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Cubism in Art Therapy: Exploring Abstraction and Self-Expression (Art Series)

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Cubism, one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century, revolutionized the way we perceive and represent forms. Developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 20th century, Cubism departed from traditional notions of perspective and representation. Instead of portraying objects from a single viewpoint, Cubist artists aimed to depict the subject from multiple perspectives simultaneously, breaking it down into geometric shapes and forms.  Cubism's departure from traditional representation, through its fragmentation and abstraction of forms, opens up a realm of possibilities for individuals seeking to explore their inner worlds in art therapy sessions. 

At its core, Cubism sought to challenge the conventional understanding of space and form. Objects were deconstructed and reassembled in a fragmented manner, emphasizing the underlying geometric structure. Artists experimented with flattened space, overlapping planes, and the manipulation of light and shadow to create complex compositions. This approach not only transformed the visual representation of subjects but also encouraged viewers to engage with art in a more dynamic and analytical manner.

The Cubist movement offered valuable insights into the nature of perception and representation. By presenting subjects from multiple viewpoints, Cubist artists demonstrated the subjective nature of reality. They highlighted the idea that perception is influenced by factors such as perspective, memory, and context, rather than being a fixed and objective truth. This exploration of perception and perspective paved the way for further experimentation in art and philosophy, challenging traditional notions of representation and reality.

In terms of representing forms through greater abstraction, Cubism teaches us to look beyond the surface appearance of objects and explore their underlying structures. By breaking down forms into geometric shapes and planes, Cubist artists revealed the essential components of the subject, stripping away extraneous details. This approach encourages artists to focus on the fundamental elements of form, such as line, shape, and volume, enabling them to convey meaning in a more abstract and expressive manner.

The principles of Cubism can be applied in art therapy as a means of self-expression and exploration. Through the process of deconstruction and abstraction, individuals can visually represent their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a non-literal way. This abstraction allows for greater freedom of expression, as individuals are not bound by the constraints of realistic representation. Instead, they can manipulate forms and colors to convey inner states and narratives, facilitating introspection and self-discovery.

In art therapy, the Cubist style can be particularly beneficial for individuals who struggle to verbalize their emotions or experiences. By creating abstract compositions, clients can externalize their internal world and communicate complex feelings that may be difficult to articulate verbally. The fragmented nature of Cubist art allows for the exploration of conflicting emotions and perspectives, reflecting the multidimensionality of human experience.

Furthermore, the process of creating Cubist-inspired artwork can promote mindfulness and emotional regulation. As individuals focus on arranging shapes and forms within the composition, they can become more attuned to their thoughts and sensations in the present moment. This heightened awareness can help individuals manage stress, anxiety, and other emotional challenges by providing a creative outlet for self-expression and reflection.

Moreover, the collaborative nature of Cubism lends itself well to group art therapy sessions. Participants can work together to create composite artworks, combining individual perspectives and experiences into a unified composition. This collaborative process fosters a sense of connection and community among participants, promoting empathy, communication, and mutual support.

Overall, the art style of Cubism offers valuable lessons in representation, perception, and expression. Through its innovative approach to form and abstraction, Cubism challenges us to see the world in new ways and provides a powerful tool for self-expression and healing in art therapy settings. By embracing the principles of Cubism, individuals can explore their inner world, connect with others, and embark on a journey of personal growth and transformation.

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