Art Homicide: Is it Common?

We rolled it to the point where it was a 7 foot paper taco and carried it down the street home like that. It was too thick from collage to roll up completely. Once home we put it on top of the wood bed posts on the frame around the posts. Every time I lay on the bed I could see the underside of my masterpiece slowly crumbling from the weight in the middle that wasn’t supported.

Having it there along with another big round mandala piece was not a great idea psychologically. If we had stashed it somewhere it may never have met its gruesome end and the other piece wouldn’t have been collateral damage.

Most people don’t get angry at their apartments to the point of feeling like destroying stuff, but I never was” most people”. One day or week I got so frustrated with the chaotic state of my house, that the feeling kept building more like a fire when it catches on to something and the next minute the whole building burns down. As I couldn’t burn down the building, I decided it was time to destroy the mandala. I’d been eyeing it for weeks wondering how and if I wanted to fix it as it was getting damaged.

Suddenly it was clear how to solve the problem. This huge piece used to hang in my old studio on one wall and took up all the wall space. It was up there so many years I remember looking at it and thinking, “What will I do if someone buys it or if I have to move it? Maybe it will be here until I die.” It felt that permanent. Fast forward to me ripping the whole thing apart and destroying it. I don’t remember it well even though it was probably only 4 years ago. After that, I took on the piece that was my height in diameter, like a lion after a kill who finds an extra dead animal baby and eats it just because it’s there.

Do I regret doing it? Do I miss the piece that I still consider one of the best or at least most ambitious things I have ever made? I don’t know because I had forgotten about it until I recently destroyed something else that I liked. I guess if I could have it back I would and it might be in my studio now or  I would have sold it and been happy it had a place. It did serve a purpose in its short life of being on that studio wall because my clidnts faced that wall when they sat in the chair across from me. I remember one client seeing a person in a wheelchair in the middle of it. It was a completely abstract collage. I can probably find a photo of it to post with this. So when it was alive on the wall, it was serving a purpose and beign seen by lots of people. Back then the Tribeca Open Artist Studio Tour still existed, so for those few days in April annually, I had crowds of people come through my studio and see it as well as the smaller piece.

I know a lot of big deal artists have destroyed their work, but in a very calculated way, not in a sudden fit and not something they thought was one of their best work. Part of the delight I took in murdering my big mandala was that it was really one of my greatest achievements, so it was a really crazy meaningful kill.

I have destroyed many peices before and since which I will write about in another post…

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2019!

I’ve been foregoing lists of goals, resolutions and intentions for the new year and replaced it with choosing a word for the year that reflects what I want for the year. This year’s word was a search for something that would be fun, like the word I chose for 2018 – AWESOME, and related to aspirations and intentions like 2017’s word, ABUNDANCE. I had decided for my professional aspirations to focus most on selling my art, involving getting more art made, making a good new artist website and using the app Spreezy that I downloaded over a year ago, which is an easy way to sell work already on one’s social media. I also looked into an old Flickr account I haven’t used and decided to post on that too.

First I thought my word would be “Wonder” or “Magic”, to follow up a word like Awesome. So I was thinking of words to express success, achievement, actualization, fruition, and accomplishment, but something more fun and special.

Then I watched the movie “Serendipity” again during my holiday break, when I always watch a few holiday movies, some cheesy and bad, some cheesy and great. I hadn’t seen the movie in years. The main thing I noticed in watching holiday movies was enjoying old New York; “Serendipity” came out in 2001 and was pre 9/11 2000’s NYC, so you see a lot of NYC from that era. On a side note, my favorite Christmas movie of this break was “Three Days of Condor” made in 1975. It’s great as a Christmas movie as it has nothing to do with Christmas but you see NYC during Christmas throughout the movie, and it’s a thriller. The topic is not a romantic holiday type movie. Within the first 20 minutes or so, the main character played by Robert Redford comes back from a lunch break, and all his co-workers at the CIA have been murdered. The movie shows the twin towers often, and there is a scene in the lobby and in an office in the Trade Center. It was great to see the twin towers from so long ago.

After watching “Serendipity” which is an overdose on the idea of synchronicity and the concept of serendipity. When the characters try too hard to refind each other it doesn’t work; eventually the concept of least effort applies, and they bump into each other finally.

So I decided to make my 2019 word “Serendipity”. It is a good confluence of my original words about magic and wonder and my wanting to focus on a specific goal. It has the meaning of happy accidents, fortunate events happening in an unplanned and unexpected and delightful way.

