I put the third part of my trilogy on the shelf for just a bit. I know what it needs to look like (which isn't to say that I know exactly what the image will look like when I am finished, just that I have an idea about what it needs to portray). I am thinking about ways to complete it, how to approach the materials, and it is bigger than I thought. And, once again, I see my 'how I do anything, is how I do everything' mantra present in this 'on hold' place. I try not to leave things incomplete in my life, but sometimes I need to take a step back and get some distance and perspective before proceeding. So, instead, I have been doodling.
Doodling has re- emerged as an art form, a meditation and a subject for psychological study. There is a patented approach to doodle meditation called Zentangle. It has caught on as a meditative experience that ignites creativity. The focus of this practice is using simple lines to create repetitive patterns that invariably become beautiful and intricate works of art. I other art therapy news, researchers are looking at the manner in which our brains are affected by doodling. Initial findings indicate that individuals who doodle retain more auditory information than non- doodlers. For more information on this and other similar art therapy practices go to: https://www.facebook.com/arttherapywithoutborders
Initially, I was going to title this post: The Art of Doodling. But as I was 'working' on this piece I realized that it would likely never be done- there were so many spaces in- between. Engagement with this media, and focused attention on line, colour, and movement has been very pleasing at a sensing level. I have enjoyed the freedom of the flow that has taken over the page. Each time I open up my book and grab my pens, I dive into the work. That seems like the wrong word for this, as it doesn't feel like work at all. It truly is a pleasing, calming and gentle way to meditate and create. The colours seem to choose themselves, and flow from my eyes through my fingers to the page. No thought to how something will look, I have relied on the trust that the shape will be exactly what I need to see. It is an intuitive process.
The 'spaces- in- between' has stirred a space within me, that is longing to be massaged. It holds the sweet remembrance of ideas, conversation and true exchange. It is a term that reminds me of the mysteries that we encounter every day. For me, it is the same as a pause in a yoga breath. In those precious seconds so much is revealed. The ways in which we can hold the spaces- in- between, and the room that we can make for them in our lives is often a reflection of how far we've traveled.
As I have worked on 'filling in the spaces', I realized how little I have dwelled in the spaces, the unknown, recently. Lest anybody think I believe the unknown to be a wholly comfortable thing for me, I will rephrase: I haven't made enough time or space in my life to reflect on the bigger picture- that which is not completely knowable, and thus holds mystery that can be both awesome and delightful to see as it unfolds. In this context then, the unknown is a spiritual curiosity for me- what fits in that open space? Does that space in between me and you somehow hold the shape of our lives?
When I breathe into that space within me, there is always the possibility... the possibility that I will know more about myself, my place in the world, the people who populate it, than I did before.
Similarly, as I dwell in the spaces on the page, new ways of enveloping my world in colour open up, and I am soothed by the way it naturally flows.
I see new directions as I look at my additions to the spaces. More and more, I understand the nature of those spaces- in- between, and the complete stories they can hold. I will never be able to fill in all the spaces- at least I certainly hope not. The spaces allow for a refuge from the busy- ness around them. Each one is a quiet place to breathe, and reflect on the swirls of colour in which we live. They are pockets of meditation that invite us to pause. There is a praxis that occurs in this process: we act, we pause and reflect and then we move forward from that inner space to take further action that has taken shape based on our reflection. It is a natural and gentle way to be, and I long to remember my spaces- in- between more than I have.
And in this case, I created the pockets, spaces, pauses, exactly where my intuition told me to place them.
This is a work of my inner world: of colour, of movement and 'spaces- in- between'.
This was an important break from my intended work of finishing my trilogy. Taking the time to reflect and explore the space I'm in is essential for me- as essential as breath, and the pause in the breath.
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What a scary mess!
I need to re- frame that statement: what a PERFECT mess!
I know that our 'product' doesn't always come out exactly as we envision it- if we even HAVE a preconceived idea. Case in point, I was working from a pretty good understanding of art materials, therapeutic process, etc. And still, I was flummoxed at every step of this piece. So, no, this is not as I envisioned, but it IS perfect for reasons that go far beyond appearance.
After my last 'exploration in clay' piece, I had a felt sense of the direction this process was going. Right from my 'aha' moment, back in Floyd's office, when I saw with my internal eyes the path my art- making must take, I knew that this would be an exploration in three parts. I already know what kind of work I would like to do next. Taken together, the three pieces in this 'trilogy' that I am in the midst of creating will be transformative in some way that I can't yet see. TRIlogy- there had to be a third piece. Just as I puzzled over how to get from A- to B- to C, my friend, talented artist- soon to be art therapist, Lenore Walker (www.lenorewalker.com) posted an art invitation on the use of 'altered puzzles'. "Altered books' are a mainstay in the practice of art therapy. They are the transformation of discarded books into a story that tells us how an individual has experienced the events of their life. It is a rich and beautiful manner of expression that can provide a legacy for people who are old or ill, can be a voice for someone who has felt silenced, and is accessible to almost anybody as a way to record their creative energy. I was intrigued then, by the idea of altered puzzles and the layers of meaning that occurred to me even as I turned the idea around in the moments after I read Lenore's post.
As an art therapist, I am aware that it is imperative that we have experience with an art invitation before we offer it to our clients. There is a need to be comfortable with the materials, and to understand the ways in which they may potentially affect an individual. And so, the learning began.
