Kindergarten and Life!

I found this beautiful moving and inspirational poem on someone’s Facebook status on my personal Facebook feed and just loved it as it is so true. I posted it on my Tribeca Healing Arts Facebook page, but here on my blog I can reflect more than just requote the poem…

The writer captures the best in a human being, the important things in life that just are not easily “taught” the way writing, reading and math are taught. Interestingly, creative expression is an important element of this writer’s idea of how to strive to live in a loving, caring fashion but also loving oneself. As one five year old in Kindergarten has said, “And I love Me of course, because you have to love yourself!” as well as on her list of best friends (more than one as five year olds can handle being friends with several people and not want to “put them in an orderly list” starting with “best” friend, she says the people she loves as her best friends and either starts or ends with “and (her own name) of course because you are your own best friend!” Indeed, the world would be a much more beautiful place to live in if only we could take what we learned in Kindergarten as the Foundation for true happiness and truly be on the path to a “life well lived.” There is spirituality all over this beautiful poem with no mention of any religion or deity, as we can live peacefully and lovingly if we truly carry with us these things that we learned so long ago…

It’s the last sentence that gets me the most, “Be aware of Wonder.” Wonder is indeed  something to hold on tight to, as it can be one of your best friends throughout your life and will serve you at all moments of living. Well, I am biased about the value of wonder; not for nothing “Alice in Wonderland” is probably my favorite book which I have reread throughout my life. (Last reading was this summer in July on my vacation.)

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.These are the things I learned:Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

Great Website: The Broken Light Collective

I don’t know if I’ve talked about them before on my blog, but I’ve been very excited about the “Broken Light Collective” blog website and what they are doing for people affected by mental illness, and in addition as an added bonus, as a way to educate the public about mental illness. This is a really impressive endeavor as it is much more than a blog. It is very moving and somehow allows people to be vulnerable and feel safe as well as able to express their own unique voice…

This is a WordPress blog started by people who wanted to post daily photos by people with mental illness. I’m not sure what got them focused on photography as the medium of choice, but it works extremely well on the internet, and nowadays with phone cameras etc., non professionals can express themselves skillfully through the art of photography and manipulating photos to create an image. There are so many options: just a snapshot caught at the right moment, a photo reworked in Photoshop to heighten it in some way, even photo collages… The only thing any of the photos all have in common is a search for the Truth about Life, as experienced by the photographer/individual.

Broken LIght Collective is a beautiful name for this simple idea. Follow the blog. and every day you will see a new image, completely unique, made by someone struggling with a mental illness or less often, someone very affected in his/her life by a loved one’s struggles with mental illness, and of course, many people fit both of these descriptions. If you are interested in studying mental illness, this is a great blog to follow to learn from the people who are struggling with it every day of their lives. They have a lot of wisdom and battle scars, not to mention the courage of putting themselves out there and showing a part of themselves through their photography.

This is to me, in a sense, art therapy at its best — a form of community art therapy or photo therapy or whatever you feel like calling it. It is an example of healing through creativity and sharing, which I think is a very important component of this original and thoughtful and sensitive blog/website. I believe strongly that creative acts and sharing of one’s creations coupled together promote the most healing as connecting with others who are sensitive to one’s struggles and/or struggling with similar issues is most healing of all. This is not to elevate or promote the idea of connecting as being social. This website is great for people with “social anxiety” which I am starting to doubt is a real “Disorder”. Anyway it is a great form of therapy through community combined with individuality, something very rare to find in the “physical world out there” in our daily lives, but perfect for the internet. In the case of the “Broken Light Collective”, the therapeutic healing aspect of this endeavor is accomplished through as a supportive community which gets formed through the people’s efforts, much like the AA model, however without any philosophy or approach to recovery. Just an interest in telling people’s stories through words and pictures. Thus the strong community of sensitive people does not require a therapist to be present, although some of the interesting “profiles” are of psychotherapists and healers of one kind or another sharing their own struggles with mental illness.

So please go check out the blog and follow it!

Inspired by the Broken Light Collective, I would like to do something similar with art in all other media excluding photography and post a picture a day of art work with the person’s story. I’m thinking of calling it the Shadow Brush Group and would model it on the philosophy of Broken Light. It would just be a place where people instead of sharing photos, share photos of paintings, drawings, mixed media, sculpture, crafts, fiber arts, environmental art, even short poems.

Note: For the Broken Light Collective people can choose to post on there with their real names and also are able to post with a pseudonym to keep their privacy… There is no judgment either way, just an invitation.

