Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Collages We Create

Collage as an art form has taken the world by storm. There are workshops, books, and supplies to support you in creating your personal story through collage. So what is a collage? Collage is the ultimate Gestalt. It is an art form where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

The great part of collage is the process. Gathering the components that will be part of your collage is part of the art. Each piece you collect says something about you.   It reveals your hopes, dreams, and desires. The creation of the collage creates a sense of vulnerability. Why does it create vulnerability? Because we are humans are a walking, breathing collage.

The collage process is our way of transferring our collage of life to an art medium. It can provide you with the means to create an ongoing story. It’s a great medium for those who are more visually inclined instead of journal writing. It can be a mix of pictures and words, colors and shapes, or anything else that catches your eye.

Collage is great because it doesn’t need to follow the traditional rules of what makes great art. We’re not worried about composition and perspective. The only thing that’s important in collage is that you like it and you feel it represents the moment in time, in your life, you’re trying to create.

Another part of collage is that it doesn’t take someone we would traditionally call “talented” to make create something meaningful. If we’re all living collages, all we’re doing is transferring that experience so others can see you in a different way. The other thing is that collage can be like dream work, capturing your subconscious stories in a 2D format.

How can you tell your story through collage? It doesn’t matter if the work is big or small, start collecting components, have fun and tell your story!

Looking for education, inspiration, and support when facing an illness?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

 

Advertisements

Sharing Your Experience Through Poetry and Song

Have you ever heard a boychoir sing? The purity and honesty of the young voice is angelic.   It provides the listener with an undeniably uplifting experience. So what happens when a group of young boys since the words of other children, particularly those of kids facing a life-threatening illness? You get songs that channel the triumphant spirit of kids facing challenges and told through the voices of those serving as angelic messengers.

The Houston Boychoir, www.houstonboychoir.org, provides a vocal creative space for boys between 8 and 12 years of age. They have stringent schedules for rehearsals and performance, but are committed to being a part of such a creative group. They are devoted to their art and are able to tell the story of others through song.

The choir went to a summer camp designed specifically for children going through dialysis. The camp is set up with all the needs for these kids and in this arena they can have a “normal” camp experience given all the time spent receiving medical care during their stay.

It was during this time that the choir decided to engage in a program where they would get the campers to write poems about their experience. These poems were read and some given to songwriters for the start of a creative collaboration. The songwriters became partners with the campers and a song was born. The end result was the boychoir would sing these newly created songs in concerts.

The dialysis inspired songs were inspiring. The ability to have songs that were so true about the camper’s experience, and to hear that they were positive was encouraging. The songs showed the resilience of these campers and the power of sharing those experiences with others. The songs give us insight into the importance of creating a sense of normalcy when going through treatment for a chronic or life-threatening illness.

You would be amazed at how powerful the poems/songs were when performed. The boys voices coupled with the words of the campers were a transformative experience. It gives us hope that resilience is possible following the diagnosis of an illness. It provides us with a peak into the importance of kind, caring and loving people such as medical providers who provide compassionate care.

We all have stories to tell, would you tell yours through poetry and song? How do you get your story told?

Looking for education, inspiration, and support following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness visit, http://www.survivingstrong.com

The Mysteries We Unlock on our Bookcases

Evolution has created many discussions about how we’ve become the species we are today. The amazing thing is that we all evolve. We evolve physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we can do our own archeological digs in our own homes. The dig is no further than your bookcase(s).

I was listening to Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. She was interviewing a British author, Penelope Lively, a woman in her eighties and the author of Dancing Fish and Ammonites. The author shared that she had over three thousand books in her library. Gross asked her if she was accustomed to reading books a second time and that was the reason for keeping all these books.

Lively, an academic explained that she often referred back to books for research and would occasionally reread a book she loved. Gross could have just accepted that explanation, but she knew there was something deeper about keeping all those books. Lively went on to explain that her bookcase was like a timeline of her life. She could peruse the bookcases and see the evolution of her interests over time. As her interests changed so did the books she bought. Looking at her bookcase is like seeing a retrospective her life.

We’re used to seeing artists have retrospectives of the work they created. Having a retrospective of your life based on your purchases, interests, and collections are like having your own personal time capsule.

After hearing the interview with Lively I went and began to explore my own bookcases. I have books in my closet from graduate school about psychotherapy and human development. Over time I collected books on geriatrics when I was doing geriatric care management and began a PhD program in psychology focusing on geropsychology. My interests and beliefs changed and my book collection shifts to books on religion and spirituality. Then I had another shift, from traditional quilting to art quilting and the books reflect an awakening to my own creative potential.

