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Gainesville Therapist Uses Art As Healing Process

The Wild Women came as a result of Yelvington being diagnosed with MS. The colors are usually bright but as of now she has taken a more monochromatic approach to them.
The Wild Women came as a result of Yelvington being diagnosed with MS. The colors are usually bright but as of now she has taken a more monochromatic approach to them.

For some people, art is more than just art. For them, it is a way of dealing with difficult emotions.

Kristina Owens Chance, a certified play therapist in Gainesville, says art therapy is an alternative way of expression, and it is especially beneficial for people who have trouble expressing their emotions verbally. Some things are better expressed through a creative process, she said.

“Art therapy is different because it usually has some connection to a situation, problem or issue that the client is going through,” Chance said. “It’s something that is used as a therapeutic tool instead of just something to create.”

There are many art mediums to choose from. Chance said some people use paint while others may use crayons, markers, and even cutting and pasting.

Jess Yelvington is an artist from Florahome who has exhibited her artwork at the Artwalk in Gainesville. Yelvington said art has been extremely helpful for her, because she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. 

“I’m a 30-year-old mother of two; I have a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old,” Yelvington said. “It doesn’t make sense to me to have to deal with this kind of physical limitations. It’s not the course that I saw for myself.”

Yelvington said art has helped her process emotions that cannot be dealt with words. After a good painting session she said she feels her emotions are cleared up.

The name for one of the sets of paintings she has done is called “The Wild Women.”

Yelvington said the paintings came out of her experience with MS.

"I had a lot of things going on with vision and balance," she said. "And painting really helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. I was painting non-stop.”

Nature is Yelvington’s biggest inspiration. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her sons and painting with them afterward.

“Watching them see as the colors mix and the magic of it and how excited they get when certain colors match up or make a new color,” Yelvington said. “It’s kind of neat to see those things happen organically.”

She is currently working on projects with a different color scheme. Her work usually has a black background and bright colors, but her new projects are more monotone, with just a few shades of black, white and blue.

Yelvington said her paintings are like little fragments of certain moments in her life suspended in time.

“I can look at a painting and remember what was going on then,” Yelvington said. “And people see it just as art and I’m like, that was three weeks in my life in one painting, and I can tell you all about what was going on.”

Yelvington’s preferred medium is acrylic and mixed media. She gives acrylics a watercolor effect by spraying them with water as she works through different layers. Sometimes she uses oil pastels and color pencils to add the final details.

“I have painted for therapy. I believe that art saves lives," Yelvington said. "I believe that when you see people starting to be creative, that’s the first step to emotional healing."

Victoria is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org