Louise Nevelson: Light and Shadows

LOUISE NEVELSON: An Artist’s Life Informs Art Therapists

On February 17th, Laurie Wilson will be discussing her recent biography, LOUISE NEVELSON: Light and Shadows, at the School of Visual Arts as part of the MPS Art Therapy Spring 2017 Community Lecture Series. Wilson is a biographer, art historian, and practicing psychoanalyst on the faculty of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Education associated with NYU School of Medicine. In the biography, she examines the life of the widely celebrated sculptor Louise Nevelson and how therapeutic process of art making enabled Nevelson to cultivate her authentic self, exercise creative thinking, and express her emotional world. Wilson documented Nevelson’s story through hours of interviews, which took place at the peak of her fame as an artist.

Wilson did not always imagine connecting art history with psychoanalysis and art therapy. She began her schooling in art history at Wellesley College, which provided her initial exposure to studio art. This is when her attraction to creating art became evident and she went on to study sculpture and drawing. Through the pursuit of a career in art therapy and teaching, Wilson secured her belief in the importance of creativity and the power of art as a healing mechanism. She later explored psychoanalytic theory and practice as a desire to gain a deeper knowledge of the individuals she was working with, which consisted of both children and adults.


While teaching artists, art therapists, and other individuals about art and psychology, she began to piece together how art history; psychoanalysis and art therapy connected. She concluded that if there are multiple meanings and layers to the artwork and art making done by clients, then the same psychoanalytic foundations could be applied to fine artists. This one of the ideas that led her to embark on the biographical study of Louise Nevelson.

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Born in 1899, Louise Nevelson was an American sculptor most recognized for her wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures. Her artwork lived during the Abstract Expressionist movement. The subject matter she liked to draw upon were her emotional responses to the uprooted childhood and cultural changes she experienced at a young age. Wilson first communicated with Nevelson in the 1970’s after interviewing her for 15 hours as a source for her doctoral dissertation. She has continued her research ever since. Nevelson died in 1988.

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