Healing Spaces Author Says Antiques and Art Can Help Sufferers Create “Place of Healing”

2-14 318Watch your diet, get plenty of exercise, take vitamins and surround yourself with things of beauty like antiques and art.

According to Dr. Esther M. Sternberg, a renowned medical researcher and author of the new book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Wellbeing, a space rich in legend and history—the kind antiques and art provide—can help create a much-needed “place of healing” for individuals suffering from stress and even chronic illness.

In an interview with the online antiques newsletter Early Edition, Sternberg says that, from a scientific viewpoint, living with antiques and art could contribute to healing in much the same way places rich in history and legend do.

As she does in her book, Sternberg gives as an example of such a place of healing the sacred pilgrimage site Lourdes. The physiological responses brought about in visitors to sites like Lourdes are instances of the well-known “placebo effect.”

“When you have an expectation something will heal you,” Sternberg says, “there are profound changes in the brain and in the brain chemicals and hormones that have an effect on the immune system that can truly help you heal. It’s not an effect to be dismissed, although when we talk about the placebo effect, it’s usually preceded by the word “just.” But it’s not ‘just the placebo effect.’ The placebo effect can account, some say, for up to 30 to 50 percent of the effect of any medical intervention, whether it’s simply visiting a doctor, taking a pill, or any medical intervention whatsoever. It’s a very powerful effect and part of what produces the placebo effect is expectation. What gives us expectations that certain things will heal? One ingredient is their history and legend. This is a long way of getting at the question of what it is about antiques and art that could contribute to a healing environment—a soothing, calming environment. Certainly legend and history are very important aspects of the answer.”

Dr. Sternberg’s new book, Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Wellbeing, examines recent discoveries in the neurobiology of the senses and explains how aspects of the built environment, through our senses, influence our personal health for better or worse. The book describes how a Walt Disney theme park, a Frank Gehry building, a labyrinth and a garden can trigger or reduce stress, induce anxiety or instill peace of mind. The author also suggests many possibilities for redesigning hospitals, communities and neighborhoods in ways that would promote greater health and healing.

Esther Sternberg is internationally recognized for her discoveries in brain-immune interactions and the effects of the brain’s stress response on health. She is acknowledged by her peers as a major spokesperson for her field, the science of the mind-body interaction.

The full text of the interview with Dr. Sternberg will appear July 20 in the online newsletter Early Edition, published by Armacost Antiques Shows. Subscriptions to the newsletter are available at no charge through www.ArmacostAntiquesShows.com.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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