Mary Rockwood Lane, R.N., M.S.N. is a painter and a nurse. She experienced art and healing first hand as she painted herself out of a severe depression during a divorce. From what she learned in that experience she became the co-founder and co-director of the Arts in Medicine program at University of Florida, Gainesville and founded their artist in residence program. She has led and developed that program for over five years and she now is doing research in art and healing for her P.H. D. in nursing at University of Florida, Gainesville. Her P.H.D theses is on the patient�s lived experience of art and healing and the research for it is in progress. It will be the first advanced degree in art and healing in the medical field. She has written many articles on art and healing in nursing and medical journals and is a recognized leader in the field. She lectures and teaches workshops on art and healing across the worldwide and helps medical centers and artists set up art and healing programs. She lives in Gainesville, Florida and has three children. She is co-author of Art As A Healing Force, to be published by Harper Collins San Francisco in 1998.
Mary�s story: �in the beginning, it was from my personal experience of using art as a way for my own healing. At this time in my life, when I was most ill, I rediscovered the artist within me. I began to live art as a way to heal myself. In fact I remembered the moment that I felt empowered as an artist. I was deeply involved in painting and I had a shift and made contact with something that was healing.. I discovered an aspect of me that rejuvenated my spirit and I began to feel stronger and more alive. Reclaiming this artist within me definitely facilitated my recovery.
This happened several years ago when I was extremely ill. I was going through a very difficult divorce. I was outraged. I was in rage, depressed, and extremely out of control. All my resources that I understood in my life had collapsed, and I was drowning. I was not able to deal constructively with my life, with my children, or with my friends. I was in therapy, but I wasn�t making any movement. My world collapsed and it was all being taken away from me. I was surrounded by my grief and I couldn�t see past it. I was in a place of darkness and despair. I remember the therapist saying to me. �its time to do something different with your rage and your grief�, and it had been a long time, many years of being in this place.
In a lucid moment, I decided to abandon my fears of being a painter, something I had always dreamed of being, and had never given myself permission to be, because I never felt good enough. Finally I did not think �what was good enough?� At that time, I felt so devastated, that the fear of inadequacy was minute compared to what I now experienced as a much greater and painful loss. In my memory I remember the way this happened like a slow motion movie. . I walked out of the therapist�s office. I was at the end of my rope. It was a rainy drizzling day, it seemed like life was going on without me. I was deeply depressed. My body was in such pain that I wanted to fall down and die. I remember walking up to a large muddy puddle. I could see my refection in the mud. I thought about just of falling down in it. I glanced up and there was a slow moving car hesitantly driving towards me. As I looked at it I flashed on the face of a woman I recognized. It was my friend Lee Ann. She was a painter. She came up and rolled down the car window, �Why don�t I take you to breakfast and I�ll take you to my studio and you can start painting�. She took me to breakfast and fed me greasy bacon and eggs and then she took me to the studio. I remembered how I had always wanted to be an artist. I had always wanted to paint. I took out a large canvas and did not even know how to hold a brush. I looked though magazines and saw a picture of a woman who was broken and distorted. That was how I felt.
I started painting. I got excited about the colors of the paint, how the shapes were on the paper. My painting was large and it started to look like something, most importantly it looked like my pain and it looked like how I felt. I forgot about how I felt and looked at how I felt. I got excited about the making of the painting. Then I got another canvas and started painting pictures of woman. They were all distorted in the beginning. I painted garish backgrounds, I took images and photos of myself and I started painting myself. I become absorbed in the process and painted how I felt, instead of thinking of how I felt. I started thinking about how to paint my life�. Next, I created a studio space for myself and simply began painting. I painted feverishly. In the beginning, I made no attempt to define myself or my process. I painted from pure feeling states. I became absorbed in the pure expression and gesture of painting. I could completely release my energy passionately on the canvas. The series turned out to be self portraits
. The first painting I called �Cut Out My Heart.� It was my pain, a deeply intense and dying pain. The figure was broken, distorted, diffuse, crumpled, crying, and bleeding. I painted �her.� This figure had been my despair, my uncensored and purely emotional energy. And in the moment I had released this image, I stepped back and looked. Gasp. What I saw was an aspect of myself that I couldn�t face, it was so ugly. Yet I was calm and detached. I had let go on an intense emotional and physical level. I backed away, left the studio, and went home. When I returned, I saw that the image had captured and contained a moment that was now past. Then, I had an incredible insight. The painting remained an object that contained an image created in genuine and immediately felt expression, and I now had moved past it. I realized that there was movement and I was witnessing my own transformation. As I painted this series of self-portraits, in each painting I struggled with form and perspective. Metaphorically I was recreating and reconstructing my inner form and inner perspective. The external creative process mirrored my inner world. I realized the manifestation of movement and change was powerful and it was a process of knowing myself. As I immersed myself in the painting, I not only became well, but clearly became the artist I had always wanted to be, a part of myself I had neither acknowledged nor honored.
It was from this personal experience that I became clear that art could be used as a vehicle for healing. My creative process is painting and this reflects my inner experience of healing in a particular series of portraits. It is my relationship to these portraits that has created this awareness and transformational process in my own life. Art became a way to know myself through the experience of the personal pain that I painted. In seeing it, I could step away. I became the artist, and the series of paintings remained as the physical creation of pain. They we now my art, completely separate from me. It was a tangible experience of growing away from the place of the images. And I was free.