Art from the edge: The experience of publicly exhibiting artwork created in or about extreme states

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Year of Completion


First Advisor

Danielle Knafo


Art Galleries routinely expose art created in, or descriptive of, extreme states, in settings that range from patient-run galleries in state psychiatric hospitals to fine art galleries in New York City. Although the ethical considerations of publicly exhibiting such art have been researched, the psychological experience of doing so on the artist have not been investigated. The present qualitative study seeks to understand the individual’s subjective experience of exhibiting one’s artwork in this manner. 13 participants were recruited from art galleries in the New York metropolitan area and in online art galleries, and in-depth interviews were conducted, transcribed and coded by three trained coders, using Auerbach & Silverstein’s (2003) methodology. Recurring ideas and themes were identified and developed into theoretical constructs, and these were used to develop a theoretical narrative. The findings illuminate the relationship between the artists’ artwork and the extreme states that inspired them, while at the same time providing insight into their motivations for exhibiting their work, and how they experienced showing it to others in a public space. Based on the study’s findings, hypotheses were generated, and areas for future research were both identified and described.