Ruth Golmant believes in the process of creating art as a powerful tool for healing. The art therapist located in Stafford, Virginia lives with one husband, two children, two invisible disabilities, and her ever-evolving Jewish spirituality.

After studying art as an undergraduate at Mills College in Oakland, California, Golmant moved to Virginia to complete a degree in art therapy at George Washington University. Upon graduation she began working with patients in St. Elizabeth’s hospital’s acute trauma unit, where she realized the power of art amidst pain. She recalled:

[The patients] were really disturbed, and frightened too. And [working there] was both scary and moving, because doing artwork for them was the only chance they had to make any choices in their lives at that point. They had everybody telling them everything they had to do and even if it was just choosing what color pen to use or what they wanted to make – they were like the only choices they made in their entire day, so it became something really precious to them.

Created by Ruth Cohen Golmant, the author

After a year, Golmant transitioned to a position at a residential children’s health facility where she faced a different kind of pain. There, the artist engaged in one-on-one therapy sessions with children who had been abused, neglected, and failed by the foster system. The opportunity to express their feelings through art provided them respite from the depression and behavioral issues caused by their traumatic pasts.

“Obviously the kids couldn’t really verbalize what had happened to them. It was really hard for them to talk about,” said Golmant.

But for Golmant, the years she spent providing channels of expression and therapeutic opportunities for others began weighing on her own psyche. She consequently turned to her spirituality as a method for coping.

“That is when I really started looking to Judaism to really center me because I needed something…it was during that time that I started doing the letters,” Golmant remembered, referring to her Hebrew Letter series.

Each letter in the series represents an important element of her spirituality. The letters were also a way Golmant learned Hebrew, a skill she used in becoming a lay-leader and a para-rabbi.

“The tav actually relates to the tikkun idea because it’s meant to look like a quilt with a part undone… and you need to finish it, to repair it,” Golmant explained, “and zyn I used for zachor (remember), thinking a lot about the importance of memory, zicharon, all the words and all the ways we have to remember people.”

Credit: Ruth Cohen Golmant (facebook.com/golmantgallery).

In describing her work, Golmant reflected, “Not all of it is pretty, it’s not all spiritual and wonderful. I’d say a lot of my artwork was a reflection of pain or anger in some way, now that I think about it. I mean, that’s why I was attracted to art therapy to begin with – I was more into the process of making art than I was about the end product.”

Accordingly, Golmant contributed two pieces to Tikkun‘s Fall 2014 print issue about disability justice and spirituality. One piece, titled Tflilah L’ Batya (Prayer for Bonnie) is dedicated to Tikkun author Bonnie Gracer, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer. The image features the sacred letters Yud Hay Vav Hay inscribed in the silhouette of a human form. Despite Gracer’s concerns that it could be interpreted as idolatrous, Golmant interprets the image more as a reminder that we’re all made in the Divine image and that we need to treat each other in that way.

“To me [the piece] is about embodying the Divine in yourself and recognizing that, and also recognizing that in other people,” Golmant explained, “We have that source within ourselves that we can draw on when we’re ill, when we’re scared, when we’re trying to find strength in a difficult time.”

The artist herself draws on that source of spiritual power in dealing with her own invisible disabilities, diabetes and bipolar disorder.

“I’ve been injecting myself since I was eight years old and basically that’s affected my being,” Golmant said. “It’s given me compassion, but it’s also made me very sensitive to pain – like physical pain and emotional pain. And that, perhaps, is what drew me to the need for some kind of spiritual center as an outlet and also as a support.”

Tflilah L’Batya is not Golmant’s first work displaying the human form. Her X-Ray Series displays recreations of healthy x-rays, though if she continues with the series she may start recreating x-rays of broken bones. The images present an alternative view of body’s ability to heal what is broken and the human spirit that helps us through pain – a theme that runs consistently through all of Golmant’s work.

As an artist, a therapist, and a spiritual leader, Golmant gathers strength through her ability to represent her struggles and the struggles of others in her artwork. She recognizes grief, fear, and pain as inevitable elements of life and believes in the creation of art as a coping mechanism. Golmant continues to create, parent, and live in Virginia, where she is very active in her congregation, Beth Sholom Temple.

You can see the rest of Golmant’s artwork here on Tikkun Daily.

(Don’t miss Tikkun‘s upcoming issue on Disability Justice and Spirituality, which comes out this October and features Ruth Golmant’s artwork! If you subscribe now, you will get on our subscriber list in time to receive digital access to the full issue. Click here to subscribe.)


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