matisse for well-being

I spent hours this week leading Matisse-inspired art projects, and I’m left with one burning question: Why aren’t Matisse’s collages and cut-outs prescribed to people of all ages, in large colorful doses?

In the ArtLab at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, I led one workshop with the residents of the Quarry Hill Extended Care Community

and another with young children from the Camden Rockport Elementary School.

In both workshops I observed The Matisse Effect, which opened the door to a dreamy image: I saw doctors, teachers, and parents, directing their patients, students, and children toward Matisse for some happiness and clear-minded equilibrium.

The affect of a person –young or old– spending even a little bit of time looking closely at Matisse’s lyrical work is so clear, so strong, and so affecting

that perhaps it’s too obvious that the work of this artist (along with the work of many other artists) is like medicine, like music, like meditation . . .

it energizes and inspires . . . it calls out to you and you can’t help but reach for color and shape

you can’t help but dive deep into your own primal need to compose, to combine, to arrange, to play . . .

The collage windows below were created by elderly folks in the extended care community

and the elementary school children created these greeting cards (along with nearly twenty more!)

Matisse’s language, the language of color and shape, is a language we’re all born innately understanding. Perhaps we don’t hear it enough (by spending long, quiet time in solitude with his great clear work) and perhaps we don’t speak it enough (by continually playing with color and form and composition). But it’s clear that when given space and time and a few materials, the language is still there, and we all have so much to say . . .