Art as catharsis: her source of healing

An artist profile with a Hamline senior, Kate Graham.

Alexis Letang, Life Reporter

Art of many kinds can be therapeutic for many people. Hamline senior Kate Graham is an example of someone using art as a means for catharsis and expression. Graham uses many different art forms to express herself. She often finds herself in Drew Fine Arts Center playing the piano as a way to calm down. She has numerous tattoos, each representing a piece of who she is. When I asked Graham what she loves about painting she said, “It’s a way of expressing myself without having to talk.”

Graham uses many different styles of painting, and her art is often filled with colors. Graham stated that she bounces back and forth between realism and surrealism — it depends on her mood. Surrealism is a favorite of Graham’s because she can “create art even when I don’t have the capacity to make realism.” Regardless of the different styles, her art seems to be connected.

Many of Graham’s pieces consist of two main themes: the female body and water landscapes. When asked why she enjoyed painting the female body, Graham said that she has always “found the female body to be powerful and elegant in all sizes.” She believes that by painting the female body she can do its beauty justice.

Her water landscape paintings are inspired by the cabin she often visited growing up. She saw this place as a sanctuary for herself, and she found that painting these landscapes brought her back to that place mentally.

Graham suffered from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2017. She is a naturally ambitious and go-getter kind of person, but after that, she had to slow down. She was unable to attend class, but still needed to obtain credits. She listened to lectures and painted. She described it as a calming activity that gave her brain a chance to relax.

Graham loves painting for many reasons.

“It brings me a sense of peace,” she said.

She loves finishing paintings. She feels a sense of contentment and excitement.

Graham appreciates that she can be alone and paint.

“A way for me to be alone with myself in a beautiful way,” she said.

While research often focuses on the negative aspects of solitude, a journal published by Frontiers in Psychology, stated that throughout life solitude has its different benefits. Specifically, it mentioned adolescents spending time alone became a space for “freedom… reflection, and creativity.”

Last semester, Graham had her art on display and available for purchase at Smokeless Smoking in Northeast Minneapolis. However, this was not something that had ever crossed her mind. She did not think about it until she was in the place one day and saw other people’s art on the walls. She then asked the manager if they sold art. They did. They only sold the art of local Minnesotans. Graham knew she fit that description and showed the manager her work. He liked what he saw and offered her an entire wall.

While Graham had never thought about displaying her art, when the time came Graham felt that the moment was exciting and rewarding. She felt as if the event was “validating the hard work I had been doing for many years…It was all worth it.”

Creating art is not Graham’s only passion — she has done extensive work in the field of psychology and mental health. She currently works at a ketamine clinic helping people with a variety of mental health conditions. Graham’s passion and concern for mental health, both hers and others, comes from her belief that everyone should get a shot at living a healthy life.

Art provides everyone with something different. When asked what was art to her, Graham said that it was “a source of healing.” This was a theme that popped up several times throughout the interview. Graham believes that everyone should have a chance to heal themselves. She has seen healing take place in many different ways, specifically in art.

In a journal published in the National Library of Medicine, it cites a study that showed a decrease in participants’ cortisol levels (a stress hormone) after painting for an hour. Art may not be everyone’s talent, but it does provide benefits for everyone.

Hamline senior and artist Kate Graham standing in front of her wall of art, which is all up for sale and supports her directly. (Courtesy of Kate Graham)