Yanina Gomez is a gallerist and Art Consultant at 33 Contemporary Gallery located in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. In 2009, she earned a Doctorate Degree (PhD) in Psychology. Prior to becoming involved in the art business, Yanina practiced as a psychologist for 13 years, and she is a member of the American Psychological Association. We asked her about recent findings that explore the places where new discoveries in psychology and the world of fine art intersect.

Although it would seem like a natural fit, research on the psychological effects of art seems like a relatively new concept in academic circles. What took so long for it to gather mass interest?

Throughout history, art has had many functions. It’s been used to communicate cultural, personal, scientific and religious ideologies, and most commonly, as an aesthetic object. It wasn’t until the Renaissance Era, that many artists began to use their artistic skills as a form of personal expression. From that point forward, art making began to be used as a way to define human purpose, touch the emotions of the viewer and awaken a viewer’s senses.

Art is usually perceived as a creative skill that engages the viewer’s aesthetic senses, and it’s always a subjective matter. Sometimes there’s a basic correlation between art and aesthetics; “I purchase art so it can match my furniture!” Since most people view art as an aesthetic object but don’t view the psychological implications involved in art making, there’s an assumption that art making is a subjective and shallow element not worth of scientific attention.

Artists not only make art to depict representations of objects but many also use it to convey their idealism, emotions, beliefs, values, passions and criticisms. Art is often a depiction of such human complexity, the ability that art may have in influencing one’s psycho-emotional state and how this can enhance the quality of life should be seriously considered in academia. I’m not implying that all art making is based upon psychological implications. As our culture is increasingly becoming interested in the influence of art, further research in this area should be explored.

How does art assist in providing both physical and mental benefits to the viewer?

I view art as a powerful tool that can be used to influence individual’s psychological state or moods. As a gallerist and art consultant, I have observed numerous times how art influences individuals’ mood states. Imagine entering an office and finding yourself surrounded by empty white walls. As you wait to be assisted, you find yourself staring at these walls or probably distracted with your electronic device. Time passes by and you are still waiting. At this point, if you are like me, you are becoming impatient or perhaps frustrated. By the time you are assisted, you are likely to feel aggravated.

Now, let’s picture the same situation. This time, you are entering an office that has inspiring original art installed on the wall. You’re immediately drawn to the work whether it is due to its aesthetic elements or perhaps a physical or emotional connection. You are still waiting, but this time, you are connecting with the artwork wondering, conversing, dreaming, analyzing; engaging your senses in exploration. You are becoming intellectually and emotionally connected with the artwork. Time is still passing by but somehow, you aren’t noticing it as much. As an art consultant, I’ve seen how the conditions of an environment are essential in setting a mood. Lighting is important and color is essential. Adding amazing furniture is a must! Nonetheless, a beautiful room with nothing installed on the walls is clearly not as influential to our senses.

Where do you see the most strides in the study of psychology and art progress in the next ten years? What will you be working on?

Psychological and physiological wellness is essential for ultimate existence. Individuals long to have optimal health that is commonly associated with physical fitness, psychological balance and proper diet. We are saturated by the media, in the form of advertisements and the Internet selling us unlimited number of programs, supplements, systems, and medications to address this triad. But, what about exposure to the fine arts? Can art influence our psychological and physiological wellness?

The direction the field of psychology should be heading in regards to art is strengthening the evidence that art can be used as a therapeutic tool to address mental and physical wellness. It’s important to determine how art can be utilized as an effective therapeutic tool. Art making can influence and consequently treat mental health issues among art makers. I think we should explore further the psychological and physiological effects art may have among its viewers. An example may be exploring how art can be used as a tool for mental relaxation. As a result, art may no longer be perceived as an aesthetic object alone. But rather as a powerful agent that has the capacity to influence one’s overall wellness.

In my experience working with artists and now as an Artist Coach, I’ve found that, quite a few experience feelings commonly associated with depression or anxiety whether at beginning or clinical stages. I believe that artists have the potential to address and consequently express these feelings and stressors in a healthy and effective manner via their art. Through the process of art making, these artists can find healing and experience wellness.

I’m intrigued by how the process of art making can be used as a therapeutic tool for artists. Currently, I am working on a survey that addresses the prevalence of mental health issues among artists and how art making can be used as a therapeutic tool to address and alleviate these issues. It is in the beginning stages at this moment, but I am looking forward to my findings so I can better assist the artists I have the pleasure to work with.

My husband and I are also developing a coaching program for artists. It’s called artNXTlevel (art next level). The program offers tools, resources, business strategies, marketing ideas, and practical advice to assist artists manage and advance their art career to their next level without jeopardizing their mental wellness. These resources are presented via podcasts, webinars, seminars and other resources.