Feeling down? Suffering from a mild case of depression, hives or a dull complexion? Well don’t run to the doctor just yet. Russian émigré artist-turned-healer Alexander Melamid might have the perfect antidote to whatever ails you at his Art Healing Ministry at 98 Thompson Street in SoHo.
I came across an article about Melamid’s new clinic in The New York Times Arts section (“Can a Picasso Cure You?” May 24, 2011) and was immediately struck by his irony, timing and ingenuity. The basic idea is this: You have a medical malady, you go see Melamid who, for a small fee of $125, will heal you by prescribing a certain artist (Georges Seurat for clear skin, Claude Monet for hay fever) to fix the problem. This may involve everything from a museum visit to liquid art infusions to projections of paintings on your face. No joke.
Or is it? Melamid says, in the Times story, “Besides being a great idea, it’s something everyone can relate to. It takes art a little bit off the pedestal… And it’s funny. I discovered five years ago that the truth is funny.”
And why shouldn’t it be? Looking through the Nasher Museum’s collection of more than 40 works of art by Melamid and his former artistic partner Vitaly Komar, it seems to me that Melamid’s clinic is the natural result of decades of creating biting, witty, “populist” imagery. Why not harness the ineffable power of art to help the sick? What if all you really needed for that goiter was a good dose of Gauguin? A trip to the Frick for your fever? And forget insurance! Just dig out your copy of Gardner’s Art Through the Ages! The healing qualities of art have been studied for hundreds of years, but Melamid’s methods cut right to the chase: art= good= good for you.
I, for one, would love nothing more than to be cured by art. Haven’t we all felt a certain sense of well-being and calm after visiting a museum, or an exhibition by a favorite artist? And who wouldn’t rather sit in a gallery than in a doctor’s office? So the next time you visit the Nasher Museum (or any art museum) consider this: Maybe Melamid’s clinic is simply a clever reminder for us to take art a little less seriously, to listen to our guts as we stand in front of a painting and to be aware of the physical impact that art and beauty can have on our minds and bodies. As the healer himself warns, though, be careful not to overdose. Art is powerful stuff!