The Wounded Artist

the wounded artist

The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me.  — Oscar Wilde (De Profundis )

In the recent past, the naivete and idealism of my artist collided with avarice and duplicity. Grappling with and moving through the metabolic stress and bitter cynicism incurred by this predicament, catalyzed critical shifts creatively and emotionally.

The disillusionment I faced as a playwright and creator of therapeutic theater has been instrumental in understanding the injuries incurred by the artist, the traumatic wounds awakened and the process of recovery.

Accordingly, my experiences as a creatively driven person who provides therapy to a multitude of diverse artists in NYC compels me to share about the painful hurdles the artist encounters and the psychic toll and resultant wounds incurred.

Likewise, I also want to identify ways to champion the artist, so that these struggles and wounds can ultimately morph into wisdom, power, and success.


Author of “The Artist’s Way” Julia Cameron, said to create is to surrender. From this place of surrender, the artist aligns with a higher will.

Cameron expounds that art is a mystical transaction which unearths within the artist his purest essence. To risk bringing to life ideas of personal beauty and meaning and to bravely share one’s artistic work is to reveal vulnerable aspects of one’s deepest Self.

Concomitant to Cameron’s metaphysical description of the artistic process is the archetypal reality of the struggling artist.

In NYC, artists are often lacking resources to create their work. The cost of real estate, labor and materials, make it exceedingly challenging for artists to thrive. Variable forms of treachery encountered in the dark underbelly of the art world injure the artist’s soul.

The rigors of fame, public humiliation, copyright infringement, theft of intellectual property and corporate theft of one’s work where higher ups regularly usurp and take credit for the work of the peon artist are common occurrences.

Accordingly, high-minded goals and creative ambitions are typically dwarfed by these difficult challenges. To survive, working artists may cobble together sundry art related jobs or take on a day job in a completely different sector.

Balancing work with familial responsibilities may require relocating and/or giving up on artistic pursuits that require touring or long hours in a studio.


Artistic agency and idealism may need to be subordinated to accommodate those who finance artistic expression. This may take the form of private collectors, producers, directors or corporate organizations. Endeavors to exercise entrepreneurial aims may reveal unethical narcissistic motives infiltrating these collaborations. Successfully navigating this complex social and political terrain requires savvy, healthy pride and formidable humility.

However, many artists are not equipped to withstand these challenges. The injuries incurred by showing or merchandising one’s art can catalyze creative stagnation, blocks and traumatic enactments rooted in childhood.

Vulnerable to having revealed personal truths through one’s artistic work, the artist can be swept up by primal needs for admiration and approval. Deep-seated longings to be ‘special,’,perhaps to compensate for and master unresolved betrayal and rejection, can set the artist up for a proverbial fall.


The Wounded Artist

Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC. For more information, visit


APA Reference
Heller, R. (2016). The Wounded Artist. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 15 Aug 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Aug 2016
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