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Washington State University

Co-curated by students from the Spring 2021 Museum Procedures class, this summer exhibition introduces works from the permanent collection that represent relationships among art, health, and healing.

Many people intuitively feel that spending time with art has positive effects on the mind and the body. Do experiences of art really effect our well-being? How can we explain this? As part of a new Art & Healing collaboration with Pullman Regional Hospital, staff and students working at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU in Spring 2021 sought to identify explanations and examples of art’s connection to health and well-being.

This exhibition of works from the museum’s Jim Dine and Corita Kent print collections helps demonstrate some of the healing aspects of art: Rich and vibrant use of color may make the viewer feel strong and healthy, while cool colors or pastels may be found soothing and calming. Likewise, organic imagery and references to plants and animals may be found life-affirming, reminding viewers of the incredible resiliency of the natural world. The bold strokes and shapes as well as the finer gestural lines and textures found in these works reference the art-making process itself, which is often regarded as therapeutic in its own right. Song lyrics and quotations by well-known authors are also made visible in Corita Kent’s art, reminding the viewer that the performing arts and literature are also part of art and healing. Finally, attending to each detail of a work of art is an act of mindfulness in itself, centering us in the present moment.

Prints by Jim Dine and Corita Kent represent significant parts of the museum’s permanent collection. Both artists were influenced by and associated with the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and 70s, though for different reasons. Jim Dine works from a vocabulary of iconic yet autobiographical imagery, including the hearts and bathrobe included here. Corita Kent borrowed and manipulated imagery from magazines and packaging, emphasizing affirmative, celebratory, spiritual, and playful interpretations. While Dine’s art is rooted in personal expression and Kent’s in a collective welfare, both artists’ sensibilities champion love as a unifying theme of humankind. These qualities, along with others mentioned above, are part of the reason the visual arts play a powerful role in our mental and physical well-being as viewers and as artists.