Usually with my art career as with most other things, I find if I put effort into specific things and then balance it with letting go and trusting in serendipity, things will indeed happen in an unexpected and delightful way. Like my most recent sale of a drawing through Facebook. It was unplanned. I just posted images of my drawings and writings from starting my 15 minutes a day in May. One day a friend who lives Berlin Facebook messaged me that she wanted to buy one of the drawings I posted and she did. I sent it to her in Berlin. I’ve had other Facebook inquiries and interest, but this was the first time I sold an art work directly from posting images on my personal Facebook page, and I do have a separate professional Facebook page.

Another serendipitous sale is my favorite story of selling artwork. I was on an airplane to Albuquerque in the spring of 2006. I took out some art supplies and started a drawing on the pull down table of the seat in front. A guy sitting to my left started asking me questions about being an artist and we had a conversation about his interest in art, etc. Then as I was finishing this little drawing, part of my Inner Landscapes series, he asked if he could buy the drawing. He paid 100$ cash while we were in the air. I love airports and airplanes and flying, so I couldn’t have wished for anything cooler than selling art on a plane. Also I was going to New Mexico for the first time, and I had built up a big fantasy about New Mexico for years as this magical place full of replanted artists and a place where fine art, folk art, jewelry and other media are equally valued. The “Land of Enchantment”. I saw it as a harbinger of a special time in a very special place, which it did turn out to be. I ended up spending the 100$ on a hand made doll while I was travelling the Turqouise Trail.

So I am putting my trust in Serendipity for an enchanting and marvelous 2019. Happy New Year! What is your word or intention for 2019?

Online Art Exhibitions: The Sketchbook Project

I am currently involved with a two online art exhibitions. This post is about The Sketchbook Project.

As I have been working on my 2019 Sketchbook Project, “Pictures and Words: Buildings and Birds”, intensely in the last few days and weeks, and during summer break, I have become more intentional about utilizing the “Community Space” aspect of the Sketchbook Project, to get more involved and be part of this “Crowd Funded Sketchbook Museum and Community Space” that continues to expand. You can find what I call “side projects” and events on their website as well as past sketchbooks and an easy way to sign up and partipate. They sell materials as well, something for another blog post. The latest project I signed on for is the “Tiny Sketchbook Project.” I haven’t received my sketchbook yet, but they look like they are a few inches in size! I also love tiny very small and small works… TIny Sketchbook Project Link

This is their website: The Sketchbook Project Website

It’s defined as a “Crowd Funded Sketchbook Museum and Community Space.” You do have to pay to get a sketchbook and pay extra to be included in the digital art library and exhibitions. I am grateful that one of my clients told me about it in 2013, as it is very fun and unique; also, I’m obsessed with sketchbooks and of course, altering books. The one thing all my sketchbooks have in common is the amount of working and overworking involved. It’s never a simple process for me no matter what…

(It’s a perfect project for my ADHD: While avoiding something too stressful, I hyperfocus on the sketchbook, and have added hyperfocusing on promoting and participating more. I will be part of their “Infinite Drawing” series, and have done a canvas for “The Canvas Project.”)

Here is the link to my latest Sketchbook, (2018), “Inner Landscapes”, from The Sketchbook Project:

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/19305

I highly recommend participating in the Sketchbook Project! It’s a very democratic inclusive approach to art and exhibiting art. Anybody can participate. Here are the links to other years I’ve made sketchbooks; each year is completely different from the last year.

This one from 2017, entitled “Many Minds” is my favorite of the five completed sketchbooks:

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/18294

 

This one is my 2016 Sketchbook, “When Objects Talk”. I mixed together two drawings series, one that involves comic strip art:

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/17880

Here is my 2015 Sketchbook, “Marks on the Edge”, involving mixed media including yarn, fabric, sewing, colored tapes.

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/17107

Here is my first Sketchbook, from 2014, “Mosaica for Khakasa”,worked on mostly in the fall of 2013. It’s the most complicated in terms of the process and times spent on it, as well as having things I do in altered books, like extra pages, changing the size of the page, and making windows. I also incorporated Chinese Funeral Paper and dried flower petals.

The Sketchbook Project is on all social media and easy to find. It’s home in Brooklyn is the Digital Art Library. The sketchbooks travel all over the United States and in Canada. I’m predicting they will branch out to other countries soon.