I began with a simple children's puzzle. This was easiest, and turns out, the best decision I made regarding materials.
Then I spent a long time choosing images that spoke to me. In some cases I created the images by printing photographs of my own artwork or things that I have in my life that are important to me (the Buddha in the upper right hand corner, the star of David- top middle). It was important to me to use images that I felt a connection to. As in the example above, I chose to use the photo of the star of David that I wear almost all the time because it feels like it is 'of me'. Some who know me also know that my name, Yona, means dove in Hebrew. I have had a life- long affinity for doves and the meanings the images of them carry for me. I have always imagined that I must strive to embody some of the traits the dove represents to me: emissary of peace, the capacity to soar but having the ability to seek groundedness. Sadly there is also the 'wounded dove', though not sought, that seems applicable to many aspects of my life.
There are many steps in collage making, and I savoured the time I took with each.
When I do collage work, I usually like to tear my pictures out of the magazine, paper... I feel like I am more engaged with the image that way, as I tear carefully along the edges. I also like the effect of frayed edges. In this case, I did some of that and also cut some pieces into desired shape.
I arranged the images in such a way that they said in pictures, what needed to be seen and heard.
And then I glued them...
To the wrong material.
By the time I realized that corrugated cardboard would be a very difficult choice of material to work with, it was really too late to change my mind. I would have ruined the images if I tried to move them to thinner, but stiff cardboard that would be easy to cut. I had a decision to make: I could either choose new images, remembering that I had put much heart into my choices, or, I could carry on and learn what there was to learn.
I decided to carry on, struggle through the project, and to notice whatever came up.
I have recently been told by someone I am close to, that they don't believe the adage I live by: "how we do anything is how we do everything". I feel like this particular piece of work demonstrates that philosophy beautifully. It is about noticing- noticing the patterns that we have adopted in our lives, and seeing the levels that they dictate our 'automatics'. I persevere- that's what I do. I look for the meaning in the manner in which things happen- not to say that there is a divine message, but there are lessons to learn from my actions. This also clarified the notion for me that ACTION doesn't have to be a move across the world to make changes in how we are in our lives. ACTION can be the little things we do and notice in our everyday lives that bring us closer to our own centre, and enrich our lives and those of the people around us.
My next faux pas was to outline the puzzle pieces on the face up side of the collage- wrong again. So I repeated the tracing on the back side of the collage, knowing that there could well be discrepancies between the lines on the front and those on the back.
Oh well. I'm not demanding perfection, right?
Difficult to say: it doesn't need to be perfect, it needs to be what it is. Remind myself that this isn't a commissioned piece of art, this is a process.
Cutting out the puzzle pieces was anything but perfect. I struggled to make this as smooth, and without errors as I possibly could. (And how is THAT like my life?) This step took quite a long time, owing mostly to my first mistake in using corrugated cardboard.
I enjoyed gluing the collage puzzle pieces to the original puzzle. It felt like I was giving structure to what I was creating.
I sealed the puzzle pieces, let them dry, and then assemble my altered puzzle. Though not 'pretty', the effect was profound.
The first thing I noticed was that there were definite cracks, so there would never be a seamless appearance. I thought of Leonard Cohen's "Anthem": "There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"
The many layers of metaphor began to drop into place, as though they were a puzzle of their own that fit together as I gave myself this unique perspective of my experience. Perhaps they are the lines of a poem waiting to be written.
There is definite movement from the left hand side filled with darkness and scary monsters to the right, where there are images of the tools that support the bridge building of the center: spirituality, creativity, abundance and family. Central is also my star of David, with my dove winging her way above all. There is also a quote that will probably speak to many: "A broken heart is not just sad. Such a heart carries wounds that alter normal functioning on every level..." These elements reflect my own movement from the dark towards the light. Even the recyclable symbol on the back of the cardboard holds its metaphor. It seems to be saying to me that we are always capable of transformation. The fact that this is a puzzle that fits together with difficulty is one more metaphor of how I have struggled in my life. It takes huge effort on my part (and sometimes on the part of the loved ones and supports around me) to keep working at putting the pieces of my life puzzle together.
And I persevere, believing that this is the ACTION I need to take in my life. It feels right to stay grounded in my role as mother. From this grounded place, I move my feet with knowledge that I can feel the earth beneath me, and the dove above me, as I walk on this path.
When I began this puzzle collage, I had no idea where it would lead me- we cannot demand that the art gives us a personal message. Rather staying with the process took me to deeper levels of awareness, and allowed release of things that needed letting go.
In my first post I said that my purpose here is to "chronicle my healing journey through art".
I would like to come back to that now.
I'm still not 'cured'.
Is there a cure for broken hearts, trauma and all the methods we employ to bandage, 'forget' or otherwise cope?
The cure is any action that propels us forward, insists that we see ourselves and does not permit us to run away. It is a way of living. I believe that I am doing just that here.
Still I can't live with an eating disorder- certainly not fully or healthfully. As I have engaged in this project, I notice that I am calmer, and I have a gentler energy that has allowed me to see myself more clearly. These are important markers that guide me back to a more balanced lifestyle that will allow me to release yet another level of pain and re- engage in the larger world outside me.
As always, I invite comments and encourage you to share this with anyone who couild benefit.