Deep in the heart of the woods, off the grid, the luscious Blue Ridge Mountains of my childhood lent themselves to my DNA, creating a lifelong biophilic connection. Biophilia, born out of psychological, sociological, and evolutionary theory, asserts that human physical and mental well-being is enhanced by our relationship with the natural world. That relationship with nature is where I derive my creative inspiration, and what I share in my art.
Each summer, I visited my grandparents who lived on Long Island Sound. There, our days were punctuated by trips out on the boat with my grandfather, who would bring us to an island. We played in the tidal pools, swam, and made forts in the shadows of huge rocks.
These days, I live on Long Island Sound myself and visit the Blue Ridge Mountains as often as I can. On one summer trip, my young son and I meandered along a logging road in the mysterious light of the late afternoon, and together we discovered the joy of using beeswax crayons to rub ferns and grasses into glowing scenes on paper. Since then, the process has taken on many iterations—rubbing leaves, roots, whole plants, and especially weeds from my garden.
Long afternoons at the beach with my son led to exploring the use of seaweed as well. The unpredictable and lusciously magical combination of shapes that inky seaweed makes as it gently falls on paper is always a surprise to me. Its exquisite beauty and graphic quality when printed with a single color of ink against a solid background transforms it into a dynamic kaleidoscope and commemorates it in a way that gives it immediacy and longevity.
In Japanese, the term Ma means “the space in between,” what Westerners refer to as negative space. Ma is such an elegant way to describe where a lot of magic lies. I love to find these in-between spaces in my seaweed and plant prints and bring them to life with watercolor paint and pens.
The seaweed prints and plant rubbings lend themselves to extraordinary natural relationships, which I find inspiring, especially at this stage in my life, when connection seems more important than control. Through this practice of art making, I can see the direct benefits of communing with nature, of that biophilic relationship. It is a healing practice that creates connection and community with myself and the natural world.
And, it is a healing practice that can be shared—through the art itself, as a visual reminder of that nurturing biophilic relationship, but also through the art-making process. As a solo effort, as a project enjoyed with my son, or shared with my art therapy clients and workshop attendees, engaging in a direct relationship with nature through printing, drawing, and painting is inspiring, enlivening, and creates dynamic physical and mental well-being.
Briah Luckey, MAAT, blends her visual artist skills with her art therapy training to bring healing arts to a variety of communities including women of all ages through a variety of venues, including her studio, and patients and families at the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital where she is an art therapist. Her projects foster connection and creativity through community engagement with art. She facilitates creations and exhibits that emphasize kindness and heart-centered connection. Briah is an active visual artist and earned her MA in Art Therapy from Albertus Magnus College. She is a licensed eligible art therapist in CT.