Art for Access

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Art for Access

How this work has developed -

In my bones, I know how powerful and transformative creativity is. Almost daily, I witness it with clients. Over and over again, I am floored by how genius people’s psyches are at illuminating their issues and what they need through what initially seems like random colors and shapes. The passion for this “magic” began in my last year of art school and led me into a career as an art therapist.

Art making as a true voice of my inner being was once a jeweled secret I coveted in art school, knowing it didn’t necessarily result in aesthetically pleasing pictures that would hang over someone’s hearth one day. I escaped the confines of my teachers’ ideas by going to Florence, Italy to create my senior thesis. What I returned with was a set of images that contrasted odd combinations of my personal possessions with symbols of daily culture that expressed how the foreign culture impacted me. A painted photo of my journal splayed open on a candle-lit altar in the Duomo showed the questioning that was rising up about my relationship to religion in a dominantly Catholic culture.

My photography changed along with my development, not ever keeping with one technique, except for the practice of waiting until the moment of feeling moved to press the shutter. “Feeling moved” was as much a sensation in my body as it was an emotion. I began sensing into my body and painting, drawing, or assembling from there, as if my brain was completely bypassed. Then I would write the first few words that came to mind as I looked at it. Sometimes a whole poem formed itself in response. It felt like I had access to wisdom much greater than “me”. I’d tack up the image and words somewhere in everyday sight and new meanings and understandings would often surface over time. I wasn’t thinking about how to fix or change difficulties in my life but rather exploring through body sensing and art-making those very difficulties. The result was brand-spankin’-new knowing—and not anything I could have figured.

Many years later this process engages me in my work with clients and, at the same time, I know this is living vicariously. For too long I’d not fed my own hunger for that form of creativity and side benefits of a calm buzz and fresh insight that often accompanies it. My hey-day for self-discovery through art was back in my 20’s. But, like many things that took a backseat once children came along, I found myself saying: “Someday, when the kids are grown,” and got by on crumbs of the creative process I preferred: 2-dimensional expression with paint and multimedia. Creative hunger finds ways to get fed creatively. Soon, I found that bringing a certain level of consciousness to almost any act would suffice. A quick mandala on a restaurant napkin, a sand sculpture while at the beach with the kids, making my own greeting cards, seeing metaphors in nature, dancing and drumming, etc. Meanwhile, my personal and spiritual development found great sustenance in practices of the Medicine Wheel, Diamond Approach, and Mystery School group work. Inspired by a vision quest while in this work, I began writing Bone Knowing: A True Story of Coming to Life in the Face of Impending Loss and learned it was quite possible to feed my creative hunger with writing.

Once Bone Knowing was published and my kids became more interested in their peers than their family (teens), I returned to art-making, enriched by the practices of sensing into my body, rituals, ceremony, inquiry, and writing. Ironically, the process that developed into an Esalen workshop was best summarized by my memoir title: Bone Knowing. The story itself evolved out of choices I made from the knowing in my bones. Only with the workshop, the knowing (referred to also as intuition, inner wisdom, higher voice) is accessed with art, sensing, and writing processes through the conduit of the self. It is an honor to practice and share this with others.