 

Blogging 101 Day 1: Introduce Yourself/Your Blog

A few weeks ago, I considered closing this blog and starting a new one; however I did nothing, knowing to wait and see about big decisions such as that. I ended up coming to the conclusion that I can remake this blog and push the reset button. One thing I was planning was changing the look of the blog, for various reasons. So I thought I would start with the basics, using this great WordPress class about blogging for beginners, (Blogging 101: Blogging U , even though I am not a total beginner. The two week course is called “Learning the Fundamentals”.

Here are some good questions raised in Day 1’s Assignment.

The big question to start with:

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?

To share my pictures and words with others and to be part of the blogging community.

  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?

I’ve covered a panoply of topics in the past since starting this blog. I can’t remember all of them, but I remember some. They included gender identity, mourning the dead from cultures arount the world, aspects of being an artist, aspects of being an art therapist. If you look at the bottom of the page on this post there will be a list of categories most used on all of my blog posts.

So what would be different now than before:

I have a new found awareness of setting intentions and goals that all are connected in terms of improving the blog and my organization skills.

I think I need to come up with a sort of schedule, like Tuesdays is about Art Therapy, Wedneday is another topic, and then even if I don’t post on those days, I can use them as starting points. So the goal would be to post more frequently and be more aware of what I am posting over time. In terms of topics and uses of the blog, see below.

The other main thing involves my newish art project, “Pictures and Words”, and the fact that I no longer have an artist website. I’ve thought of setting up one, but I decided I will first attempt to make the blog partly an artist portfolio website, where people could see work I’m making and buy work. I don’t know yet how to do that or if it’s possible but that is one of the bigger goals.

Writing for a more specific reason than before. This blog could be where I post drafts of chapters of my book, “The Art Box”.

  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

Other bloggers of all kinds, also artists, art therapists, people with brain health challenges and diagnoses and their families/friends, anybody interested in the brain health field, art lovers and many others I don’t know yet.

  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
  • I would like to have an artists website as part of the blog if possible. I would like to have experienced more clarity on my “Pictures and Words” series as it intersects with The Art Box book.
  • I would like to have a clearer vision of the book in progress, The Art Box.
  • I would like the blog to look better and be more consistent and organized.

The Grand Graphic Novel of 17 years

I am now starting another 30 days of no sugar/low natural sugar, after a successful 30 days that ended last Wednesday. The next day I had an ice cream and then Friday began the next 30 Days.

This new eating “plan” is working on a much grander level. Yesterday at a party I met someone who just started something similar and we shared how this is much more than about dealing with sugar addiction and eating healthy, how this can help you focus on doing the important things you want to do that you neglect. It’s the secondary side effect, being more able to follow through with goals and projects and why food is such a big factor with ADHD for me.

I started writing a graphic novel “fantasy/memoir” 17 years ago in 2000. I took a class at the Open Center with a comics expert friend about writing graphic novels. It was taught by a woman who wrote a graphic novel about having a baby as a teenager. She got us to figure out what was important for us and what we wanted to write about and to get going with the nuts and bolts of layout and drawing and speech bubbles. I got started and got the first 10 pages done and got a lot of great feedback. People who read it thought it was funny and well, good, worth continuing.

There is nothing like immediate “success” to stop me in my tracks. I kept working on it and then at some point put it aside and left it to collect dust. It was too hard and I reached a place where I didn’t know what was supposed to be on the next page. Since then at various points in the last 17 years, I have taken it off the shelf and worked on it. For a while in 2006-2007 I was meeting up regularly with my friend I took the class with to work on our graphic novels and encourage each other. Then life got in the way and I put it back in the black hole of writer’s block until the next spurt of inspiration hit. In 2013 I got very revved up to get it done by my 50th birthday and figured out how to get 100 pages done by doing a page every 16 or 17 days and posting some of it on Facebook. That went on for a few weeks, then I lost several pages of the book and gave up again. I picked it up and did a few more pages and even found the lost pages, after putting the loss of the pages in the book. By then, the book had  developed a life of its own and was also about my inabilities to keep going and doing it. Fast forward to a few weeks into this new “food plan”. About 4 weeks ago, I decided to get one page done per week and use therapy to make me keep it up, so I had to do a page by Friday and send a photo of it to my current therapist. I am now working on the 4th page (page 44 of the book). If I keep it up, I will have about 31 pages done by my 50th birthday and be on page 71. It won’t be finished but it will be more finished than it’s ever been.

