This fall, the MPS Art Therapy Department is presenting “Valetudo: Art and Healing in Provence,” an exhibition of works made by psychiatric patients at the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul in the southern French town of Saint-Rémy, at the Westside Gallery,141 West 21st Street, August 31 – September 18; there is a reception on Monday, September 13, 6 – 8pm.
Saint-Rémy has near-mythical status among artists and art historians as the place where Vincent Van Gogh spent a highly productive year from 1889 – 90, following his voluntary internment at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental hospital. It is here that the artist made renowned paintings like Irises and The Starry Night, just two of more than 150 paintings produced during his stay. “Valetudo”—curated by Dr. Jean-Marc Boulon, chief psychiatrist and director of the institution, along with Laurence Minard-Amalou, a private licensed tour guide in Provence—features recent paintings made in a studio setting by psychiatric patients at the women’s clinic of the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul (as the hospital in Saint-Rémy is now known), along with their written testimonials and photographic documentation of their community.
For the art therapy and mental health community, the exhibition also offers a reminder of the role of culture in practitioners’ training and methodologies. “Art therapists must recognize that there are significant differences across cultures and be fully cognizant of how these impact the therapeutic encounter,” says Deborah Farber, chair of the MPS Art Therapy Department. “The ways in which theory and practice are understood is a reflection of the norms of a particular society, but does not fit those of all societies.”
Images: (top) Painting by Nicole Jobertie; (bottom) photo of the Valetudo Studio at the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul.