A review of Mended by the Muse: by Sophia Richman. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. 256 pp.
Maggie M. Robbins, M.P.S., L.P.
Willful damage inflicted by humans on other humans: there is little as appalling as this kind of trauma, or as intractable. Sophia Richman's Mended by the Muse offers new ways of looking at the creative process as a method of self-treatment for such wounds and is bursting with examples of transformative healing.
As an art therapist, my livelihood depends on Richman's fundamental proposition, “that creative action is one of the most effective ways of coping with trauma and its aftermath” (p. 3). The official definition of my profession includes, as a treatment for trauma (among other afflictions) “the therapeutic use of art-making.” This definition, however, specifies that the art-making occur “within a professional relationship.” A witnessing human partner is considered necessary to the therapeutic action; art therapy positions itself in contradistinction to art-as-therapy, work made in solitude. And yet, making work myself, I have often found something profoundly therapeutic in the act—even when I make it alone and show it to no one.
Richman, like art therapists, strongly endorses the importance of a relationship in catalyzing the healing process but feels, and explicates, the deeply relational nature of art-making whether another human is included or not. “As one is involved in creating,” she writes, “one is both participant and observer” (p. 95). She submits that the witness can be either an imagined future audience or simply an internal presence: another of our self-states, an imaginary friend, “the Muse.” Her assertion rings true.
Richman has been mulling the relationship between creativity and trauma since a high-school art history class prompted her to visit Margaret Naumberg, a founder of American art therapy. Naumberg suggested that Richman major in psychology then return to study art therapy with her.
[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]