Saturday, May 28, 2011

Home: Our Foundation

"Tempting Fate," ©2004, H.K.Hunter, 3.5" x 5", Collage: acrylic and magazine images on paper, Collection of Diana Connolly
Recently, I've pondered home as a symbol and a reality. In the wake of Japan's earthquake/tsunami and the rash of virulent tornadoes over middle America, the fact that one's hearth can be destroyed in seconds made me think about the various values held by the place where we reside.

"Many Chambered House," ©2004, 3' x 5", Collage: acrylic, colored pencil, calendar imagery and ink on paper, Collection of Virginia Shubert
Across our country, home prices have tumbled, particularly in areas deeply connected to me: California where I live, Florida where my son resides and Michigan, where half of my family originated. We've been lucky enough to maintain our home for many years but it has come home to me how quickly that privilege can be taken away. 

As children, we moved frequently from state to state, house to house, apartment to apartment. While many kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up, I fantasized about having a home of my own (think:Virginia Woolf's A Room of her Own.)

Even as that vision took shape, my desire must have remained sublimated, because I also ended up making art about homes. Recently, I saw a message on my facebook fanpage from a collector, who bought one of my paintings nearly 20 years ago. The woman was kind enough to take a picture of the work and when I saw it, I recognized an early "home" piece.

"Piecing the Night," ©1992, H.K. Hunter, 8.5" x 7", watercolor on paper, collection of Michelle Heinz

That made me curious. I pored over my i-photo files and pulled out the "homes" I'd made in recent years. I've selected a few to share with you here.

"Katrina," ©2005, 11" x15", Collage: acrylic, ink, calendar imagery on paper, Collection of the University of Iowa Hospitals
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on home as you've watched the images of devastation flash across your television screen or heard the news about another small town leveled.  Has your art been affected by these current and timeless events? Are images of home on alert in your imagination?

Flood, ©2009, H.K. Hunter, 11" x 17", Collage: acrylic, ink, caran d'ache, foil and calendar imagery on paper, Collection: Anonymous       

I'll be posting intermittently this summer; I want to take advantage of long days and cool evenings in the studio and finish working on a chapter for Cathy Malchiodi's upcoming book, "The Arts in Healthcare." 

I look forward to keeping up with you on your blogs and wish you a reflective Memorial Day weekend; visited by memories of the ones that have gone before you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Timing is Everything

Marriage Circa 2011, ©2011, H.Hunter, Collage: paper and acrylic paint

This poem by W.S. Merwin in a recent New Yorker caught my eye, mind and heart. Perfect for spring, when newborn leaves emerge suddenly while you're inside, retrieving a paintbrush you forgot.


going too fast for myself I missed
more than I think I can remember

almost everything it seems sometimes 
and yet there are chances that come back

that I did not notice when they stood
where I could have reached out and touched them

this morning the black shepherd dog
still young looking up and saying

Are you ready this time

Merwin ends the poem so abruptly--as if he's just turned his head to look down at his dog. Doesn't it often seem like this--that those chances to catch something very important pass by in the blink of an eye?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Art Therapy 101

Liz & Partner: Viennese Waltz, Photo: Jen Gross
Normally, I spend these posts focused on my explorations in art and art therapy. However, behind all of that lies the beauty and wonder of family. Family is my foundation.

This year, in celebration of Mother's Day, I was invited by Claudine Intner, an artist, blogger and mom extraordinaire to join a Mother's Day blog hop. I accepted and chose May 14, my daughter's birthday, as my post date. I couldn't think of a better way of honoring Mother's Day than to write about being Liz's mom.

One of the great delights of my life, Liz came into it twenty two years ago today. A young woman who has faced many challenges, she has overcome them one step at a time.

In fact, Lizzie helped inspire me to become an art therapist. Being with my own daughter, I understood the need to have compassion, to help my child as she met the inevitable challenges of growing up. What an awakening; to discover that no one was going to be a better advocate for her than I. And, it was this same experience of advocacy which spurred me on later, to work with children, who might or might not need an advocate of their own.

Liz & Partner: Nightclub Two Step, Photo: Jen Gross
Years have passed since Liz's elementary school days, but at the time, I poured everything that I knew as an artist into my mothering. When school was frustrating, Liz hunkered down at a small table piled with markers and paper and pounded hard on sheet after sheet of paper, producing a series of pointillist mandalas. Later on studying art therapy, I learned the theoretical underpinnings of catharsis but at the time, Lizzie blazed her own art therapy trail.

When she reached high school, and I learned about SoulCollage®, it was Liz who took it to new heights, carrying stacks of 5" x 8" cards and magazines up to her room and emerging several hours later with a fan of cards to share with me. (Before long, she began to assist me during workshops, adding her gentle presence and expertise.)

Together, her cards created the portrait of a passionate and deeply creative woman and I wondered what future form(s) this might take in the world. I didn't have long to wait. During her first year of college, Liz discovered ballroom dance. An incurable romantic, this art form fits her to a T. I've delighted in watching her emerge as a gorgeous woman, who continues to craft her life one step at a time. Today, on her birthday, she is performing with her dance team, "Spirit in Motion" and dancing a solo with her partner. I can't think of a more fitting way for her to enter her 22nd year: in motion.

To see more blogs on the hop, click on any of the links below:

5/1 - Claudine Intner
5/2 - Melissa Liban
5/3 - Lynn Krawczyk
5/4 - Ishita Bandyo
5/5 - Jeri Greenberg
5/6 - Kathleen Mattox
5/8- Amanda Ruth
5/9- Judi Hurwitt
5/10 - Kathleen Murphy
5/11 - Hannah Phelps
5/12 - Helen Hiebert
5/14 - Hannah Klaus Hunter
5/15 - Claudine Intner

Friday, May 6, 2011

Prelude to Mother's Day

Waters of Life, ©2003, H.Hunter, 11" x 15," Collage
It was Bring Your Child to Work Day last week, a day parents working at our hospital bring along their children, in order to explore careers in healthcare. We had speakers, tours and tables all set up to teach kids about a multitude of possible futures.

My assignment was clear: meet the oncoming wave of children, 50 or so, with a quick description of what it means to be an art therapist. A Twitter dilemma if I ever saw one. (Describe what I do in 140 characters or less.) In addition, I offered them an art therapy activity.

I wanted to engage the kids, find out what they might wish to do when they grew up, recognizing any answer is a work in progress.

To that end, I had a collection of muslin dolls, ready to be drawn upon in whatever way a child's dream might dictate. Most of the children wanted to grab the doll and go (and what would you want with a naked baby doll, I ask you?) I politely let them know the talk was part of the bargain. No art, no doll.

My invitation was often initially met with a blank stare, but when I motioned them over to join other kids at a table filled with fabric markers, more colored pens began to "tatoo" muslin skins, transforming the blank "canvas" of that doll into a future self.

It was marvelous and all types of dolls emerged--nurses and doctor dolls of course, but also singers, computer geeks and pharmacists. I was so happy that the children felt that they were able to supplement the ample information that they'd heard with a chance to internalize their knowledge. Perhaps some expressed a dormant desire, a curious inclination just waiting for the opportunity to emerge.

It's taken a long time for me to lean into my future. As a child on the playground, I was often stumped when we talked about what we wanted to be when we grew up. The presumed careers for girls, teaching and nursing, did not feel right. But sitting behind the table last week, wearing a bright pink sweater and sparkly earrings, I felt I was embodying the self that had been waiting all those years ago, an artist, who uses art as medicine.