Fine Art
Walls Become Doorways
Psychology of Art
When Walls Become Doorways
Creativity and the Transforming Illness
When Tobi Zausner was diagnosed with the most aggressive kind
of ovarian cancer in 1989, she was told she would not last the
year. But instead her life changed for the better and she
completed an interdisciplinary doctorate in art and psychology.
Recognizing that her experience was a transforming illness— a
time of poor health that profoundly changes your abilities, your
outlook, and your life— she also realized that she was not alone.
Artists across cultures and throughout the centuries had similar

Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Frida Kahlo, Michelangelo, Georgia
O'Keeffe, and Henri Matisse are some of the many artists in WHEN
WALLS BECOME DOORWAYS: Creativity and the Transforming
Illness, whose physical disorders enhanced their creativity and
altered their lives. Illness shaped their work, and their
masterpieces changed our world. Their stories reveal that life’s
lowest moments can hold our greatest potential for creativity and
transformation. When the wall of illness becomes a door of
opportunity, the worst of times can bring out the best in us.

Creativity is a basic human ability extending across racial and
cultural boundaries as shown by the artists in this book. Some like
Leonardo are famous painters; others are less well known
contemporary artists, who work in a variety of media. But all of
them experience a transforming illness by using creativity to
triumph over challenges. Instead of being blocked by illness, they
are strengthened by it and leave us the legacy of their success.

They work with visual impairments, deafness, cancer, heart
problems, quadriplegia, arthritis, kidney disease, learning
disorders, neurological ailments, autism, AIDS, Down syndrome
and other conditions. Rather than stopping them, the impairments
challenge them, inspiring both the artist and the art. Becoming
metaphors for human potential, we see in them our own inherent
creativity. What they have done during illness – and continue to
do – is possible and available for everyone.

Using fascinating and well documented life stories of artists and
drawing upon her own experience, Dr. Zausner offers us methods
for accessing our creative abilities and ways to turn a time of poor
health into achievement and a more meaningful new life. WHEN
WALLS BECOME DOORWAYS is a study in human resilience,
revealing that our capacities are often greater than we realize and
that sometimes it takes an illness to uncover them.

This book has been translated into Turkish and Chinese.
by Tobi Zausner, PhD, LCSW
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