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The Link Between Creativity and Mental Health

  March 09, 2016
Submitted by South Central Regional Medical Center

The great Pablo Picasso once stated, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” All are born with an innate desire to express ourselves and through art, creative expression is developed. For years people have searched for the meaning of life in music, paintings, poetry, and other arts. Scientists are now finding that the arts can benefit people physically and mentally.

An internationally acclaimed artist, Mark Landis, who suffers from mental illness, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 17. He was a small and sickly child who spent most of his time indoors and had an eye for drawing at a young age. He reveals, “I was never good at making friends, so I drew. I drew images out of books to show to my mother. I always wanted to please her.”

Landis developed an impressive talent in recreating images and he attended college. Yet rather than completing the School of Art at the Institute of Chicago, Landis dropped out and began copying works of art and donating the original work in memory of his late father and mother. Over time, Landis would be exposed as one of the most creative art forgers in the United States donating over 100 works to at least 49 museums in over 30 years. It is important to know that what he did was not a crime. He never sold one piece of the forged art to museums. It was all donated.

You ask, why did he do it? Landis stated in his documentary movie, Art and Craft, “I wanted to impress my mother by being a philanthropist. I gave a picture to a museum which I hoped would please my mother. Everyone was so nice to me and I became addicted to the attention and friendship of others. I was not used to being treated nicely. I enjoyed it very much.”

Rhonda McNair, LCSW, Licensed Professional Counselor at South Central Behavioral Health Services in Laurel, said, “Some of the greatest artists of all times suffered from mental illness, including Vincent van Gogh. Even though we do not condone Mark Landis’ ability to dupe museums across the country with forged art, we do recognize his strong psychological need to interact with others and feel appreciated for his efforts.”   

Landis craved human connection, yet being diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression, he had trouble meeting people. By representing a false philanthropist to museums throughout the country, he interacted with others.  Today, Mark says, he has difficult days, but through his art he finds purpose and meaningful human connection.

The Brain, Just Another Organ of the Body
The life and story of Mark Landis is unique. His struggles with behavioral health issues have become a dominant part of his life, but he understands the importance of treatment.  Although each person is different, many face similar struggles in life. Whether it is depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts or other behavioral issues that can shape a person’s life.

McNair said, “Getting help for conditions like this is important. Many people think, ‘I do not need therapy, because people will think I am crazy.’ The truth is, everyone needs therapy. Therapy can come from a variety of outlets, but everyone needs someone to talk to about difficulties in their lives.”

Think of it like this, she said. “The brain is just another organ of the body, like the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. “Most of us go to our health care provider annually for a checkup to make sure all of these organs are functioning properly; however, the brain is many times forgotten. It is one of the most important organs in the body.  It needs to be taken care of.”

Landis’ Art to Be Included in Auction Set for Saturday, March 19th In Laurel
Mark Landis will be attending the Art of Healing this year and has already donated several of his original pieces of art to the event.  Becky Collins, Director of Community Relations and the South Central Health Care Foundation said, “We appreciate Landis donating his original work to be auctioned off at the Art of Healing this year. He is also donating a commissioned piece. The highest bidder on this auction item will provide Landis a picture of something they would like personally created by him.”

“Mr. Landis’ story is one-of-a-kind and we are excited to feature his original, one-of-a-kind art at the Art of Healing this year. It is great to know that no matter what type of health issues a person has, they can have an amazing talent,” Collins said. “It is also great to see full circle how the proceeds from the Art of Healing Auction impact so many people.”

The Art of Healing is an annual live and silent auction that serves as a fundraiser for the South Central Health Care Foundation in Laurel. Funds raised from the Art of Healing provide free community health events including screenings for depression, anxiety, and other health related conditions. The proceeds also fund health education programs and other community health initiatives throughout the year. 

Landis is on the agenda to say a few words at the Art of Healing.  “We ask someone from our community each year who has been impacted with a health related condition to speak at the Art of Healing as a way to educate those attending about health related conditions,” Collins said. The upcoming event planned for Saturday, March 19th at the Sanderson Farms Corporate Headquarters in Laurel, will feature Landis who will briefly share information about his journey in life. 

The 2016 Art of Healing will include a silent and live auction that features more than 150 items donated by artists throughout the United States, including woodwork, oil, acrylic, stained glass, handmade jewelry, leather goods, watercolor, chalk, photography, and more. Along with art, the event will feature a “Friends of the Foundation” silent auction category which will include items donated by businesses and individuals—specialty dinners, vacations, skincare products, handbags, photography sessions, fine wine, and more.

“The bid items at the Art of Healing will have something that will appeal to everyone,” states Collins, “including a stay at Ramon’s Village in Belize; an oil painting valued at over $7,000 donated by Artist Greg Cartmell in Meridian; and gift certificates donated by area organizations and businesses.

Collins said those attending the event will enjoy live music by Charles Carter, a delicious array of foods, and beverages. Local artist Mandy Buchanan will paint a piece of art during the evening which will be included in the live auction, and a caricature artist will be on hand to hand sketch images of those attending. The dress for the evening is cocktail attire. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets are only $35 and can be purchased online at or by calling 601-399-0503.

Collins closed by saying, “We are extremely appreciative of the support from our community partners. We would like to extend a special thank you to Sanderson Farms for allowing us to have this event at their facility. Without their support this event would not be possible.”

Community Partners of the 2016 Art of Healing Auction and Exhibition include: Laurel Leader-Call, Sanderson Farms, Southern Style Catering, The Chronicle, Floral Design by Jill Windham, IMPACT, Jefferson Medical Associates, Wayne Farms, WDAM, Wm. F. Horne & Co., PLLC, ENT Surgical Services, PA, Radiology Associates, PA, The First, Trustmark National Bank, BancorpSouth, City of Laurel, Community Bank, First State Bank, Gholson, Burson, Entrekin & Orr, PA, John David Jefcoat – State Farm Insurance, Joiner Sigler Insurance, SouthGroup Insurance.

To find out more about the Art of Healing planned for Saturday evening, March 19th at the Sanderson Farms Corporate Headquarters in Laurel, or programs and services offered by South Central Regional Medical Center, visit
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March 09, 2016
Keywords:  Feature Story

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