Art for health

September 2, 2020

It’s been a while since I last wrote in my blog. The last time was before the pandemic and so many things have changed since then. However, my goals for myself have changed very little. Since we moved to our new home in 2018, I have been focusing on holding a peaceful place within myself and in our surrounding environment. This has become even more essential in today’s challenging times. It is important to know what is happening in the world, but then it is also even more vital to take care of one’s own needs and emotions.

Having this time to reflect on my life, I realize that my belief and message, that art is healing, has flourished and blossomed in my life. When I became a therapist 23 years ago, I facilitated an art therapy support group for women with cancer. It was there that I saw the healing benefits of expressing one’s emotions through art. That is when I started taking painting classes at the New School of Fine Art in a little old school house that was on the E Beltline in Grand Rapids. The first two paintings I created were of Tree Women. To me, the Tree Women helped me to feel grounded, connected, and strong, while still being able to bend and sway during storms and fierce winds. It was then that I realized that I wanted art to be a big part of my life. Shortly after, I set up an art studio in one of our rooms in our basement. I wrote the quote by Henry Miller, “To make living itself an art, that is the goal” in big letters on one of the walls. This mantra has stayed with me ever since.

My first painting of a Tree Woman

So, this leads me to share what I have been doing with my time since the pandemic. Normally, my husband and I would be going to several music festivals in the summer. Because those had been canceled, we settled down and started to make more time for cooking, getting fresh and local fruits and vegetables, starting a garden, going fishing and eating fresh fish from our lake, and identifying plants that are on our land. It feels like an extension of our art. We are being creative in the way that we are living our lives. This is another way for us to express who we are and to take care of our needs at the same time.

I, also, recently finished taking an online course with Julia Inglis, who teaches how to needle felt Spirit Dolls. I have admired her work and the activism she does with her dolls. She started a project called, Dolls for the Outcast. She travels to places of trauma and abuse, leaving her dolls behind for women who had lived through these horrific events. One place where she visited is the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. The Magdalene Laundries were named after Mary Magdalene, “the redeemed prostitute”, and is an institution where “fallen women” we’re sent. Women and children were locked up and forced to wash laundry from morning to night, without pay, poor food, and no education. This was their punishment for being too outspoken, for brining too much attention to themselves, for being homeless or for being pregnant out of wedlock. The last Magdalene Laundry closed its doors in 1996. The list of places where women have been tortured and murdered for standing out in the crowd and having their own beliefs, are too great to list here. This type of power over women has been happening for thousands of years and still continues today. It can be felt in the collective unconscious of women and it can hold women back, in fear of being persecuted for being different. Julia Inglis’ website can be viewed at:

Ancestor Doll I created for the Spirit Doll Course

So, in this course, we explored empowerment, magic, and release.  We empowered ourselves with each doll that we made, by putting our prayers and intentions into each one.  We discovered our own magical gifts by experiencing the healing aspects of our finished dolls and seeing how it improved our quality of life.  And we released the fear of being persecuted that is held by each and every woman, whether they are conscious of it or not, by looking at how we hide our gifts and talents from the world, in fear of standing out and being persecuted.  

High Priestess Doll I created in this course

The class gave me some powerful insights about my own life.  I realized how being “different” from others has made me feel judged and unsupported.  Now a days, I would be called a highly sensitive person or an empath.  I remember in grade school, I was given an award at summer camp for being “the most sentimental.”  I thought that was a strange award and didn’t really understand why they would give me an award for that.  Also, in high school I had a hard time following instructions in art class, as I did not want to replicate what my teacher had assigned us.  This led me to do the assignment in my own way and ended up receiving C’s in her class.  I felt like I was not gifted in art and that this would not be an option for me as I got older.  Then as an adult artist, my deep diving artwork was not embraced by fans of landscapes, self portraits, and artwork that was recognizable to the mass majority of people.  I continued, anyway, to create the only way I knew how to, which was from my heart.  I knew that not everyone would like my artwork.  However, what I didn’t realize is that I subconsciously had inner doubt about my own talents and gifts.  I didn’t fully embrace who I am as a person, because of this.  So, this was a huge insight, when I realized this in the Spirit Doll course.  It helped me to really see how talented I am and to embrace this wounded part of myself.  

The Healed Masculine Doll I created

The other insight from this course, was that I realized that I am fulfilling my soul’s purpose by being an artist.  I am not famous and do not make a living off of my art, but I am living an art-full life.  When I create something new, I get to experience another facet of who I am.  I am experiencing my true, authentic self, by surrounding myself with the things that I create.  I also am creating a beautiful place to live by tending to our gardens, helping monarch caterpillars becomes butterflies, and creating outdoor areas to contemplate and dream.  It also helped me embrace the idea that it is our right as human beings to live a joyful and creative life, even during difficult times. My whole life has become my artwork and an expression of who I am.  And for that, I am forever grateful.

For more information about Karen Godfrey visit:

2 Replies to “Art for health”

  1. Stunning healing dolls, and I love getting a peek at your Tree Woman painting again. Appreciate the reminder that we can live creative lives no matter what is going on.


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