Art as therapy is far from a new concept. The idea of using an art-making process to aid in healing has been used for decades to help patients who suffer from illness or trauma.
In May of 2011, painter Reinhold Schwenk was diagnosed with throat cancer. Schwenk, who came to the U.S. from Germany in 1966 to study advertising, began painting the scenic landscapes near his family home in Bucks County, PA in 2005. His oncologist, a firm believer that art can cure in ways that medicine and therapy cannot, encouraged Schwenk to return to his creative outlet.
The result is “Painting Cancer,” a seven-painting series now on display at Manhattan's Mount Sinai Hospital. Inspired by the work of Gerhard Richter, the abstract works document each stage of the disease, from diagnosis to a clean bill of health. Schwenk's last scan showed no evidence of cancer. Not only do the works reflect one man's battle with cancer, but also the feelings of others. A number of other cancer patients tell Blouin ARTINFO that they too have an emotional attachment to Schwenk's paintings, which they say truly capture the spirit of what they felt during the stages of their own battles with cancer.
“Painting Cancer” is on display on the third floor of the Mt. Sinai Hess Building on Madison Avenue in New York.