At this point, I am deciding to depart from the initial focus of my writing on theoretical understandings of art therapy. I want to give my readers, and potential collaborators, a glimpse at the deeply personal way art(s) therapy(ies) has/ have opened doors for me that I previously believed were inaccessible by me.
I could never have imagined coming to the point in my life that I could counsel others, teach what I know to be true for me to other people who are eager to find new ways of assisting others in need, or even to find the voice that I now know resides within me. I viewed myself as broken, ugly, and unlovable. In fact, I could not see myself in a mirror without seeing fractured lines that never made a whole. Over the years (and decades) my artistic expression, visual and written, have come closer and closer to telling my truth. They are coming to a coalescence of a complete picture that, again, I could not have perceived before. The images, the words, when brought together, tell a story. They tell my story.
The particular mixed media piece that I am looking at right now, is called “Sunday Run: NO WAY HOME”. I did it a few years ago (about five), after a run in the fall. My running partner and I have always stopped to taste the fruits of the season. It’s our version of stopping to smell the roses. As we stopped at a tree in a back alley that had an abundance of apples hanging over the fence into the public domain, I was hit by a crushing flashback to a childhood memory. The memory was indeed, of running away from, and being blocked at every turn by fences and trees and houses, and garages… I was unable to find a safe way home, or to outrun the people who were pursuing me. By this time I had learned to live with, note, record, externalize, etc the memories that seemed to me to come out of nowhere. I also was cognizant by this point in my life, that they were from somewhere, and that I didn’t need to fear the images that assaulted me.
That is easier said than done.
And I certainly had a reaction to the memory. I remember telling my friend about it as we tasted the sweet apples before moving on. My friend who has known me for a long time, and knows that she can simply acknowledge what I am telling her, and that there is no easy fix, did just that.
When I got home, I got out papers paint and a flat canvas board that I could work on with the force of the emotions I was feeling. I painted, placed, scraped and repositioned my materials. It was an intuitive, whole body, experiential process that involved every facet of my being. The result was the image you see here, that reaches out and conveys my feeling of panic. The panic came up as I ran through my currently safe- enough life, both literally and figuratively. Each way you turn this image, you will see that the doors, windows and fences that panicked me in a time long ago, and were still living within. The externalization of the feelings, and living proof of the barriers I was still encountering was a key element of helping me to tease out what was memory and how to evaluate my current sense of safety.
These have been real life, tangible lessons in finding my way back to me; tearing down the fences, breaking through the barriers one brick at a time. My love/ hate relationship with the very real feelings that lie beneath the surface, now have a way home.