After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Mary Andrus (the art therapy program director) and I formed Art for Social Change (ASC), a Lewis & Clark group that spans all three campuses and includes faculty, students and staff that use art as a means of catalyzing social change through raising awareness of social injustices and providing spaces for healing. After our first proposal was met with criticism from the Law School and members of our organization we began to consider how art not only has the power for social change, but also for erasure and enforcing the status quo. This pushback led to the installation of community guidelines written by two BIPoC members of our organization and a meeting with the Office of Equity and Inclusion. It also led to an important consideration for all of our future pieces: how can we create installations that raise awareness about social issues on campus, without erasing the experiences of BIPoC students, exploiting their pain, or extending an empty gesture?
This question led to my Masters in Science research on this very subject. The artwork featured here comes from my art journal that I completed during the first phase of my research. I have included this less polished material as an example of how art therapy can look during a research study: raw, expressive, and less focused on beauty.
I have also included a more humorous piece in the final art show that relates to my own identity as an art therapist and researcher entitled “Cthul-Who is She?” In one of our classes we were asked to create artwork that represents our research persona. My piece combined my practice/ research in sexuality with an image of Cthulhu, a Lovecraftian God of death and destruction. The resulting absurdist imagery challenges the viewer and challenges the field of Art Therapy. Cthulhu lounges above the viewer, posed like Burt Reynolds, inviting us to recognize the absurdity of sex, life, death, and art itself. This piece speaks to my Master’s in Science research which challenges a field that at times takes itself too seriously and looks for deeper meaning where perhaps there might not be any.
Title: Catalyst or Distraction?: Preliminary Results From An Arts-Based PAR Study on Meaningful Campus Art Activism