Hypnosis is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about making art in an “altered state.” But in our current age of detox cleanses and holistic wellness, hypnosis is a positively trendy way to tap into creativity.
Which is what a dozen artists used to create a new exhibit called The Subconscious Canvas, opening Feb. 22 at Contra Galleries.
Described as “art beyond logic,” The Subconscious Canvas features work made after the artists underwent hypnosis by hypnotherapist Alexandra Janelli.
“Our goal was to outline what happens when you let go of the logical conscious mind and become guided by our subconscious, which is purely reactive, creative, instinctual and behavior driven,” she says.
The idea came after she hypnotized an artist client who ended up using the experience to create pieces that were very different from her usual style.
“I typically work with anxiety and stress management,” says Janelli, “so it was such a treat for me to be part of it and see how the subconscious mind, which is really the creative part of your mind, can produce such beautiful things.”
The artists were initially hypnotized — a deep state of relaxation where your mind remains focused — during a group session at Janelli’s Modrn Sanctuary wellness center, which was recorded for them to play back as they worked over the next nine weeks. (If you’d like to try it yourself, here is the audio.)
Unlike the trippy, uncontrollable experience of creating art under the influence of drugs, the artists describe their Subconscious Canvas work as a meditative experience.
“I used the hypnosis as a guide to quiet the mind while working,” says Julian Rapp of Carroll Gardens, who found it helped him rein in his wandering mind and stay focused while working. “This helps to cultivate a more free-flowing space for creating work.”
Brandon Sines of Astoria says the hypnosis session “created a new headspace.” It also helped him stay focused on one piece instead of jumping around, and ended up producing a work “that felt like a relatively new direction from what I had been doing.”
Lower East Side artist Connie Rose describes being hypnotized as a “a dreamy, delicious feeling… I’ve found it extremely powerful in changing how I feel and see the world.” An avid meditator who uses breath control techniques to enter a heightened creative state, she uses it to tap into “into the core part of me that feels like truth and transcendence.”
As for Janelli, she first experienced hypnosis as a patient about a decade ago after conventional therapy failed to help her make the life changes she was looking for.
“When I saw this hypnotherapist, I feel like life just opened up for me,” recalls Janelli, who ended up switching careers from environmental law to hypnotherapy in 2009. “A lot of fear was removed, and I was able to take a little more risk in my life.”
The Subconscious Mind opens Feb. 22 with a cocktail reception from 5-9 p.m., and goes until March 9. Contra Galleries is located at 122 W. 26th St., fifth floor; admission is free.