Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Experientials Vol. 28

Well let's just say today was a very intense experience to say the least. In fact I am a little shy of putting some of this out there, and am not even sure I will have the guts until I finally hit publish post... It is personal and I am scared of sharing it, but I think that it is such a testament to art and the therapy...

So here is one of our warmup pieces. It was fingerpaints, which was an amazing regression. We painted to music and it was interesting to see how the piece evolved over the 10 minutes or so that we painted it. I felt the paint between my fingers and under my nails, it was so smooth and it was nice to be in physical contact with the materials. It doesn't really look like much of anything, but it was really a great experience

We had put a piece of paper up under this finger paint and when we removed it, there was a ghost image, or where our smaller painting had went outside the boundaries as well any stray marks we had made. I am a messy painter so there were a lot of stray marks. We were asked to look at this ghost image and free associate and then create a much larger piece again to music. Well I saw a kiss in the palm print that I had left, some claw marks that were where I wiped paint off my finger and then the white box where my painting had been. This is what emerged. Again, it doesn't look like much but it was a very tactile experience

And this is the one that hit home. This painting is by a process called core painting in which it is a very cognitive experience and you are supposed to let your psyche paint what needs to be painted even if you do not want to paint it or if you think it will be ugly. In fact you have dialogs with the painting and the facilitator (in this case the professor) would help you ask the painting questions when you are stuck. It is supposed to bring out unconscious material and you are not supposed to have to share the story behind what it brings out. Now I am a firm believer in art therapy and about it getting to the trauma, also about unconscious material emerging, but I was not prepared for this. So I am painting and first I paint horizontal lines that are blues and then a black bottom. So then I was compelled to use red paint and for some reason had an image of blood dripping, and so I added this to the black and made a small red blob above it. At this point I thought that I had ruined the piece and called the facilitator over. We dialogged with the piece and I knew that the next addition was to be the yellow circle in the corner. I then felt compelled to add on to the red blob and it grew became a larger red blob. I then added the orange horizontal lines in the blackness. When I took a look at what I had drawn I saw something that shocked me, and scared me. I saw my trauma represented in front of me, burning and bleeding. I am not sure what else would have emerged from this piece, for our session was cut short. We will continue to work on it next week, but now I am left with a traumatic, somewhat sexual and vulgar image that quite frankly brought to the surface events that I would just as soon forget. So there it is, the power of art therapy... it can sometimes be scary... but if I had been in a session, it certainly would have brought to the forefront issues that I may need to talk about, or reconcile in a newly developed fashion. I have never painted about this quite so literally, though I often painted the lack of self-esteem I was left with afterwards. It was quite shocking to have it present itself in this manner, and so clearly, visibly and somewhat eloquently. I would like to think that the yellow orb is the sun and that it is a symbol for new beginnings and rising above this and beyond this trauma. I would like to hope.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Conference

Today was the SIUe 25th Annual Spring Art Therapy Conference and we were really fortunate to have Shaun McNiff (http://ada.lesley.edu/faculty/ftmcnifj/). The workshop centered around working with resistance. Shaun is an amazing speaker—he is very charismatic and really understands the value of involvement. The whole experience was really inspiring. Shaun really utilizes all the arts in his practice, and we explored a lot of movement interpretations as well as created our pieces while he was playing rhythmic music on drums and sanzas (an african instrument that is really enchanting!).

Here are some pictures of our ceremonial scarfs from the program. At our orientation at the beginning of the fall semester we started our scarfs and their was a scarf ceremony to welcome us into the program. Throughout our time in the program we continue to work on the scarves, and they become symbolic of our growth as therapists and in the program. Since this was the 25th Anniversary of the program, we displayed the scarfs of past alum and current students and faculty—it was really a beautiful sight.

This is the first piece that we did. It was about using movement to create the image, and letting the image itself emerge. It was really easy to lose yourself in the artmaking with the enchanting music in the background. I started a second piece but did not get to finish it (so you get to see what a work in progress looks like!). After making these pieces we learned how to respond to our pieces through movement, and eventually responded to a partners piece as well through movement. (It was quite humorous because we were supposed to work with someone we didn't know and Tessa and I were the last ones to not pair up—so I ended up being paired with the one person I know the best. We commented to Shaun about this and he said "that's fate for you!")

Here is all of us walking through the images and witnessing them. Shaun described this as a beautiful dance, and it was so nice see all these images that had emerged, and to know that we all created them together. We were all witnesses to this creativity—it is so beautiful and inspiring.

The next piece we did was to be made out of natural objects. The dogs and I had gone on some nature walks to gather stuff the night before, so almost all the stuff is from the apartment grounds or the park across the street. We then witnessed everyone's piece and then had a dialog with our own piece. Right before we started the dialog, my piece was accidentally broken, and I had to fix it. Knowing that, this is what mine said:
It's ok to be broken and put back together
I am changed but I am still me
The integrity of my own uniqueness
How fragile am I, yet I can regroup and be strong
It was really amazing to me how a piece that I did not originally see as very meaningful spoke to me at a core level, and had so many important things to say to me. It was so valid and relevant to my life, and who I am.

