Reading an article on ecopsychology in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, I was struck by the phrase “soft fascinations” used by attention-restoration theorists to describe qualities in nature that may replenish cognitive function.  They were referring to bubbling brooks and rustling leaves, but could have ben describing my paintings.  I am wondering if certain kinds of art, and not just my paintings, might not be referred to as “soft fascinations” and be equally  effective at replenishing brain function.  This could be studied and quantified.   Maybe it has been.  I do know that hospitals and health care facilities are more and more hanging art on their walls, with probably varying results due to the specific artworks involved.

Certainly making my art has been therapeutic for me, in many ways, and probably like most people, I have memories of cathartic or healing experiences of other art.  For instance, walking into a video installation by Steina at SITE Santa Fe in a confused physical/emotional state, spending twenty minutes there and walking out clear-headed and exhilarated.  Steina’s video work consisted of multiple tracks of rushing water, amazingly manipulated and distorted   Perhaps the natural imagery was essential to its organizing effect on my organism!  Sitting in the installation was like standing on a rocky coast, but visually  intensified.  Agnes Martin once compared the contemplation of her paintings to  sitting and watching waves lap on a beach.

I don’t mean to narrow the value of any artwork to its therapeutic effect – good art is obviously much more than that.   It moves us on many levels, dialogues with the history of art, and inspires critical reflections of all sorts.  Art is chosen, shaped and edited by the artist; it doesn’t grow on its own, like a forest.  But as it may be imbued with the nature of the artist and perhaps the nature of the materials it is made of, it may have a felt power of its own, similar to the power of wilderness to stir and awaken us.