Spanish artist Selva Aparicio, takes on difficult subjects, often revolving around grief, childhood trauma, and familial struggles, in which she explores the function of art as a therapeutic outlet, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Good Health and Well-Being.

Part of Absence Remains by Selva Aparicio. Image courtesy of @pattigilfordfinearts/Instagram

Aparicio expressed how traditional craft techniques help her forge a deeper connection with her materials, according to an interview with MAD.  Her artworks often integrate cemetery flowers, cicada wings, and human hair through traditional craft techniques like weaving, carving, and sewing. Since the materials she works with have had a life of their own, they contain histories she feels she must respect; hence, the end meaning of her pieces becomes a collaboration between her ideas and those that the materials bring with them.

East of Eden by Selva Aparicio. Image courtesy of The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)

The time spent on these pieces helps her to understand her emotions around death and human life as the teddy bears she works with reveal themselves to her through their torn-up and weather-damaged bodies, allowing her to freely associate her thoughts and emotions with them.

Her artwork, Absence Remains, painstakingly covers found teddy bears with delicate dandelion seeds. The teddy bears she uses were found in waste collection sites around cemetery grounds, meaning these were bears that had been placed at graves, most likely children’s. Her process is an addictive and contemplative repetitive action, which, in the larger scheme of things, is how art therapy works. 

The Tribeca Therapy Center in New York defines art therapy as an approach to therapy through art that takes you out of your head in order to be spontaneous and get to the root of things, emphasizing that anyone can engage in art therapy, regardless of being an artist. The key is to consistently create art, similar to Aparicio, who produces intricate pieces, dedicating hours to sitting and working on them.

Childhood Memories by Selva Aparicio. Image courtesy of My Modern Met.

This meditative process is often present in Aparicio’s work, especially in her Yale University MFA thesis titled Childhood Memories.  The piece is yet again labor-intensive, but now she has painstakingly handcrafted a Persian rug onto the wooden floor. The carpet shows signs of wear and tear as its tassels are strewn around in different directions and its corner is flipped. Each carve is an emotion let out, ebbing from distress to acceptance, making Aparicio’s work a therapeutic experience for her. The installation becomes a poignant portrait of discovering and hiding trauma, as well as of bearing witness to it.

“Rugs are typically adorned with sacred gardens and oases and can be moved around the home. This rug stayed put, quietly participating in years of familial abuse,” Aparicio expressed in an interview with My Modern Met. 

Selva Aparicio's art exemplifies the therapeutic power of craftsmanship, addressing themes of grief and trauma. Recognized for the 2023 Burke Prize, Aparicio adeptly transforms found materials into poignant narratives through traditional craft techniques.

Her meditative process, evident in works like Absence Remains and Childhood Memories, mirrors the principles of art therapy, providing a cathartic exploration of life and death. Aparicio's creations not only resonate personally but invite viewers into a dialogue, making her art a transformative and universally meaningful experience.

Childhood Memories by Selva Aparicio. Image courtesy of My Modern Met.

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