As I continued on my journey I found a graduate school that would allow me to combine my interests in human development, spirituality, health and healing, and of course art. Eventually all of this led to my dissertation in Medical/Visual Anthropology researching Artists and Illness and the impact of their narrative on their art and autobiography. It has been amazing to explore my own evolution personally and professionally.

What does your bookcase say about your interests, your careers, or your beliefs? I’d love to hear what you have learned about yourself.

For education, inspiration, and support when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness visit, www.survivingstrong.com

Creativity Throws Us Curve Balls

Creativity is the path to ultimate self-expression. It allows us to release hints about our true nature. It allows us to leave a breadcrumb trail from the soul out into the world, giving us the path to return at any time. How we leave that trail varies, but no matter how we do it, we’re given the gifts that come with expressing the souls true nature.

The title of the post, “Creativity Throws Us Curve Balls” was a quote from my dissertation adviser. I was in the dissertation process when I dropped out of sight. I didn’t answer her emails and it was a year before I resurfaced. I was quite apologetic and she was compassionate in her response. She was clear that creativity wasn’t on a timetable. The creative process isn’t prisoner to structure, but a free spirit. The curve ball comes in when the negative self-talk appears and confuses us creating a blockage of creativity’s natural flow.

Is it possible that those who have not explored their creative process have an advantage when they are called to create? Many art and healing programs utilize artists-in-residence. These artists have been exploring their art personally and professionally for years. They go to a patient’s bedside and potentially, for the first, time, come in contact with a “creativity virgin”. This person is being exposed to the act of creating in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. They can explore without an agenda and revel in the joy of the creative process.

Creativity allows us to enter a state of flow. When we are given the space to create we can expand our self-knowing, our state of consciousness, and share our unspoken stories. The more we create, the more breadcrumbs we leave making marks on the Universe.   As my dissertation adviser shared with me, creativity doesn’t follow a straight line, but a fluid exploration of the soul. Giving yourself the freedom to create enhances your journey to health and healing.

For more information on health and healing visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

What Would You Sacrifice to Keep Creating?

It may seem perplexing as to why I’m coupling sacrifice and creation, but I assure you there is documented history of the two walking arm and arm. One of the keynotes at the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health was Dr. C. Richard Stasney.    Dr. Stasney is part of a team of doctors that take care of the Houston Opera, Symphony, and Ballet.

Looking back in history there are prominent artists who experienced personal sacrifice for the sake of their art; Beethoven is one of those artists. Because of a medical problem that resulted in the accumulation of fluid in his abdomen, Beethoven had abdominocentesis (draining of the fluid in the abdomen) twice a week. We know from DNA testing that he didn’t use any opiates to deal with the pain of this frequent procedure. The absence of opiates/painkillers meant that Beethoven could continue creating without being in a state of altered consciousness.

What are the limits of sacrifice for art? How do these sacrifices impact our motivation to create art? What healing properties does art have that was the result of personal sacrifice in the mind-body-spirit arena. Although Beethoven didn’t use opiates keeping him present to create, we as artists know that being “in the zone” creates an altered state of consciousness. This altered state gives us uninterrupted time to in our creative spaces to dive into our process of making art.

Beethoven may have been an exception to the rule based on the level of sacrifice he exhibited to compose, but the idea of sacrifice is not uncommon to artists. What have you sacrificed or willing to sacrifice to continue making art? Is the sacrifice part of your art and healing process? How does sacrifice influence our creative process and in turn does it heighten or diminish the impact on our physical, emotional, or spiritual health?

For more information on living with chronic or life-threatening illness visit www.survivingstrong.com

Art, Perspective, and Life

Denver is an art town! It has a vibrant arts culture. On any given day you can visit galleries, museums, open mics, poetry slams, and a host of other creative events. The Art Students League of Denver offers a host of art classes in many mediums providing the community with affordable ways to explore their creativity. One of the things I most enjoy is the 1St Friday Art Walk.

The 1st Friday Art Walk, an evening when the galleries are open late and many new exhibits are debuted. It definitely has a festive feel and is an enjoyable way to see a lot of art in one evening experiencing the worldview and perspective of various artists.

The city of Denver honored Printmaking. There were exhibitions, classes, artist talks and workshops devoted to printmaking. It shouldn’t be a surprised that many galleries had print works on display. There are many ways to print and that’s the beauty of the medium.

I met someone I knew while touring the galleries and we decided to explore the art walk together. He’s a landscape architect and I’m a textile artist, two very different mediums. I didn’t know how our points-of-view would mix, but I was up for the creative adventure.

