I don’t think that anyone explores the shades of grey better than art therapists. Okay, not the 50 Shades within the popular book and movie, but the uncomfortable place between black and white thoughts and beliefs. I’m embarrassed to admit that I gave up on reading the 50 Shades book because I was so annoyed by the writing style. (I know how old/fussy this sounds!)
The grey area that I’m interested in is fascinating to explore with art therapy. I’ve asked many clients to paint on a white piece of paper using only black and white tempera paint. The experience encourages sitting with one’s ability to play with this limited palette, encountering those places where the image becomes unsettling in its “greyness”. Much like what happens in life – we humans like to zip through those places in life that are foggy grey, uncertain or unknown. Art making allows us to stay present and be curious and experiment in those uncomfortable places because of the space and containment of the art process.
As I was finishing up grad school, some of my fellow students and I thought that Billy Joel’s album River of Dreams held metaphor after metaphor appropriate to art therapy. I remember laughing with a friend when we discovered that we’d both referenced “Shades of Grey” from the album, on one of our final papers, and the teacher hadn’t been particularly impressed with either one of us!
But I share it here again because it still holds power and speaks to that often uncomfortable experience of sitting with the shades of grey, even while yearning for the clarity of black and white.
“Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less I know
Black and white is how it should be
But shades of grey are the colors I see.”
Billy Joel, “Shades of Grey”