The Bandaged Place

“You could say that a reckoning has to be made with the coyote, and only then can this trauma be lifted.”

(Joseph Beuys)

“Don’t turn away. Keep your eye on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.”



I have been invited to sit on a panel about art and healing. Doing so will be no challenge: these days, I can think of art in no other way.


This from a website called Shamanic Journey:

“If coyote enters your life, you must look at something you have been avoiding. They are mirrors for the lessons we must learn so we are able to walk a good sacred road. The mirror will be held up incessantly until we finally get the picture.”

This also from German artist Joseph Beuys:

“Art is, then, a genuinely human medium for revolutionary change in the sense of completing the transformation from a sick world to a healthy one. In my opinion only art is capable of doing it.”


The day Elisif died, my head filled with drawings.

It took me two months to get started, and then I was at it for weeks: Johnny Cash’s Unchained in my ears, pastels in hand, cheeks wet.


In 1974, Beuys undertook an action called I Like America and America Likes Me. The performance began with his arrival at JFK Airport, where he was whisked to Rene Block Gallery by ambulance, on a stretcher, swathed in felt. He then shared the gallery space with a live coyote, 8 hours a day for three days, having as props (among other things) a felt blanket in which he was wrapped, a shepherd’s staff, and a fresh copy of The Wall Street Journal delivered each day.


I wrote this to the moderator of the panel discussion on art and healing when asked to summarize what we might say:

“In my opinion, art is at its most useful when embraced as healing at all levels. Making art about Elisif was and continues to be my most intense therapy. The public work I’m doing through the New Day Campaign is holding space for other artists, and audiences, and the community at large to find healing. To feel shame in art as healing is to deny the vulnerability that is our human condition. To own that vulnerability, and to seek healing in any number of ways through art, is to find redemption when otherwise our hearts may be hard and our way lost.”


As a young man, Joseph Beuys considered becoming a doctor; he became an artist instead.

He kept his eye on the bandaged place.