“How does one start to heal when words aren’t enough?” Leanne Draayer’s theme for her show The Hurt Room is summed up in her own question provided from the show’s explanation. The Hurt Room attempts to offer visitors an opportunity to understand the purpose and goal of Art Therapy. Instead of using words for communicating thoughts and feelings, like the common form of therapy, Art Therapy is creating a visual to communicate what the person is feeling. The Hurt Room is a visual interpretation of what Art Therapy is like while simultaneously presenting possible examples of what Art Therapy might look like for people who have gone through certain ordeals. It is a mixture of a gallery display and experience show. Each wall space is dedicated to an individual piece that is neatly hung, labeled and lit, but the carpet and centerpiece are more interactive.
Right at the first glance The Hurt Room is aesthetically intriguing and compelling. The massive paper carpet occupying the entire gallery floor immediately grips the eye, making it impossible to ignore. Even those students just passing by will become part of the show if only for the amount of time it takes to walk across the littered floor. The carpet consists of a chaotic collection of articles on psychology and therapy, pages of a daily schedule, journal entries, and repeated words written in large bold letters. These are familiar words that any viewer can relate to: lonely, hopeless, sad, lost, useless, abandoned, anxiety, anger. While observing the gallery the viewer is constantly walking on the paper carpet hearing it crackle or feeling it tear. Those who feel less familiar with the more extreme issues displayed on the walls such as “Abuse” or “Trauma” can read the familiar words below their feet and still have something to relate to.
At the center of the hectic mess is a hole in the carpet. Within this blank space is the piece aptly titled “Therapy”. It consists of two chairs facing each other at the eye of the storm with windows and a door surrounding and isolating them. The visitor may step off of the disordered paper floor to the clear space between the two chairs, but while in this space the pieces on the walls can only be seen by looking through the windows surrounding the chairs. This “therapy session” is what gives the viewer an idea of what it is like for therapy patients to observe the pain in their lives while being safely isolated from it.
The pieces on the walls are interpretations of different issues people going through therapy could have encountered in their lives. Each piece stands on its own symbolizing its respective title. “Addiction”, for example, displays a 3-D sculpture of a hand holding a bottle of beer. The piece is made from broken shards of other wine and beer bottles. The arm reaches out of the wall toward the center of the gallery. It’s sharp, dangerous edges twinkle in the light, effectively reminding the viewer of the danger that lies in getting too close. “Abuse” offers powerful images of colors resembling beaten flesh. The display looks like a Polaroid line-up offering undeniable evidence of the abuse that had taken place. The mixed shades of purple green and pink make the bruises look genuinely painful reminding the viewer of the familiar dull ache. Visitors may observe the reality communicated through the visual displays and attempt to understand the significance of the pain others go through.
On top of being a unique and creative display, the floor plays a crucial role in connecting the two aspects of the show. The interactive “Therapy” and observable gallery displays are joined through the paper carpet stretching across the floor to each wall, literally connecting the pieces to one another. It is a great, effective way of keeping the show, which has several different aspects to it, solidified. The separate hanging pieces are divided and individualized by being presented on individual walls but are not disconnected. No matter which piece the viewer is observing, the crinkling of the paper beneath their feet reminds them that the individual piece they are looking at is always connected to a whole.
The Hurt Room is well rounded and effective in achieving its goal. It is a beautiful way to assist people in understanding how important and helpful Art Therapy can be to those struggling with the process of healing from such difficult issues.