We came across the work of Mary Mackey, www.marymackeyart.com, who had various size works of art in the exhibition. There was a grouping of nine black and white prints that were beautiful individually, but when you took it as one piece of art made it magnificent. The different sizes of Mackey’s work were intriguing along with her vacillation between black and white and works of color.

Then we came across a piece that was intriguing. The colors and the shapes were terrific. We stood back to look at the piece and then we began to discuss it. I saw the work as a grouping of buildings, a cityscape. He saw the print as a park, resembling Central Park in New York. Why did we see it differently?

Each of us looked at the work form our own mediums perspective. We each have a lens through which we interpret visual cues. In this case, I was looking as the shapes head on as if it were in front of me, and he was looking at it from an aerial view, like a blueprint he was designing.

We were both standing before the same work and had different experiences. The beauty of art is interpretation. If you’re the creator it’s about the process and the story. If you’re the viewer it’s about how the work fits into the context of your life.

The beauty of seeing art is you can create your own stories. You are given the gift of adventure as you explore new mediums and allow the art to serve as a cue for events in your life and experiences. Consider taking someone with you the next time you go to an art exhibition. Discuss each of your perspectives and see where they converge and diverge. Explore the possibilities.

Helping Soldiers Heal

The final keynote at the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health was Darden Smith. Smith is a talented singer/songwriter who has taken his talent and transformed it beyond the often ego driven life of a rock star. He has taken his gifts and talents and is sharing them in a way that impacts the men and women who protect our freedoms and safety in the United States.

After many years of singing and performing in venues across the country, Darden has found a higher calling; one that provides healing to men and women in the military. His current focus is not only inspiring, but serves as a reminder of the trauma many of our soldiers experience after being in combat. We’ve been living in turbulent times and now with Smith’s help, the road to healing through music is a new avenue, and an amazing one.

The program is called Songwriting With:Soldiers (www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org). The program brings soldiers on a retreat and during that retreat they co-write and record songs specific to their lives. They can discuss/write/sing about any aspect of their experience. The soldiers are teamed up with songwriters and then each song is professionally recorded. The soldier is given a CD of their song before leaving the retreat. Does this help heal?

Smith told us about a soldier who had been on the retreat and recorded a song. The song was on an iPod making it readily available. After the retreat the soldier experienced another place of darkness and despair leading him to consider committing suicide. He was set to take his own life when he passed his daughters room and heard her listening to his song. The song that was his creation, his experience, and a step on his own healing journey prevented him from committing suicide. When we hear a story this profound and impactful does it inspire you to include music/singing/songwriting in your own personal healing journey? Or those you work with?

One of the points Smith made along with performing some incredible songs was this, “What conversations have you been having with yourself your entire life?” He followed that with, “Have those conversations every day!” What are your conversations telling you? Are they the key to health and healing?

I encourage you to go to Darden Smith’s website and hear some of the music that is jaw dropping magnificent, www.dardensmith.com. I hope you gain some inspiration from his courage, perseverance, and desire to accompany others struggling to experience a sense of freedom from their own dark places.

Going to Church with Mark Rothko

The city of Houston has some amazing art venues. They have a plethora of museums and other cultural organizations. While I was in town I had the pleasure of hearing a quartet from the Houston Symphony, celebrating its 100th anniversary.

So it should be no surprise that Houston is the home of the Rothko Chapel. You may have had the opportunity and pleasure of seeing Mark Rothko’s work in a magazine, on television, or a museum. Houstonians and visitors have the pleasure of visiting the Rothko Chapel. It’s a self-contained building housing a select group of Rothko’s amazing oversized artwork.

Upon entering the building you’re greeted by volunteers who give you some information on the venue. The sanctuary is spacious and the only furniture in the room are eight long benches and some meditation cushions on the floor. The room is meant for contemplation. It’s a space filled with the mysteries of the artwork and the communal experience of sitting before masterpieces from the art world.

Four of the paintings are deceiving one color and the other four are two colors. I say deceiving because although the work appears to be one color/two colors it’s actually a multitude of colors. How do you know that the piece is multi-colored and multi-layered? The secret is in the light.

The only light in the room comes through a skylight. I was in the chapel about 3pm. It was a sunny day with many clouds. Sitting in the chapel, experiencing the quiet and beauty of the art you notice the subtle changes in light as the clouds pass over the chapel. It’s in those moments that you see the subtle change in color and shading. You can experience and revel in the beauty of a multi-layered piece of art that changes right before your eyes. It gives you the opportunity to live change. It provides you with the gift of beauty rolled into the lessons for focus and inner exploration.

