The recent stretch of extreme weather so many of us have been experiencing has me thinking about weather as metaphor. We commonly hear weather metaphors in music, and so it goes in art therapy as well.
Art therapists believe that all art communicates emotional experience, and inclement weather is a good stand in for bumps in life’s road. Rain in an artwork is sometimes seen an indicator of sadness or depression, because of the association to tears. Sometimes precipitation raining down on figures in a child’s drawing can be a red flag for some type of abuse.
Ultimately, though, the metaphor comes from the artist, and so must the interpretation. Although a clinician may sense that the drawing is an indicator of depression, abuse, or other difficulty, it is only through further dialogue that the meaning of the metaphor becomes more clear. If a child is unable to verbalize about the picture, an art therapist’s job is to encourage the client to explore the metaphor through further artwork.
And of course we have our own emotional reactions when we view an artwork such as the following. Our reactions are useful information, but can be misleading if we are projecting feelings onto the artwork which are unrelated to the artist’s.
Putting one piece of work into the context of a larger body of work can help the client and the therapist work together to understand the full story. In this case, rain was a running theme that appeared in many drawings.
Context, context, context. This drawing by a ten year-old New Yorker is titled Drowning House. If it had been done on or after October 22, 2012, we could venture a guess that it had to do with Hurricane Sandy, which was a big topic for some kids in my art therapy room at that time. But this drawing was made years before Sandy came raging in. This child was not able to verbalize about her picture. One direction might be, “Can you draw a picture of what was going on before the rain storm came in? How did the house start to drown?”
A few more weather pictures, all different in composition and color intensity but all powerful. A fiery sun/eye, a shattered world, a sad rain.