Friday, March 25, 2011

Give Love: A Community Art Project

My blog friend and fellow art therapist, Phoenix Peacock is creating an amazing on and off-line art journal project about community: Give Love: A Community Art Project. She's keeping an art journal about her own community based project and created a means for others to participate. To find out how, click here.

Her instruction is to art journal about a community member who has positively influenced your life. This could be a teacher, student, coach, neighbor, a stranger, anyone who is not related to you. Your interaction(s) could have occurred at any point in your life. To learn more about art journaling, check out Kelley Brown's excellent blog: Art Journaling as A Creative Process.

I've been working on my own page during our daily art group at the hospital. As it emerged, I realized it was about my old and dear friend from art school days, Carol Spindel, a gifted author and artist.

This is what I wrote about my friend on the back side of the page:

I'm forever grateful to Carol for introducing me to the world of pattern because along with words and colors, it now forms the foundation of my art work. Cheers Carol!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Open the Doors to Healing

©2011, H. Hunter, Desert Renewal, SoulCollage®
The title of last week's SoulCollage® workshop at the UC Davis Cancer Center was Renewal; Exploring the the way archetypes can help us to find renewal in the midst of our daily lives. Without knowing it, I was practically begging several archetypes to enter my own life.

I showed up promptly at nine filled with the news of Japan; its cumulative disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear uncertainty. I walked up to the door and it was locked.

I wanted to wilt like a flower and go home. (But what had I experienced so far? An insurmountable barrier?) Instead, I called Plant Operation and Management. 

As if by magic, a white truck drove right up the sidewalk toward me and a smiling women in a navy overall got out and opened up the building. "Did you get the call?" I asked her. "No, but I saw you standing there," she replied. My world was restored.

In order to get the group together quickly, I asked for help; putting participants to work unwrapping fresh pairs of scissors, cutting boards and x-acto knives.  Even though I felt tongue tied by world events, I needed to keep going and talk about finding linkages in the heady and ineffable subject matter of archetypes. (Could you get a better set up for a trickster archetype to stick out its foot?)

We introduced ourselves by selecting an image that signified renewal. When one person showed a photograph of a red maple against what looked to be a Japanese garden, I commented how much that reminded me of her hometown, San Francisco, a place of renewal for her. Unexpectedly, the whole group began to laugh. "Hannah--can you see--those are the red rock walls of a canyon!" The gods were definitely playing with me today: A locked door, mistaking a canyon for the Japanese Tea Garden.

©2011, A. McSweeny, Cat Love, SoulCollage®
The women were game to explore the notion of how archetypes might play out in their lives to bring renewal. As they searched the table for compelling images, quiet took over the room,which deepened to an engaged silence as the work progressed. 

We arranged the finished cards in a circle and walked clockwise around the table, readying ourselves for sharing. One woman commented that, "I can't believe it--all those pictures, just laid out on the table in no particular order--and out of that chaos, come these perfect cards that carry so much meaning."  

It is my prayer that amongst the chaos of disaster in Japan, the people continue to recover pieces of their lives, bring them together and that healing becomes the order of the land.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thread Talk

© 2007, H. Hunter, Polihaliai Beach, mixed media
How often, after all, do we take the time to look back, review and in this way, renew our relationship to our work? Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to a local guild of embroiderers about my artwork. I decided that if I was going to share some history with them, I needed to do some digging.

After some searching, I came up with three separate images: a stack of books, a marsh and an Amish quilt. Pretty disparate images--but like reducing a fraction to the lowest common denominator, I had come up with the structural bones of my creative process, each one grounded in some vital part of my history.

The books: I often spent my summer days stretched out on a sofa or a hammock, after carefully arranging a pile of books beside me which I devoured one at a time.
Michigan Marshland

 Marsh: a scene from early childhood in Maine where I spent time chasing peepers and later, growing up in Michigan, where instead of peepers, I gathered reeds for weaving.

"Amish Abstractions"

Amish quilts: when I saw my first one in the University of Iowa Art Museum, it struck me as a visual form of haiku. With only a few colors, a quilt conjured a landscape.

It tickles me that as I look at my present work, I find traces of the words, reeds and quilts which informed my early visual blueprint.

©2007, H. Hunter, Dancing Rings 1, mixed media
It makes me think that there is something something mysterious yet inevitable about the images which dwell within us and arise out of our experience, recombining in powerful ways that we cannot predict.

Succeeding experiences build upon each other and yet, as we work with them in our studios, they come into being, slowly but surely, like a photograph appearing for the first time in its alchemical bath.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Authentic Voice--Conversation Continued

You Know Who You Are, ©2004, Hannah K. Hunter, Mixed Media
A little while back, artist Leslie Miller wrote an intriguing post which she titled, "Seeking My Authentic Voice."  She wrote that: Voice isn’t style, voice isn’t principals and elements of design, voice isn’t content, but the language we use to express our authentic voice includes all of these. Authentic voice is something more elementary than this, it’s something closer to primal, closer to the earth, and it is uniquely yours.

A series of comments followed her post and carried the conversation in a variety of different directions. So many that, Miller chose to write another post based on the comments.

Titled "Artful Conversations," it included this one by  Robert Kingston:

I always noticed an awkward, clumsy mark or move that kept showing up in my work and I felt that if I could just get rid of that my work would be so much better. No matter what I tried though, that clunky thing kept popping up again and again! It took me years until it finally dawned on me that that odd goofy thing was actually me! Everything else was just me putting on other people's clothes. Now I try to embrace who and what I am although it's still so easy to forget and to fall into emulating the flavor of the month.

His comment dug in deep.

I've been asking myself, what are my awkward marks?  Lines that look like they've been turned inside out? The way in which drawing a circle, I stop just short of closing it? How about those dreadfully muddy maroons that reoccur over and over in my palette?

Could it be true that those odd goofy things are actually me?

Might it also be true that, within the awkward lines and idiosyncratic fingerprints we leave in our work, dwells a source of our greatest strength as artists?
If it is true that those awkward marks make us who we are--how can we maximize their contribution within our work?

I don't have answers to these questions, so I'm asking you:

What "mistakes" persist in your work that could serve as a source of discovery?

I look forward to hearing from you.