Four years ago, the loveliness of the human mind first amazed me, so much so that it inspired my artwork, The Lovely Mind (2012). When I finished the drawing, it was a definitive moment for me; it was in this moment that I realized how much I wanted to study psychology in university. Moreover, I had realized that my interests in psychological health and visual art could, in fact, blend together, just like the blending of the chalk pastel colours I used to create the piece. Now, four years later and more than three years into my psychology major at UTSC, I continue to be amazed and inspired by what has grown to become one of my most favourite pieces of artwork. My courses in psychology and my pleasant discovery of the health humanities allow me to see The Lovely Mind in a much deeper way than I did before.

Interestingly, what I have also begun to notice is how the piece has been able to captivate and impact other people as well with its symbolic meaning.  The Lovely Mind was showcased at a medical humanities conference at McMaster University this past month, after being first featured at my high school’s annual student art exhibition in 2012. The artwork is inspired by a humanistic approach to psychology, celebrating the infinite potential one has to spread goodness in the world. It portrays the sheer complexity of the human mind, along with its beautiful capabilities of spreading love to positively impact others. This radiation of goodness also has the power to bring greater purpose and meaning into one’s life, deepening one’s self-worth and progression towards self-actualization. As a result, this goodness that infinitely grows inside the individual contributes significantly to the enhancement of one’s mental well being, illuminating even the darkest of places with its optimistic radiance.

Aside from its humanistic meaning, the painting also speaks to the idea that mental health and art are actually more compatible than people may think. The Lovely Mind portrays how mental health can be improved through creative self-growth and self-actualization, and through meeting one’s “needs,” according to Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers . In other words, the process of creating art itself can be seen as creative self-fulfillment, both for the artist and for the audience, which is pretty amazing. The dichotomy of free will and determinism can be resolved through art in this process of self-actualization, as the artist and the audience may use unconscious (determinism) and conscious (free will) aspects of themselves for artistic expression or interpretation of an artwork. This also promotes self-dialogue or dialogue with the audience, leading to peak experiences and self-realization.

Furthermore, the merging of mental health and visual art evident in The Lovely Mind depicts the power of the health humanities, an emerging and interdisciplinary field of study. The arts and humanities provide meaningful insights of health and illness by allowing one to connect with others through empathy and vulnerability, expressed in impactful and unique ways. I believe these artistic expressions of subjective human experiences, such as of pain, emotion, and suffering, are what makes notions of health and illness so understandable and moving.

Perhaps what intrigues me the most about The Lovely Mind is how it reminds me of the vulnerability and empathy that I posses, and the potential that I have in creating meaningful human connections. These drive me to make a lasting impact in my community and ultimately, in the world.

The Lovely Mind is now showcased at UTSC’s Health and Wellness Centre, reminding us all of what our exquisite minds are infinitely capable of.

By Mehdia Hassan

Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.