AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

AMA Journal of Ethics. January 2017, Volume 19, Number 1: 107-109.
doi: 10.1001/journalofethics.2017.19.1.imhl2-1701.

Images of Healing and Learning

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Out of Darkness, Light: Drawing and Painting by Margeaux Gray

Mary Richards uses Margeaux Gray’s art to illustrate how art can be an effective means of healing for human trafficking survivors.

Artwork by Margeaux Gray, commentary and analysis by Mary Richards, MFA


Figure 1. Detail of Untitled, by Margeaux Gray


Untitled was created by Margeaux Gray at the age of 13 during her time at a residential facility, prior to telling anyone about her abuse or that she was a victim of trafficking.


This piece, which Margeaux Gray describes as a journal entry, is a raw, rare, and brave glimpse into suffering—a painful peering into a quiet self-loathing. The “x” crosses out, negates, appears to be constricting the hand. Gray explains she doesn’t know her own hand: “mine, I guess.” Disassociating from the body is likely a self-protective measure. Here she describes simply what she is able to see and feel: sadness, guilt.


Figure 2. Detail of Universal Light, Nurture and Nursing, by Margeaux Gray


Universal Light, Nurture and Nursing is a recent piece about which the artist states, “In my darkest moments, I saw a universal light.” She uses found objects in her art to remind the viewer of the beauty and value of people our society might disregard or undervalue, among them victims of abuse, victims of human trafficking, and people with disabilities.


There is a power that only some people know. It comes from an unimaginable darkness. Margeaux Gray’s abstraction speaks to the magic of artistic alchemy, in which discarded fragments are brought beautifully whole by merging a painterly, expressive quality. In a sense, Gray is symbolically putting the pieces back together through the work.

Margeaux Gray is a survivor of child abuse and sex trafficking. Today, she advocates against all forms of abuse by mentoring at-risk youth, speaking to the public, and talking to doctors and organizations about ways to improve health care and social services for victims. Margeaux uses her talent as an artist to convey the beauty and value of individuals who are often overlooked in today’s society, among them victims of abuse, human trafficking, and those with disabilities.

Mary Richards, MFA, is an installation artist in St. Louis. She received her MFA from Ohio University and has worked as a gallery director and adjunct professor of art in the Washington, DC, and St. Louis areas for over a decade.

Art Therapy for Children Who Have Survived Disaster, September 2010

Pain and the Paintbrush: The Life and Art of Frida Kahlo, May 2013

We Got Your Back: Patient Advocacy Through Art, January 2016

The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.