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Art show explores the search for wholeness

Seeking Wholeness,” an exhibition of mandala-inspired artwork, opened at the Haven Art Gallery in June. This is the sixth exhibition by members of the Odyssey House Art Project, composed of individuals in residential treatment for substance use and/or mental health disorders. This year’s show explores mandalas as symbols of recovery and the search for spiritual wholeness. Artists, including the children of residents in treatment, were encouraged to use a variety of media, including painting, photography, needlepoint and a hand cranked spinning wheel, to capture the spirit embodied in these ancient images and portray how they continue to resonate and guide individuals in search of balance and wholeness.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle.” In various spiritual traditions, mandalas are used as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation. Preeminent psychologist Carl Jung saw the mandala as “an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self.” He encouraged his patients to create them as “movement towards psychological growth, expressing the idea of a safe refuge, inner reconciliation and wholeness.”

Artists interpreted the meaning of mandalas in different ways. Jose, an ElderCare client, created a visual interpretation of the baby boomer experience in the form of a clock. Using cut-out photos he created a circular timeline starting from 1945 to today. A self-taught artist, Jose gradually stopped making art until he joined the Odyssey House Art Project. “I was gratified to find I still had that creativity in me,” he said.

Fred, who entered our adult program in October 2010, found the art program to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences he’s had at Odyssey House. He says it provides balance to the clinical aspect and gives him something to look forward to every day. More than that, the art program has helped him relieve stress and given him a new perspective. “Art has a redemptive power,” he said. “No matter how dark your past is, you can use it to create something beautiful.”

“Seeking Wholeness” will be open through December 23, 2010 at the Haven Art Gallery, 239 E. 121st Street in Harlem. View additional selections from the exhibition on our website.

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