As a closing ritual we all brought our nature objects to the center of the room and spoke one word about the day/our pieces. It was really nice to see all the pieces gathered together in one place, and to hear the variety of words evoked. Mine was bonded. (If you look closely you can see my piece!) It really was an inspirational day... what a treat!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Laumeier Sculpture Park

Today we visited the Laumeier Sculpture Park to see the installations by Deborah Aschheim. (laumeier.com and deborahaschheim.com) It was a really interesting exhibit and some of us were fortunate enough to also attend her talk at WashU. Deborah has found a way to combine science and research and her artmaking. A lot of her pieces center around memory and the way that her memory is stored, and as a by-product they have become about the viewers memories and responses to her work. It was an active exhibit that brought you into the pieces. In regards to research these pieces are testaments to the value of arts based research as well as submersion in your topic.

On a personal level I enjoyed the exhibit, although after being in the gallery for a little while, the many sounds became a bit overwhelming. Some of my initial reactions were that they reminded me of Dr. Seuss pieces (maybe I am just a little obsessed with Dr. Seuss!) and that there was a pretty limited color palette in her installations. I was also enamored by what it must have taken to hang the exhibit, having hung several exhibits in the past.

This is one of her earworm pieces. She said that earworm was derived from a german word that described the snippets of songs that got stuck in your head. She wanted to design a backup system for her 25 favorite words and so had a musician write songs about them, so that she could then hopefully remember them, even if her memory failed. This is based on the idea that even when people lose the ability to form sentences (such as with aphasia that her aunt suffered from) they can often recal songs and sing them.

This was probably my favorite piece, because the viewer literally became part of the piece. There were several cameras and small tv's and you were simultaneously viewed from several angles... some very bizarre and not what you are used to seeing!

And here is all 10 of us lovely ladies...

These were really neat "chairs" that forced you to sit in positions that might seem somewhat foreign to us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Experientials Vol. 27

It seems like it has been a while since I did one of these. Spring Break was amazing. I got to spend some great quality time with family and friends. I was also able to check out the Speed Museum's "Medieval and Renaissance Treasures From the Victoria and Albert Museum" (speedmuseum.org/exhibitions.html#v&a) which was really incredible. I have always admired DaVinci and to see one of his notebooks was a treat I never imagined would happen. It was almost too much to take in, that I was looking at one of DaVinci's notebooks, a truly awesome experience. It was difficult to come back, but it has been a great first day back. In multicultural we had a guest speaker (Edna Patterson fabricswork.com) who truly embodies the art therapist retaining the artist identity. And in group we took on another identity to do our group process, and it was quite entertaining—I think some of the ladies could have been actresses!

This first piece is one that Edna had us do that was to talk about the racial differences. I titled mine "The Divide." I felt that at the core each of us is the same. However on one side I have what I have perceived as a rich cultural history and ancestry, and the other a blank slate. I feel a lot of times that "the other" (whether it be african american, asian, native american) has such a rich heritage, while I know little about my own heritage. Not that I have none, but simply I know very little about it. I wish that I knew about my heritage in the same way.

On this piece we were supposed to do a really quick portrait of someone else that we were going to embody during our group session. It was supposed to be someone stressed in grad school, and the group session was supposed to be a mandatory support group.

And after the session we did a sociogram of ourselves and 4 other group members. My person is the small circle in the bottom middle. I was much more quiet and reserved (hard for me to do actually!) and I felt that I was closed off, however with many deep layers. And then there was another quiet and reserved person also shown as a smaller, less dynamic shape. The green shape was a person that acted as a mediator in ways, trying to get myself and the other quiet member to vocalize. And on the two sides are some of the aggressors in the group. There are lines of communication drawn—for instance, the two quiet members are loosely connected, while the agressor on the left infuses the whole group with his negative energy.

We also did a sociometric sculpture, where one of the members positioned each of the group members and gave us a phrase to say. We then all came to life and said this phrase. It was really interesting fascinating. I wish I had pictures of that as well ;)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dr. Seuss Party

Here are some of the pictures from the Dr. Seuss party. It went really well and I think that the kids really enjoyed it. It was hectic and very busy, but I had a great time...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Experientials Vol. 26

I am so happy today is finally here... well actually I can't wait for tomorrow. SPRING BREAK!!! But tomorrow I also have my Dr. Seuss Party at Head Start. I am so excited. It is gonna be so much fun. I am gonna dress up as Cat in the Hat, and I have lots of different stations planned where a book will be read and we will complete an activity. There is The Foot Book and they are gonna make their own foot book; then of course The Cat in the Hat where they are gonna make a cat in the hat hat; another obvious one, Green Eggs and Ham where they are gonna color a green eggs and ham placemat; another fun one, Bartholomew and the Oobleck where they will play with oobleck which is basically cornstarch and water, but so cool—it is a liquid yet mysteriously solid, or wait is it a solid yet liquid?; and my favorite My Many Colored Days where they are gonna use different colors of construction paper to identify what color they are feeling today, and then draw a picture on it (if you haven't read this book yet, it is amazing... in fact it just may be my new favorite book!). And then as a group we will sing Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss and I (the Cat in the Hat) will read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and give them the rainbow colored goldfish as a snack! I also have The Cat in the Hat to watch if there is time (the cartoon not the movie!). I am really excited and hope that it goes well. They are even gonna take pictures and video for the art therapy program...maybe I will have some to share here!!

So today we did an experiential comparing our adolescence to that of one of our clients at the detention center. Mine is on the left while their's is on the right. I felt like my adolescence, although chaotic, was very supported and pretty much stayed on a grounded path. I felt like my client's was very chaotic, although supported, but did not stay on a solid path...

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