The following is the reflection that I wrote for the Art Therapy class I took two weeks ago. I said I would share them, so here the are!
The Second idea I am integrating from Shaun’s class is the idea of witnessing and holding spaces for others. One of my intentions for taking the class was to gain a perspective on teaching art from a place of support and encouragement of the creative process. What struck me most about this studio course was how well it did that. And I think the key factor to creating that kind of environment was the concept of witnessing. Most of the studio art classes, courses that I have taken over the years have been more skill based. I learned how to create shadow with the side of my pencil or the darker colors on my palette. I learned the compliments of orange and how to draw in perspective. When I taught high school drawing last year, I taught these skills and tried to emphasize that drawing, like riding a bike or learning to play an instrument, was a skill set that could be learned through practice and experimentation with materials. I sat firmly in my belief that each of us has creativity at our core, that as each of us has the capacity to breath, we all also have the capacity to be creative. And I still believe this. But as we discussed this week, often people feel fear, vulnerability and resistance to art-making. So I thought about the question, “how do you create a studio environment then, that feels safe, that is sensitive to the fragility of the creative spirit?” I think that we created it during our studio class last week.
This studio class at Lesley for me was loving, nurturing, and supportive. We took turns witnessing each other make art in a way that was both intimate and exhilarating. I felt seen and empowered to also safely and respectfully hold space for someone else. There was feedback, but not critique. The feedback seemed to me to be given in a carefully thought out, sensitive and validating (rather then intimidating) kind of way. I felt really “seen” and “heard” and “held”. More like the way I feel in a yoga class, then in an art class. Because of this sense of security and nurture, I felt creatively free to explore and experiment. It felt like a creative explosion. It was bursting and brimming out of me. I was full of ideas and energy for the next project. Like I could just make art forever and ever without stopping. And I kept thinking to myself…YES! This is the kind of experience I want to create for my future students: a safe space for creative discovery, for artistic liberation. I have not always found this in studio classes I’ve been in the past (with a few exceptions), this sense of non-judgmental embrace of me as an artist, as a creative being. And it felt so GOOD! The sense of permission for the artwork to be as it was, whether I (or others) perceived it to be good or bad was such an expansive experience. I kept thinking, that I have always intuitively known that this is how art-making should be. Experiencing the art work in the way that we did felt so healing. It satiated my craving to express and be heard, validated, held and seen…really seen. It helped me feel like my life, stories, histories, memories, dreams, images, fears, struggles, and emotions (and all the other things that get splashed out in my artwork) MATTER. It gave me the sense that they are real and important. Giving the art work permission to just be as it was, (in the way that we did through the witnessing, performance and dialogue) was creative liberation for me.
I thought to myself at one point that I wished I could come to Boston every day to share art space with all of the lovely ladies in this class. There was such an incredible energy working with others. I learned so much and experimented in new ways that I might not have at home. And that was pretty cool. I kept thinking about how much I enjoyed the group experience, how much I enjoyed being part of the group and feeding off it and watching to see how others fed from it too. The question came up about how do we keep this going in our own lives at home, once we leave the group. I was thinking that too. How do I keep this experience going, this experience of being incredibly uplifted by group experiences, by shared experiences and the energy that it gives me and my work? I always leave these sort of things on the high of the experience and with this unrealistic image of myself continuing on in the same way, riding out the high for weeks to come. And then I fall.
I am experiencing the fall this week, the week after the coming together of minds, of ideas, of creativity. I am feeling the loss more greatly then I anticipated. I can’t seem to well up quite as much of the creative energy I had last week in my own quiet, studio space. I feel lonely and reclusive. I always deal with this sense of loss after the yoga workshops that I do too. I go and feel supported and embraced by a group, feel a part of something bigger. And then I go home and wonder how I might recreate that experience of being part of community in my own home environment. I can never do it. I remember Shaun talking about this and waving his hand in the motion of a rollar coaster, it’s just like that. Ups and Downs. And after a big up, there is inevitably a down. And so despite the overflow of creative energy I experienced last week, I am down and under the wave this week. But I am also ready to come up for air. So I will go back to my art table and make art. Sit with my images. Sit with my struggles and my struggle to not struggle. I will sit with the knowing that there are many people out there living and breathing into their own creativity and I’ll be comforted by that knowing. I will sit with my brushes, my paints and the images that flow out of them and know that I am not ever, really alone, know that I have been seen, heard, and held and will be again.