Creativity, Illness, Survival and Healing

Tapping Into Creativity

Like many people, I never tapped into my creativity in hopes that one day of becoming a famous artist or to show at the Met Museum. I tapped into my creativity and locked into its power to deal with childhood trauma. Sure, creativity was fun at times, but it was also a large safety net that was there any time I needed it, ready to catch me as I fell into fear, despair or pain.

As I grew older, I abandoned creativity to do more adult things like go to college and get a real job. Something that was encouraged by my blue-collar parents.

It had yet to come to my attention that creativity was not a silly hobby to give up, but a life-saving resource I would utilize for the rest of my life. While working and going to college, I replaced creativity with workaholism, which will be a story for another blog.

Creativity during uncertain times.

I spent many years focused on working and going to school, always knowing something was missing from my life. While in college I started to get very sick and as my world started to collapse, I turn back to creativity for support.

I lost my job, had to quit school, and had a ton of time on my hands as I tried to just survive. During those years time would go by so painfully slow, but the one thing that helped when I was able to muster up the energy, was the act of being creative.

I wrote poems, took photographs, created art, wrote the music, and just felt compelled to express myself. I often used myself as the subject in my work since I did not have access to others but also because my work was about me, my struggles, my darkness, my illness, my disconnection with the world, my isolation, and the world I lived in.


The first connection to art and healing.

At first, I did not think about the connection between art and healing even if it has been a component of my life since I can remember. Yet, one day a good friend and fellow artist, Jennifer Weigel asked me if I knew who Cindy Sherman or Frida Kahlo were.

I had never heard of either. It’s embarrassing to say that I had zero knowledge of art history and very little understanding of art overall, yet Jennifer went to school for art and had a deep understanding of both. She has taught me a lot and introduced me to some amazing things about art over the years. Especially the world of mail art and performance art.

And her introduction of those great women (Sherman/Frida) changed my life. I felt a kinship to both women. Sherman for her exceptional portrayal of characters in her work just using herself and Frida for her health issue and desire to create art to paint her life’s struggles.

Learning about Frida and Cindy Sherman

The struggles of Frida hit home the most. It felt affirming, yet sad that I finally felt I had someone to relate to. I think being locked in a body that is at war with itself, pushes us to think about how we want to express ourselves as well as how do we want to be remembered in life.

We think a lot about death, at least I did. I also thought a lot about life and how creativity kept me alive at some of my darkest times.

Over the years of creating art, it has been a brilliant surprise to me to see the story of my life unfold as well as to witness the healing of various parts of my life with each of the works I

have created over 17 years that I have been actively creating bodies of work. I put out a book a few years ago called “XIII The Art of Aunia Kahn” and I laid out the 13 years of work chronologically. As I worked on laying out the book, I could see the story of my life unfolding. The subjects, colors, and moods of each artwork changed with each passing year.

And because I know my story, I can tell you exactly what was going on through those changes. I can see my growth, struggles and my life-changing in ways I could not see in the moment.

XIII The Art of Aunia Kahn

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You don’t have to be an artist or good at art. You just have to be willing to create your own life and the world which you are doing  so in every day – the minute you wake up! So, I want to encourage you to be creative. Tell your story, paint your world, write your legacy, and commend yourself for being alive!

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