I was interested in the reference made in our readings to art in a mental health setting, and went looking for more information. This is a blog and open conversation between a doctor and a researcher about findings related to that original concept - that realistic nature scenes have an observable impact on patient anxiety.
I know that there are some of us who aren't thrilled with the idea of "science-ifying" nature, and science-ifying art probably doesn't sound great either. But here is the cool thing: this researcher found a way to express her findings and tie it to a bottom line dollar amount in terms of money that can be saved by introducing realistic nature art into mental health settings. And while I philosophically question the need to attach dollar values, pragmatically, I'm thrilled. It is so much easier to have health-related conversations when there is an observable outcome or change in outcome, a somewhat immediate outcome or change in outcome, and best of all, when you can say that you are saving an organization money by doing something that they will want to do anyway - namely, decorate.
This conversation basically argues that there is nothing wrong with seeking evidence to support claims about art, and nothing wrong with trying to identify the characteristics of art that seem to be associated with making it "work." Again, with my general reservations about quantifying art, I think that the ability to do so gives people access to art (and nature) in a way that they might not have had previously!
My research question going forward would be about the details concerning the findings. Are there particular materials that people are drawn to? Does something that uses natural materials have a stronger draw than a realistic picture of nature, for example? How does a photograph compare to a water-painted natural scene? I would be interested in understanding if there is something about a piece of art that had been very clearly touched and created by an individual hand, which I would think of as appealing, applying theories about our desire to gravitate to other humans. For example, I would be interested to know if a highly realistic vision of nature, as presented in a beautiful photograph, is capable of the same intensity of effect as a painting.