Doll Making! A Great Therapeutic Activity

I have been interested in doll making for quite a long time. Many years ago, I made a few dolls with one patient and got inspired to make my own. I may have started making mine and then worked with her on hers; I can’t really remember, but I do remember the work with her influencing my continuing interest in dolls. I made some from “scratch” but after finding a particular muslin doll at an art store that was somehow compelling, I started decorating the premade dolls elaborately with my own drawings and collage elements and all sorts of things glued on. I made their hair from everything, cut up paper and drawings, weird yarn, even an old fashioned phone cord that was already pre curled… These dolls are up on my website currently:

Recently I’ve gone back to working on a series I started about six years ago that I continue to develop, but last week I went on an artistic detour with dolls. It started with a hastily put together doll in my supervision. The doll was made of cloth and wire and some other stuff. That was last Wednesday. The next day while at a day long seminar on “Child Art Therapy”, we were invited to play around with pipe cleaners during the presentation. As usual I embelleshed what could have been a simple way to keep my hands busy and my mind focused. I used extra pipe cleaners that were laid out on the table and not being used and I took out a roll of black tape I happened to have in my bag and some paper and  got involved in making another doll, this one quite flat. Normally I’m not really that into pipe cleaners. (I think there is a new term for them as children aren’t supposed to think of smoking when using them, but I forgot what the new name is!) These days, I am into almost every kind of material imaginable, probably from working with children of different ages, which makes you much more open to viewing all of the world as material for art and creating! So I found myself suddenly enjoying the pipe cleaners, and being surprised that I could make a doll out of them.

The next day in my studio on Thursday, I started making another doll, again using pipe cleaners to form the shape of the head, the hair and a lot of the body, but I tried to disguise the pipe cleaners by rolling yarn around them. The doll took a few days to construct and I liked the weird effect of making a flat round face of paper with a 3D body and back of the head, using stuffing. Since then, I sort of finished doll number 2 and began doll number 3. I am including pictures of them here.

The one below is the second one that I made over the course of several days. I will post the others separately as it is easier to do photo posts.

So what is it about dolls? Not everyone enjoys making them, so they are certainly not universal art activities (as opposed to something like magazine collage or tissue paper collage which appeal to a wide range of ages and populations). The interesting thing about them is that people are intrigued by them, even if they don’t want to make one. Dolls, especially “artistic” ones that are so weird and different from the standard kind of doll you purchase in a store, are very evocative. The ones on my website that are scattered around the studio have started assuming a life of their own. People react in all sorts of ways. Some kids like them; some find them to be creepy. Pretty much the same with adults. Some enjoy their feeling of being some kind of powerful voodooo type doll. The exciting thing about making them, whether from a premade one or totally starting from scratch is probably close to how people feel when making stuffed animals or puppets. As soon as you add the eyes, even if the body is not finished and there is no mouth, there starts to be a kind of “life” there. It’s amazing how expressive a few buttons and a simple line mouth can be. I especially enjoy doing the hair…

What is therapeutic about it? Everything. You of course really have to try making one yourself to see what it’s like, but it’s a bit addictive. Every time I’ve engaged in doll making, I don’t stop at one. Now that I’ve begun a third one that is similar to number 2 and 3 with the round paper face and and button eyes, I am very tempted to take number 1 and remake it by adding paper and fabric and stuffing and wrapping the pipe cleaners in yarn…

They are also definitely a kind of self-portrait, and for some people, it is a liberating process; once you realize it’s not that hard to put one together, it becomes very exciting to see how to create one and also there is no pressure to make something that looks real or “perfect”. The materials used add to the creativity and feeling of expressing oneself. It is fun to collect random pieces of yarn and fabric, old buttons, beads, wire, and then stuffing. Some people like to make it a project only involving dry media, wrapping and sewing entirely and doing no gluing. I cannot help but use the glue gun. It’s the best way to affix the yarn wrapped circle of the head to a piece of paper. Now that I’ve done 2 on the same color paper, I am going to make one with a light purple face. Most of my sculpture dolls on my website are inherently “multicultural” as they have faces painted in all sorts of colors. Using fabrics to make most of the doll encourages the creation of a meta-racial-ethnic doll!

On that note, I will end this post and post the other two photos. The first one I hope to change and elaborate and then post a photo of what happened after reworking it…

Very Inspiring Poem

Hello everyone, I hope this post finds you safe and sound and that your home is not destroyed or flooded. There are many resources for helping people in the tri-state area who have suffered loss and damage from “Hurricane Sandy”. Check your state governor’s website, FEMA’s website, Red Cross website to start. Contact your insurance company to find out about coverage. Of course, if you still have no power and are stranded, none of this will help. I hope soon we can account for everyone…

Someone told me about this poem and I liked it so much I decided to post it here. For everyone struggling to find meaning in their life, especially those going through any kind of identity or career crisis, or feeling lost in one’s life for one reason or another, I hope this poem helps you to know the struggle is worth it.

George Gray

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me —
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire —
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid. 

Edgar Lee Masters