Creativity Heals: Finding the rainbow in a painting studio
In Roberta Rose’s studio, the paint is barely dry on a large rectangular canvas. It depicts a silhouette of the upper part of a body, with arms reaching upward, hands outstretched. Above, just out of a reach, a rainbow of colors drip downward.
“That was how I was feeling that day,” Rose said. “[The emotions] are better out than in, I say. I don’t know where that rainbow is, but I am ready to find it.”
Rose, who has survived trauma and disclosed a dual diagnosis of bipolar and chronic Lyme, has a daily routine that not only facilitates maintaining her well-being, it also makes her a prolific visual artist. “It’s a long list of physical constraints, yet I continue painting, writing, taking photographs, and performing spoken word,” said Rose.
“Art is my lifeline. I get up and stretch. I walk into my studio and say ‘Who wants to play today?’” She then pulls out some materials - paints, Gelli prints, oil pastels or what-have-you-and Rose starts creating.
Having a studio space in her home makes a big difference to Rose’s process, both as an artist and also in terms of managing her diagnosis. Having the space allows her to move, slow down and breathe, even when she is having a trauma response. “Having the studio gets me off the couch; I can go into a different space, put on some music, and I start making things. Doodling is as effective as meditation,” said Rose.
Art has long been a part of Rose’s life. “I always dabbled. Painting and drawing have always been my steady” she said. In 2015, after a 14-year academic journey, Rose received a Masters degree in Humanities: Creative Expressive Arts. Each of Rose’s 4 degrees concentrated on sociology, psychology, and art as a tool for healing.
In Fall 2022, two decades of work culminated in a retrospective exhibit at Artspace in Norwich.
Rose laid out the show chronologically, to show the evolution of her work. With so much work to include, works on paper were displayed in books to save the wall space for paintings and other media. The show included collages, found object assemblages, and installations, in addition to the paintings and drawings.
“It was overwhelming and awesome to see 20 years of work in a single space,” said Rose. “This was a full circle experience, having opened dozens of solo shows in that gallery during my time as a resident there.”
With that milestone behind her, Rose has a vision for the future. One that propelled her Masters Thesis which outlined her concept for Eco Expressions: Healing Arts Center. Rose would love to be self-sustainable, working and living off the land while making art. At the same time, teaching others how to make art with recycled items and find their creative streak is part of that vision.
“I find inspiration in everything. I turn [that inspiration] into things,” said Rose. That philosophy keeps her going. Rose’s daily art practice marries her own well-being with her call to create.
“I want to make a difference. I can’t do that until I heal from the Lyme disease,” said Rose. For the Norwich artist, healing and art will always be deeply connected. They might just also be the path to finding that rainbow.
Emma Palzere-Rae is Associate Director for Artreach, Inc. and founder of Be Well Productions. If you have a story about how creativity has helped you heal, please contact email@example.com.
Who: Roberta A. Rose
Town: Norwich, CT
Creative Outlet: Visual Arts