Marginal art

Reading for me, like many, has always been a source of inspiration and reflection. The simple act of sitting down these days is conducive to pondering and flights of creative fancy. I do my reading with a pencil and notebook: a notebook ready to capture my rambling thoughts and at times develop ideas gleaned in an article or book.

I am a visual learner who needs to mark up a paper to extract what is in it. Marks have a way of pacing my reading, while becoming interspersed with my own reflections. Yep! I talk to papers, privately hold pen and pencil conversations with the authors, debate ideas, criticize and judge and at times ‘publish’ my own ideas, diagrams, pictures in the margins and back of the pages. These markings are what is known as marginalia:

Marginalia, by Billy Collins

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script. [...]

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
« Nonsense. » « Please! » « HA!! » -
that kind of thing. [...]

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge. [...]

… I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
« Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love. »
Read the entire poem here.

I also find marginalia to be significant in art therapy; what is added either after a creative work is completed or while talking about the artwork or other subjects. These markings can become more elaborate, a type of doodle created when the hand has a mind of its own and wanders on paper during a conversation, half illustration of what is being discussed (in words and pictures), half embellishment (vines, lines, patterns). What is drawn is a kind of shorthand to the person’s impressions, feelings, and thoughts.

My friend and colleague Christine Doyle wrote an article in the AATQ’s newsletter of August 2008 about the subject. She lists the benefits of doodling as follows: 1) It is a creative outlet without the pressure to perform, or make anything specific; 2) It focuses attention by channelling restless energy; 3) It provides a means of coping with emotional stress, anxiety, and frustration; 4) it is a means of indirect expression, communicating feelings and thoughts that one can be hesitant to reveal overtly; 5) It can also be likened to a process of free association, at times it allows a means of problem solving to resolve ambiguities. There is very little written on the topic, but it is a frequent phenomena in art therapy especially with teenagers.

Then there is another type of peripheral art where the frame is invested but not the actual page. For example I was working with a young child of 6 for which I would tape the paper to the desk to stop it from moving around while he was working. Often times he would draw on the tape instead of the paper and leave the page blank. This same child tended to invest the periphery; he explored and invested the borders of our relationship, a child moved from foster homes and between his mothers’ many consecutive partners’ homes. Later on in our work, and preceding more prolonged separations (such as vacation times) he would tape our chairs together leaving a gap in between. The gap was bridged with masking tape on which he would precariously balance objects attempting the crossing. How hazardous the separation felt, balancing over the large space between us.

Margins and borders are important phenomena in art therapy subjects that need far more research than is presently available.

Classé dans .

Catégorisé dans Thérapie.

Publié le 16 mai 2009

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