Unlike my sisters and my daughters, I've never been comfortable in front of a camera. So it's a funny thing that I've been wanting to play with self portraits. I've done a number of them in previous years in my Expressive Arts and other creative classes in all kinds of mediums, and they're a grand tool for exploring that vast place of mystery – the self. Certainly I could use a little practice in exposing more of ME – something I've never been much up for.
With all of the new job events and others this summer, I won't get up for one of my annual weeks at the Haliburton School of the Arts to do one of the courses in my Expressive Arts certificate program, so I figure it would be a good idea to do some creative play on my own. And one gets introspective, I suppose, when one hits a landmark birthday.
I've no interpretation for this one, taken the day before I started my new job. Except that maybe I'll get more comfortable with the whole camera thing and get out from behind curtainy shields.
The first pieces we were invited to make in last week's expressive arts class were to reflect two themes: safety and risk. I went to something I'm most often drawn to, dolls. Maybe that was me going the safe route. Or maybe they sort of led the way to the riskier drawn piece I went for later in the week.
What does one do with this sort of creation? It depends. If you're moved to, you could take some of the ideas it's offering to you and explore them in different ways, i.e. poetry, journalling, dance… Sometimes it's sort of a private talisman to have for awhile, or forever.
I've kept some works, discarded others. Some I've kept for a time and then disposed of them when I didn't need them anymore. Some people do this in a ceremonial way. Our facitator made some clay pieces during the week and said she would set them into the woods, to be offered back to the earth. Once, I was showing a class one of my funny looking little dolls: it had a crooked, abstract face and odd decorations on it. After the class was over, I felt the doll had served me, and so I left it in a corner of the room at the college, enjoying the bit of mystery it might engender when discovered.
The point is, this kind of "creating" is designed to encourage reflection and ideas. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. If you allow yourself to get lost in the project, or let loose all of the shackles that might impede freedom, the results can be surprising. These dolls weren't so surprising – they were the product of some current and acknowledged personal goals, and thus they came home with me and hang about in my kitchen as my own little cheerleading squad.
Hopefully one day they'll be retired into the woods.
I’ve had a remarkable week. I’m not new to these expressive arts classes. But I am new to the level and intensity my “expressions” have reached this time out.
Expressive arts is a practice or activity whereby one uses artistic materials and tools from the entire spectrum of the arts, such as words, images, sculpture, dance, song, music, poetry or drama to express ideas. Expressive arts can simply be fun, sometimes personally illuminating activities for people; or with a trained expert such as a therapist, they can be used to promote growth or healing. In this program I’m in, we approach it from the recreational level, but that doesn’t mean some real big things don’t happen. Art is, without a doubt, a powerful explorative tool.
In the classes I’ve taken, people have come to all sorts of emotional and cognitive awareness. Me – I’m in it for a way to enhance my creative writing teaching skills, to come to a greater personal awareness and understanding and to grow, to become freer in my expression, and to simply have fun exercising some creative inclinations.
Usually in these classes, I’m a steady one. That’s because I’m generally pretty steady. I have my demons and skeletons, but I’m really don’t have a need to exercise them in a class like this. I do lots of internal work when I’m here, but I tend to take it, and the ideas I’ve generated and uncovered, home with me to process and work out privately or with people I’m close to.
And that’s okay – it doesn’t make the experience any less meaningful if you don’t have earth shattering revelations. On the other hand, it would do me loads of good, I think, to live more of this stuff out loud, but I think if there’s going to be a giant regurgitation and letting go every piece-of-crap-and-burdensome-weight-and screwedupness – it should probably happen in a therapist’s office. And that, frankly, scares the shit out of me.
This year though – I have become aware of some real changes in me. I can dance and move with pure abandon. I can grab an instrument and play it loud to my own music. And the other day, I became totally and completely engulfed in a poster-sized drawing. The strong, dark strokes energised me and moved me forward. I stood at a table and went after the drawing as if it were the only thing that existed in that moment. I was determined to finish it and yet I still have no idea what it is that will complete it. It's still calling me to finish it.
I rarely draw. I often make dolls, or mandalas. Often I collage. I have not made a drawing as a form of expressive art in years, and even then, they were the least meaningful to me.
Don’t ask me what it means. I don’t know. I need some time alone with it.
But I can say, that to be so lost within a work, so focused on an image creating itself under my hand, was pretty bloody astonishing. And to think I always thought I knew what was up there in my head.