ARTS & COLLECTIBLES

HOW ART CAN BRING WHOLENESS AND HEALING

When art collector and author Lorena Junco Margain fled Mexico suddenly with her family while pregnant, she needed to make her new house feel like home and help heal the wound of her uprooting. So, she filled it with art.

LORENA JUNCO

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When referring to art, the English word “curation” describes the process of selecting pieces for presentation and giving cohesiveness to a body of work. In Spanish, though, the same word, “curación”, has an added layer of meaning: to disappear an illness, wound, or physical injury to a person. In other words, to heal.

I grew up in Mexico, and this tandem meaning has shaped my perception of art, its curation and creation. Art is more than a collection of objects that fill and decorate a space. Art—whether created by others or oneself—brings wholeness to a space. In doing so, it heals both the space and those within it. In many ways this concept has saved my life.

When my family made the painful decision to leave Mexico in 2008 due to concerns for our safety, I was pregnant with my third child. I was nervous and scared to let go of friends, history and everything familiar. Our new house in the US was a blank canvas, a wide open, empty space. In the foyer, I installed a parade of giant hammered brass ants that marched up the staircase wall. I filled the dining and living areas with enormous works from my favorite artists to bring a breath of Mexico into our new house, making it feel like home and helping heal the open wound of our uprooting.

I created a display with several dozen colorful little round boxes from India. I attached the boxes to the wall. On white scrap paper, I wrote a good intention for each box: Stay patient. Speak your truth. Be open. A spiritual healer suggested that I consider these intentions as silent prayers, think about what they mean to me and act on that meaning. Doing so was a balm on the wound.

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There’s a sacred space in my home that I call my “grateful corner.” Overflowing with gifts that came directly from the heart of the giver—strange little figurines, embossed cards, ornate picture frames, and even a little bottle of chalky liquid that was supposed to be the breast milk of Mary, Mother of Jesus. This corner is, in its own unique way, a piece of art. After a surgeon’s devastating mistake left me with a lifetime of medical issues and a second surgery left both my body and my spirit in pain, I desperately sought comfort, positivity, and light. I began expanding my grateful corner, decking it out with cards, letters, trinkets, small works of art. Meditating beside it, I envisioned myself at the center of a swirling galaxy of love, where my family surrounded me. Every item is a concentrated dose of loving energy that blessed me in the moment I received it and continues to help mend my soul.

The act of creating art, too, is healing. It’s no secret that art therapy can improve well-being and even restore certain physical functions. But outside this formal framework is a whole world of possibilities for leaning on art creation as a path to healing oneself. In the aftermath of my botched surgery, I made a unique dream catcher composed of different objects I’ve collected along this journey. A malachite—the rock of the heart chakra—representing me and my prayers for the dream of survival. A black feather representing grief illuminated by a chance to spread my wings and keep flying. Tiny goldcolored plant pots open to receiving any burst of life. Leaves signifying a changing of life’s seasons and my own metamorphosis into my new self. With each new object I added, another piece of the story of this journey settled into place. Completing it has helped me process the journey; seeing it now, time and again, keeps my perspective on it evolving and the healing alive.

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Art crafts us as we craft it. It crafts and re-crafts us as we view it. With art, we evolve side by side.

You may be thinking, “that is beautiful, but I am not an artist or a collector.” Don’t let that hold you back! There are all sorts of ways art can help everyone find wholeness and healing:

Weave your own meaning into artwork you view or bring home

 

I have a sculpture called The Skull (Exploded): The Dream is Dead by Damien Hirst. An aching jaw drops away from jagged cheekbone fragments. The forehead hovers above the void where a face should be, held up by slender titanium rods, and the crown flies apart in shards, leaving only a glimpse of what a human head should look like. To me, it captures precisely what it feels like to have a migraine. This may not be what the artist intended the sculpture to convey, but I have written my own meaning into it. Looking at it helps me channel my pain and put it in perspective when a migraine sets in.

Learn about the artist’s inspiration in creating a piece

 

Art is an experience created in equal parts by the one who offers it, and the one who receives it. A piece’s meaning might change or amplify if you understand how it was conceived. This new level of understanding can change the way a piece affects you. You might fall in love with a watercolor for example, or a ceramic figurine, in a way you never expected after hearing its story. This love and the story it’s built on has a unique healing power of its own.

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Gather objects that speak to you to create your own art

Stones, leaves, scraps of paper, greeting cards, flower petals: when something catches your eye or your heart, gather it into a dedicated place in your home. Maybe you create a special corner where you display them; maybe you keep them in a decorative box or bin. You can also use them to create compositions such as my dream catcher that will help make you whole.

Tell a story for each object

Personally, I am always in the process of storytelling through art. Each object I collect inspires a sentiment; I associate each sentiment with a moment, an experience, an intention or a wish. Think about this as you contemplate each object. Let the stories take on a life of their own beyond the objects. This pageless variation of visual journaling is a powerful way of bringing out sentiments that are just below the surface and can be very therapeutic.

The best part about the journey of artistic “curación:” you don’t need to be an artist or to purchase pricey art. Art, and the tools for creating it, are all around us and accessible to all.

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