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Art and Massage Therapy

"As a visual artist I might have been working on a canvass that was 50 feet square. That requires stamina and prolonged concentration, for days at a time. Your body has to be working to its fullest capacity in order to serve your work, and your life."

Andrew McCully's route to massage therapy first led him through the disciplines of visual art and psychology. In each case, the body has been a conscious medium for his focused tactile encounters with the world. When working as an artist, the nature of the encounter, whether through a large canvass or through three dimensional sculptural creation, is with the self. That self knowledge becomes the foundation for a communication between two people that is specific to the massage therapist's practice. The tactile encounter of the practitioner's hands and the client's body becomes an intimate meeting place where a common language is formed, and a connection is established. 

"You try to maintain that, physically and mentally. It's meditative. You can get to a very quiet place. When you're working with people through their pain, it's a time of vulnerability. Going through the process can involve anxiety, maybe fear, it can bring up old issues. It takes patience and skill to go through the healing process. It's a partnership. If the physical problem is chronic, the partnership can be ongoing."

Touch-sensitivity is essential to a massage therapist. Andrew's ability in this area has become more acute as his vision has receded over the years.

"When I was at the Emily Carr Institute of Art in 1993, I intuitively knew I was going to lose my functional vision. This created an immediacy in my work as a visual artist: my vision was becoming less and less, and I figured I better get out what I had to get out. Which was perhaps a fear impulse, but I think it was good. 'Time's up' — it was that kind of thing. Necessity brought things to a head."

As a student of psychology and a community art worker, Andrew was no stranger to the helping professions. Connecting the information he had gathered about psycho-physical processes from the worlds of visual art and psychology, he rearticulated his work in the field of massage therapy. Loss of sight created greater awareness in his other sense centers: touch, of course, but also sound.

"Through sound I can guess the shape of a client's body, how much they weigh. A visual picture is created. Sound resonates over the body and through the body, the space around the person — a body becomes delineated through sound. But this sensitivity to sound started long before I lost my sight. My father is a poet. He's been publishing songs and writing in his journals for nearly 70 years. But he's deaf. He hears with hearing aids. He sings, but he's tone deaf. He's very entertaining. I'm very soft spoken. It probably comes from that."


portrait of Andrew McCully