity, cognition and learning.

Peter Benson, a leading social scientist from our area, said that the arts are the number one “spark” for young people to lead a successful life and provide learning that helps them “find a sense of purpose and know who they are.”

Maybe all of us should rediscover art in our own way. It’s said that taking time for creative play helps us recharge our personal batteries. It could be just the spark we need.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com to share her thoughts on beauty, wellness and life.

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