Altered Book and Visual Journaling
Changing the story through “altered” art therapy and visual journaling.
Posted Dec 23, 2013
Technically, an altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into something different, altering its appearance or intended meaning. The book itself can be cut, collaged, painted or otherwise changed or transformed in some way. These alterations often incorporate the book’s text and/or illustrations; in fact, you can simply use a felt marker or pen to highlight certain words or phrases, creating altered prose and poetry [see illustration]. The Altered DSM III by Ron Huxley is one of my favorite examples of an altered book found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rehuxley/sets/316407/show/. Huxley’s innovative concept of the altered book may inspire some of us to take a creative crack at the DSM IV and V someday!
I recently took a cue from Wadeson’s altered book -- when confronted by a mild traumatic brain injury [TBI] earlier this year, I started to re-author the narrative of my concussion via a book called “The Stranger” [not the Camus version, but a novella by another author]. The book’s title reflected my initial post-TBI status of “not feeling like myself,” a shared experience that almost everyone who has had a closed head injury reports. I used the experience of creating an altered book first as a relaxing and stress-reducing pastime when my cortex was literally too tired to think; I just allowed myself to enjoy working with colored paper, pens and paints to alter pages without judgment. As I began to recuperate, the pages evolved into images and prose depicting my process of recovery and the eventual realization that I was very fortunate indeed to have not experienced the more serious symptoms that many individuals with TBIs encounter. Ironically, the last page of the book was completed on the three-month anniversary of the injury, a day that coincided with the predicted “complete” recovery date according to my doctors. My last image summarized this milestone and it is a message that I now share with individuals I see in my art therapy who have sustained a TBI or are challenged by other conditions. The page says, “You can let Rays of Hope pull you in every direction,” a personal awakening to the benefits of a positive outlook when confronted with physical or emotional challenges.
Of course, there is much more to the story of my altered book and newly discovered narrative than I can describe here. But as a therapist who professes the importance of resilience in reparation and recovery, engaging in this form of visual journaling turned out to be more powerful than I originally anticipated. All art making is in some way about transformation and renewal; altered art empowers the creator to restore what has been lost and make changes to what already exists through symbol and metaphor. In brief, my simple altered book not only helped to re-author the experience of mild TBI, it also empowered me to honor and transform my healing journey through art and image.
Keep Calm and Art Therapy On in 2014,
Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC
© 2013 Cathy Malchiodi
Altered Art Therapist blog by Jennifer Navarro at http://jennavarro.com/?s=altered+books
General information and inspiration on altered books via “Go Make Something” at http://gomakesomething.com/category/ht/ab/
Art Journaling and Altered Books on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/cathymalchiodi/art-journaling-altered-books/