Rothko’s work gives us the opportunity to quiet the mind and open the heart. He provides us with the gift of visceral and visual beauty. When you sit before these masterpieces you can revel in the magnificence of the art and the magnificence of your soul. Communing with the art quiets the mind and the body. It provides entry to a place deep in your heart where you can explore the multi-layers within your own psyche and relate it to Rothko’s visual representation of that multi-layered life.

Are there places in your community that provide this experience? As members of this art and healing community, please share those sacred places in the comments section below!

For more information on health and healing visit, http://www.survivingstrong.com

The Traveling Bead Brings Hope and Encouragement to Kids!!!

Last week I attended the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health. It was an amazing experience to be among so many providers, artists, and researchers all championing arts and health.

So how do we make it through tough times? Did you ever have a rabbit’s foot as a kid for good luck? Have you or family members hung a horseshoe for good luck? Do you wear that one particular shirt, shoes, and earrings when going to an interview or some other event where you’re hoping for good luck? I remember having a rabbit’s foot; they came in lots of colors (please don’t send PETA to my doorstep). So how do we honor the journey that children take when diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and provide them with a visual representation of the hurdles they’ve jumped? Well you give them a bead of course!!!!

“Beads of Courage helps children and families coping with serious illness RECORD, TELL and OWN their story of COURAGE”. Can you think of anything more beautiful than honoring every step along the child’s path in treatment. It’s interesting because if you were ever in scouting one of the key things was the “merit badge”. Beads of Courage are more than a merit badge. It’s a visual story. It’s like an archeological of treatment.

Jean Baruch, Executive Director, and Ashley Ethridge, Director of Communications and Encouragement, vivaciously shared how the program works and how widespread the program is in the United States and now heading globally. Beads are interesting because they are easy to carry and we can attribute significance and meaning to each and every bead. Beads are a great metaphor for storytelling because they are the oldest art form known to man. Beads have survived and evolved and Beads of Courage plays to that strength.

The kids are given a bead, a magnificent hand blown glass lamp bead, for each procedure or treatment they receive. An example given was that child would be given a red bead for a blood transfusion and a white bead for a chemotherapy treatment.

The community’s involvement, aside from financial support, is the ability to carry a bead. Carrying a bead allows you and I to carry a bead to an event, a destination, or anything else you can imagine infusing the bead with that experience. The bead is sent in to Beads of Courage with a story card and the child receives the bead and the story. Your story and the child’s story can come together creating a bonding experience.

During Ashley’s presentation she was wearing multiple strands of beads. She shared that this magnificent collection of beads belonged to a sixteen year old girl going through treatment. It wasn’t until a reception later in the day that Ashley explained that each of the nine strands had approximately 100 beads. You do the math; this young lady had acquired 900+ beads, what I learned in that moment is that these beads/stories had been acquired since this past December. I was in shock, awe, and relieved that she had an organization like Beads of Courage by her side.

You may be thinking that this sounds like Flat Stanley. It may have some similarities, but the notion that each and every bead has a story is amazing and scary. It’s life affirming and encouraging. The organization provides children and families a way to connect around story instead of sickness. Our stories are our legacy. These beads are a visual legacy of the journey these children and family take in the hopes of health and healing.

Let’s all grab a bead, infuse it with our own story and partner with this amazing organization.  Go to http://www.BeadsofCourage.org

Art, Health, More Art, More Health!

I just returned from the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health (soon to have a name change). It is one of the few places where art and health intersect and noncompetitive entities. It’s a sacred space where the providers, artists, medical personnel, spiritual advisers, and researchers intersect for a common goal; giving those with illnesses transform their experience through art.

The conference was inspiring, thought provoking, and a catalyst for what’s possible when fields of study come together with a common goal. There is an exponential outcome when we stop competing and combine our gifts and talents for a common cause.

Over the next few days I’ll share some amazing programs, projects, and people who make the field of art and health mystical and magical. These people, projects, and programs provide hope to the multitudes of patients, family members, and professional caregivers increase their competency and efficacy in the healing arena.

Although history has proven time and time again the importance of creativity in our lives; it’s only the past twenty-five years (give or take a few years) that we are engaged in an ongoing dialogue about the impact of art on health. The healing process, open to personal definition unless you’re a researcher, is opting to include creative experiences fortifying the healing properties in our minds, bodies, and souls.

I have to admit a condensed dose of inspiration was a bit daunting and over-stimulating. On the other hand, the reinforcement of the possibilities that art has on the healing experience was freeing. It clearly provided a framework for how everyone can have creative experiences; you don’t have to be an artist. Our souls make us artists and that’s should be the focal point of all our journeys.