Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The poetic object

My friend Sara Post has got me thinking about objects. She's curating a show entitled: "Lesson's from Things: Looking at Objects." She's taking her inspiration from the French, who, with the same excellence they apply to cooking and couture, study the history and development of common objects. (How otherwise can we imagine the writer Collette or the great designer, Coco Chanel? Words and fabric became great in their hands.) In order to wrap my mind around the topic I've dug out my copies of Bachelard's works, the French philosopher and phenomenologist. We read Bachelard's Poetics of Space in my graduate school art seminar and we were all practically levitating back in the early eighties as we read his words. Consider this passage for example: "...I studied a series of images which may be considered the houses of things: drawers, chests and wardrobes. What psychology lies behind their locks and keys! They bear within themselves a kind of esthetics of hidden things." Quite heady no? These days, we are often so focused on the practical side of things (and maybe that's my age speaking), that I think I could use some of this dreaming Bachelard speaks so highly of. So, before I go choosing an object, common or otherwise to render, I'll be picking up my Bachelard and spending some time daydreaming...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Accepting the gift

Last week I found myself musing about gifts. As an artist and an art therapist, I spend a fair amount of time shifting between these crafts, wondering about the differences between art and art as therapy (hence this blog) and trying to balance the quality of effort that I devote to each. I often think that I could be very happy left to my own devices in the studio, but in fact, this is patently not true. I draw, no pun intended, much of my inspiration from the children with whom I work. When we make art together, I learn so much more about what it is to be a human being living and breathing and living on the earth at this time. My heart expands and thus does my vision. It's like the proverbial story of the blind men and the elephant. As the sightless men stand arrayed around the beast, a sage asks them to describe this animal. One man reaches up to the trunk and speaks of its roughness and length, another describes the sturdiness of a leg, another the back and yet another the tusks. Who has the true story? In other words one discipline feeds the other. This came to me clearly this morning after talking with my friend Beth Rommel about the subject. Soon, after that, I turned on the radio to hear Abraham Vergese, the physician and author. What I loved about listening to this man, was his absolute devotion and love of medicine. It didn't just serve to feed and clothe his family so that he could write, it was his wellspring of inspiration. The wonderful intertwining of these two disciplines was apparent in his description of his call to medicine which he relates came from reading Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage." A physician called to writing through a fictional character who is also a doctor! It underscores my belief that art and writing, in particular, fiction writing, serve to tell us truths that we could not arrive at any other ways, truths for which there is no existing image or combination of words.
Photo credit: Lynn Cohen, copyright, 2010.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Teaching A SoulCollage® Workshop

Someone recently asked me to teach a workshop on SoulCollage®. It had been some time since I've taught a class on this method designed by Seena Frost, a therapist in Santa Cruz, CA.  The process combines intuition and images and results in small 5" x 8" collage cards. Made over time, these cards accrue to become a deck of personal cards, which like playing cards, contain four different suits. Each card holds its own unique energy, particular to the person who made it.  Because the process bypasses the conscious mind, the meaning of the card imparts itself over time, much like a dream.

So it was this afternoon.  Five women gathered together to explore the Community suit; those people in our lives with whom we are in relationship whether intimately or from a distance. Images where laid out along a window shelf, stacked in boxes and hidden within piles and piles of magazines. Xacto knives and glues were at the ready and scissors waited patiently. "What would emerge" I wondered? I asked myself if I'd been able to convey the idea of letting the images "pick you," but SoulCollage® didn't disappoint. At the end of the afternoon, each women's card held the essence of an important and beloved person in their life.

My gratitude to Lynn Cohen who generously shared her pictures of the class with me.