How Art Changes Consciousness

By Jacob Devaney on Wednesday December 30th, 2020

Image: Dan Farrell

Art Can Heal Us, Inspire Us, and Alter Our Brain Chemistry

With so much talk about the evidence of the positive effects of yoga and meditation, you might be surprised at what scientific research also says about how art affects the brain. Long before modern neuroscience, artists were creating works to inspire people and today complex brain imaging scans can show us just how art changes the physiology of our brains. Contemplation, observing, and taking in beauty all stimulate pleasure centers within the brain while increasing blood flow by up to 10% in the medial orbitofrontal cortex. This can lead to an elevated state of consciousness, wellbeing, and better emotional health.

The blood flow increased for a beautiful painting just as it increases when you look at somebody you love. It tells us art induces a feel good sensation direct to the brain. – Professor Semir Zeki, chair in neuroaesthetics at University College London

Observing Art

Mirror Neurons are neurons that fire both when a person acts and when the person observes the same action performed by another. This brings us back to a very basic concept in human evolution which involves modeling. When you observe a profound piece of art you are potentially firing the same neurons as the artist did when they created it thus making new neural pathways and stimulating a state of inspiration. This sense of being drawn into a painting is called “embodied cognition”.

Art accesses some of the most advanced processes of human intuitive analysis and expressivity and a key form of aesthetic appreciation is through embodied cognition, the ability to project oneself as an agent in the depicted scene, – Christopher Tyler, director of the Smith-Kettlewell Brain Imaging Center

This explains why we might feel like we are dreaming when we look at impressionists like Claude Monet, or having an ecstatic vision while looking at a painting by Alex Grey. The ability of art, combined with our own imagination, to transport us to other realms is astounding. Artists have the ability to show us new worlds but we shouldn’t put them on a pedestal because each of us is an artist.

Alt text hereThe ability of art, combined with our own imagination, to transport us to other realms is astounding. Image: Alina Grubnyak

Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes. – Joan French MA NCC LCPC

Creating Art

The act of creating art is also therapeutic which has been the impetus for the art therapy movement. Every one of us lived like artists as children and we have the ability to bring back this powerful form of expression and self-healing if we allow ourselves to. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy smearing paint on a canvas and letting your pleasure centers light up like a child!

Art therapy, sometimes called expressive art or art psychology, encourages self-discovery and emotional growth. It is a two-part process, involving both the creation of art and the discovery of its meaning. – Paula Ford-Martin

Modern Visionary Artists are applying the idea that art inspires community, is educational, and has the capacity to elicit spiritual revelations. Painting together in groups and painting live at musical events, these artists are allowing participants in on their creative process. Seeing and understanding that even the finest pieces of art have many moments when the artist isn’t satisfied or needs to paint over something is revealing for each of us on our spiritual journey.

Celebrating How Art changes Consciousness

Artist Alex Grey has opened Cosm in New York which is being called a Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. Within the Visionary Art Movement is the idea that creativity itself is a path to the divine. This includes creating art, gathering around/celebrating art and creating communities that foster creative expression in all of its forms. Creativity may be one of the greatest things about being human and art can be a great teacher for us on this evolutionary journey.

To awaken and catalyze the spiritual path of each person by providing access to the highest mystic truth through art and creative action. – Cosm Core Value

We are surrounded by billboards and advertisements which utilize art to persuade us to purchase things that we usually don’t need. There is currently a large movement towards beautifying public places with murals that contain cultural and community relevance. Imagine how we might create a more peaceful, vibrant world by surrounding ourselves with beautiful art…

I’d like to see a world where scientists, politicians, and spiritual practitioners gathered around art to learn and share with each other towards creating a better world. Visual art can heal us, inspire us, and alter our brain chemistry leaving us filled with inspiration and love. We don’t need science to prove this to us but now that it has what are some ways that you will invoke art and creativity for your own spiritual journey?

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Jacob Devaney

Founder and director of Culture Collective, creative activist, musician, and producer.




Visionary Art and Sacred Geometry


Can Art Heal Cultural Wounds?


How Art Evolves Consciousness

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20 Responses to How Art Changes Consciousness

  1. Art is expressed in many forms and I think they do the same things.music,dance,woodworking,poetry,ccreative writing,invention,are all creative art forms that elevate the spirit.

  2. I really like this arrival. I am an artist who has really practiced expanding my heart. I am so happy to find articles linking art to healing and overall inspiration. Makes sense to me in my personal and professional experience. Thanks.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the article Cathi 😊 As a lover of art myself, I agree that it makes sense! Thanks for reading and please keep sharing your gifts with the world 💜

      Team UPLIFT

  3. Wow! This article really resonates with me and affirms my own thinking about the power of art— be it the process or creating or having sustained engagement with the arts helps integrate our emotions and perceptions which enhance our consciousness and overall sense of well-being and connection to others.

    • Very well said Karen 🙌 Art/creativity is so important! Thanks so much for sharing this excellent perception 🙏

      Team UPLIFT

  4. I have a basic problem with this article, and it centers around the word “art”. This article makes no effort to define “art”, and the explicate reference to “beauty”, as if art were such a thing as, is quite erroneous. Art is highly subjective and singular. No two people see anything the same way, and viewing art is no exception. In fact, art is generally considered provocative – for better or worse – by nature. That’s the purpose of art, after all. The writer’s assertion that art is akin to “wellbeing, and better emotional health” is simplistic and limited to what the art piece literally and figuratively is, and who is the observer.

    As to the matter of billboards and advertisements, they are mental predictions that are projected into the public space for people to engage or not as they see fit. It accepts equality based upon opportunity. Murals, on the other hand, favors those individuals who have asserted their opinions into the public square without accepting the simple fact that we do not all think the same. It’s propaganda, not art. And the idea that murals “beautify public spaces” sounds practically fascist.

    In the end, science has only demonstrated that images before our retinas provoke neuron activity. The range of that activity has proven to be of all shades of human behavior; from good to evil.

  5. As part of the divine creation, with the role to create it’s about learning to utilise that aspect of ourselves. Makes perfect sense to me. Peace is always beautiful

  6. I absolutely can relate to this and LOVE that the author has taken the time to give full validation to what all artists & art lovers feel & know ih the depths of their souls…Thank you for this!!! May I have the authors permission to link this article on my upcoming blog?

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