Oh Art! It can have so many meanings; a form of expression, a transformation of life, a manifestation of beauty… but one thing is for sure: anyone can use art as therapy.
Sometimes life can take unexpected turns, but it is how you react to what happens that determines your strength and the future that awaits you. Amy Oestreicher, an artist and a fighter, chose art when she was in a battle against death. She used creativity as a medium to heal and cope with her unexpected detour, an experience that taught her the healing power of art.
“You don’t need to be an “artist” to make art – all you need to do is start somewhere.”
Life surprised Amy at the age of 18 when all of a sudden, after feeling a strong stomach ache, her cheeks puffed up and she collapsed, and then went straight into a coma. Her lungs had stopped working, and she went into sepsis shock. Amy needed 122 units of blood to keep her alive, but, what she didn’t know at that time was that her salvation was going to come in the form of art.
“What draws me back again and again to my paintbrush is that when I hold it in my hands, no one can judge me – all that matters is what I’m feeling inside.”
When she awoke from a coma months later, Amy didn’t even know who she was. “I was confused, like I had woken up in someone else’s life – where was I? Who was I? I remember I was once so desperate for answers that I googled “How do I find myself?” However, it was the day that she picked a paintbrush that her life changed for the better.
“I had found a way to express things that were too complicated, painful and overwhelming to put into words. Suddenly, when the uncertainty around me seemed frighteningly unmanageable, the strokes of my paintbrush could soothe me as I created a peaceful world that my soul longed to rest in as a place of peaceful solace. My passion could ignite instead of my anger and despair. And slowly, the good feelings overwhelmed the bad because I could control the positive world portrayed on my canvases with what my subconscious chose to create.”
The arts were Amy’s passion and identity growing up, but when her near-death experience occurred, creativity became her way of life, but most importantly, her salvation. Art turned her medical trauma into the most amazing adventure and lesson of her life. It did not only help her process what she was feeling, it also served as a reward, since she used art to engage with her community and to inspire others, thus, making a difference in this world.
Now that I am out of my medical crisis and into a life of health and vitality once again, the arts are how I can reconnect with the world, make a difference, and raise awareness – awareness of the power of one’s internal resources, awareness that there are many ways to heal externally and internally, and awareness of the human potential and spirit. An awareness of gratitude – that every day and moment should be celebrated – that life is a canvas, an open score, a bare stage, waiting for us to join the dance!”
“Through painting, I’ve discovered feelings I’ve suppressed that I had never even anticipated. Every day I come to my painting, I may be feeling something different. I could paint the most joyful expression in the world, or just a giant tear drop – but every time, I always walk away feeling better. I’ve realized what I was feeling – and I’d rather feel everything than nothing at all.”
Besides a visual artist, Amy is also an actress, musician, writer and dancer. Her life experiences have inspired her to pursue the arts as a way of living, and thanks to her medical trauma, she was able to write a one woman musical about her life, “Gutless and Grateful”, and continues to share her story through her different forms of art.
“With my wonderfully supportive family, my passion and a paintbrush, I was able to keep my soul alive for that uncertain time in my life. Life may always be unpredictable, but art can always find the beauty in the detours.”
We were aware of the power of art as therapy, but we never thought that it would be so miraculous. People like Amy, who live to inspire, serve and create, help make this world a better place. We at Arte Escondido feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to contact Amy and interview her for this post.Thank you for existing, beautiful!