A new year, a new you…of that’s what you desire. The one thing I know about creativity is its incredible ability to transform our lives. It allows us to tell our story creating the pieces to the human quilt. Creative energy provides us with the momentum we need to create a life that evolves and can be crafted with deeper understanding and meaning.
I’ve been fortunate to enroll in a graduate certificate program in Health Humanities and Bioethics. The class is a mix of health and allied health professionals all focused on one goal; how to incorporate the humanities in medicine. I’ve been a huge proponent of art and medicine for years. I’ve utilized my own artistic practices to reflect my own health challenges and the stories of those I’ve interviewed.
The professor for the class I just finished allowed us to do something creative for our final project. I created four new art pieces and combined that with eight pieces in my personal collection and paired those twelve pieces with poetry reflecting the sentiments of the art. I curated the show in a round room so classmates could stand in the center of the work and absorb the gravity of the subjects I tackled in the art.
The experience was overwhelming. The work had an even greater impact than I expected. As health professionals, each class member related stories from their own professional lives punctuating the exhibition. If that weren’t enough, one of my classmates wrote a song for her final project. The song debuted while everyone was standing in the middle of my art. The synergy of our two projects was spectacular.
When we combine our creative energies, we can build upon each other’s stories. The songwriter approached me after the presentation about doing a collaboration in the future. The idea of combining visual art, poetry, and music speaks to the impact art can have in healthcare.
My hope this year is to take you on a journey giving you the opportunity to explore your creative side and meaning making. Our creative storytelling can deepen our connection to one another easing tensions inter-personally and in society. Let’s take this journey together and see how we can transform the world.
I’ve currently enrolled in a graduate certificate in Health Humanities and Bioethics. The students in the class are from all areas of healthcare: physicians, medical students, physical therapists, nurses and nurse educators, and me a visual anthropologist. Our class this week focused on “the gaze”, the way we view the medical community and their interaction with their patients. We read works by William Carlos Williams retelling his account with a child who was suspected of having diphtheria. The conversation switched to the visual of medicine; paintings capturing doctors performing autopsies, and then paintings showing doctors caring for their patients.
Williams has written many books of poetry focusing on his experience as a physician. He captures the struggles he experienced being a physician, and simultaneously flipping to express the perceived experience of the patient. He’s honest in his accounts, not trying to sugar coat the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a physician.
We moved on to other depictions of illness and disease and on the screen, was a self-portrait done by Frida Kahlo. Kahlo had polio as a child. She then was involved in a very bad accident and was bedridden for a long period of time. It was during that time that her parents put a mirror under the canopy of her bed so she could see herself. It was during this time that she drew/painted many self-portraits. Throughout her life she was her most prominent subject. Her honesty shows us her determination to tell her own story with truth by painting in-you-face self-portraits.
Kahlo’s work punctuates the desire, even need to tell one’s story. She shared her life and a visual autobiography. Her paintings showed what’s possible following a life challenge by depicting strength and vulnerability. It’s clear that she was motivated internally to get her message out to the public. Her works are an inspiration to those who are facing life altering events.
What do you need to tell us? How will you use your internal creative instincts to share your truth, the story of your life? View some of Kahlo’s work and see what moves you and works you. It’s an interesting way to see what serves as a catalyst for telling your life story.
Why do you create? At first you’ll respond with, “I create because I’m an artist.” That would be true for many but not all. However, I’d like you to take it a step further. Why do you create? Is there a story to be told? Did you have an experience that is seeping out of your pores and your art expels it from your body? Is it a celebration you want to share? There is something beyond just the fact that you’re an artist. We spiritual beings having a human experience; we’re all artists.
Romare Bearden shared, “An artist is an art lover who finds that in all the art he sees, something is missing; to put there what he feels is missing becomes the center of his life’s work.” The mind is powerful and is in a state of flux when there are gaps in experiences. We want wholeness, completion, and resolution. Our creative energies are expansive and strive to fill in the gaps. In fact, according to Bearden the gaps are our motivation and inspiration. The truth is that we can all spend the rest of our lives filling in the gaps.
The great thing about filling in the gaps is what we’re never without a catalyst to create. Art can serve as a means to making the necessary connections between ideas or feelings that are floating out there on their own. In London, when traveling on the tube, stenciled on the ground is “mind the gap”. What if you applied that saying to your own work? Being mindful of the gap brings awareness to your work. It allows you to share your inner healing and wholeness with the world and the Universe.
Bearden’s insight was profound. Exploring the gap allows us to develop a plethora or opportunities. We’re looking toward the future. The gap is a roadmap on your journey to bountiful. What will you do with your gap?
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Welcome to “Time to Live Creatively”, the place where we discuss art and healing. When we think about art and healing it’s common to think about illness. However, I’ve been speaking with people who have endured many different life stressors, and through art, they have overcome great odds. These individuals, artists, are using creativity to express themselves, sharing their story with the world.
When I began this journey, over twenty years ago, I channeled my energy around illness. After I finished my dissertation on art and healing the artists, even though all facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses, spoke about other hurdles they used art to tell their life story. They created visual autobiographies to share with the world.
As I continue my pilgrimage looking at how art influences our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives; the evolution of the visual story becomes more prevalent each and every day. I hope you experience how the creative energy in your life serves to create a sense of calm and peace. I hope your creative experiences open your eyes, your consciousness, and your spirit to the breadth of possibility in the world.
I would like to invite you to visit this creative sacred space as we explore the impact of art and creativity on our lives and makes us whole!