From the Canvas to the Couch

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance — Aristotle

On April 14th, psychoanalyst and psychooncologist Esther Dreifuss-Kattan and Suzanne Isken open From the Canvas to the Couch at the New Center for Psychoanalysis in West Los Angeles. This unique, co-curated exhibit will feature artwork by five local cancer survivors — one of whom is Ashely Myers-Turner, a childhood friend of mine.

Over the course of their individual diagnoses and treatments, Ashley and her artist counterparts explored cancer through a range of mixed media, including collage, digital photography manipulation, installation art, comics, embroidery, and crochet.  In bringing together these brave women and their creations, From the Canvas to the Couch will provoke a dialog about the healing power of artistic expression.

To kick off the show’s opening, the five cancer survivors will participate in a panel discussion, sharing the intimate details of their original inspirations. Here is just a preview of Ashely’s incredible story:

In the Fall of 2011, I began experiencing strange symptoms – hallucinating the smell of rubber, losing the sense of time, feeling outside of my body. I took a trip to urgent care, had an MRI, and began my journey to diagnosis of Astrocytoma, a variety of brain cancer, followed by brain surgery to remove the cancer, and extensive recovery.

Through this process, I have relied on my photography and art to help me reach an increased level of comfort with my diagnosis.  Through my images, I have specifically explored some of my physical symptoms, such as disrupted body awareness, head rupturing migraines, nausea inducing vertigo, and disorienting neural activity.  I have asked myself the questions “How am I pieced and sewn together? How do my physical and mental self-image interact?” Even though I’ve lived and experienced my brain through my life, I’ve never actually seen my brain until I looked at my recent MRI images.  The fusing of my self-portraits with my MRI images also allows me to try to accept this strange looking, malfunctioning, imperfect brain as a part of me.

While it has been a year since my surgery, and many of my most intense symptoms have subsided, I am still exploring my body, brain and self, and their connection to each other through my art.

Ashley Myers Turner

If you will be in the Los Angeles area on April 14th, I highly recommend a visit to From the Canvas to the Couch for what is sure to be a deeply moving experience. For those who cannot make it, please check out Ashley’s personal website, The MRI Project, to view more of her beautiful pieces and to witness from afar the power of art as a therapeutic agent.

About the author

Yolanda Muchnik is the Founder of Aliveasart. A working professional with a passion for the visual and performing arts, she's got a soft spot for all things creative. In addition to ten years of formal dance training, Yolanda has experience as a graphic artist, a management and strategy consultant, and digital marketer.