Getting back into it and forcing myself to do it each week has been enlightening. One question that I won’t be able to answer until I finish is what is this project getting in the way of in terms of other things to accomplish with my creativity? I always thought in terms of all the things I manufactured as reasons to not be working on the book and what are all those things I put in its way, but I hadn’t thought in terms of what this unfinished big block of a project might be obstructing. What if this book is an obstacle itself? I won’t know until I do it and finish it.

When you force yourself to work on something like this that has been 17 years in the making, you learn things for sure. It is just at the point of shit or get off the pot, put your money where your mouth is, etc. So I have decided while getting back in the process that I have to get this done and finished and then get it published so I can continue with whatever else I am doing with my artistic and writing career. I definitely have another book, not graphic, just writing, that I started last year and am working on which I have put aside lately while doing the graphic novel. I posted a few things from that book on this blog, but for sure, I will have to write it at the same time or get the graphic novel done so I can do the book.

The book is going to be called The Art Box and is a book of essays/reflections, mostly about doing art therapy with adults, especially my work at my old job at FEGS Rockwell Continuing Day Treatment Center that I left in early 2003 to start my private practice.

The graphic novel process is extremely challenging as each page takes a really long time to conceive and complete. It’s much more frustrating than pure writing as the images are a big deal and take a long time. Sometimes I forget how fun it can be. I started it in black and white, drawing in pencil first and then covering in black sharpie. Now it is in color as well and I am trying to vary the layout and composition. The one benefit of taking forever to get it done is that now the internet is so great for research, whether to look at examples of fight scenes in comics or look up things  that relate to the content. I also just organized my sketchbook journals that I started doing in 1987, so there are 30 years of them, minus a few that I took apart. I’m going to have to look in them more for more info and ideas. I have been using old drawings from my journals to get image ideas for the pages in the past few weeks. Today I used a scribble drawing from 2012.

The second week I noticed how it is difficult to deal with the inner critic saying this isn’t good enough, your drawing is bad, there isn’t enough variety, maybe you won’t get it published. You have to just keep going and keep in mind that you are going to keep going and not stop. Stopping is the deadly thing, so having this idea of having to do a page a week at least is great for momentum and also keeps me motivated to stay with this eating plan, as the fear is, going back to eating badly will remove my motivation and I will give up. Each goal feeds the other.

I hope this continues to work as it’s reached the point where 17 years is enough and I have to get it done in the next year-year and a half!

The Therapist Profile: Reflections

Writing my profile for websites for therapists, such as psychologytoday.com, has always been a challenge for me. With each new website, I’ve discovered new clearer ways to answer the questions about my work. It’s hard to put into words my practice and approach and how I might be the kind of therapist you would work well with. I definitely look at other people’s profiles for inspiration, more to see how they word things, if they start with questions, what kinds of phrases they use that seem to be really clear  than to paraphrase. My profile is unique and I explain art therapy in the way I think of it from how I experience working as an art therapist, but I’m still not too satisfied with it. It’s an ever evolving process for me, so I’ve often changed my profile on psychologytoday.com (the Main Encyclopedia of psychotherapsits), when I am in the process of putting it on it  other websites.

I’ve recently joined the relatively new website and community of healers/doctors/providers, lighthouselgbt: Safe Space for LGBTQ + Wellness. The first part of the Lighthouse Profile defines the space and providers in this way: “We are a group of NYC based providers who have devoted our careers to caring for LGBTQ+ patients.” This is the link if you’d like to check out the website: https://www.lighthouse.lgbt

I am very excited to be part of the Lighthouse community, especially right now with the political climate we are forced to endure. It is more than ever important to find your “tribe(s)”, no matter whether virtual or “real world”. As an extreme introvert, I need meaningful soul to soul  person to person connections with other like minded open tolerant curious and out of the box people, including in my work as an art therapist. (I have yet to find a group of artists/writers/galleries/publishers/creative professionals that feeds me. Here I am in NYC and the NY Art World is not for me at all, but I’ve never quite found something. I do have plenty of friends whose careers involve creativity and the “arts”, and social media places to share my work, but it is not quite a real community of people for me. I’m hopeful I will find this eventually. I put this in parentheses because it is a whole other topic to explore that is on my mind lately.)

Identity: “Who am I and what am I about?” is a lifelong voyage of discovery. I’m a work in progress. The longer I live, the clearer I am at articulating who I am in whatever sphere of life, and then I’m able to look back and see how I’ve always been this way and are just in process of becoming more fully who I am, constantly evolving. I am passionate about evolving and becoming increasingly aware of ways that I want to present myself to the world more accurately. Whenever I have an “Ah ha” moment, I realize this was who I was even back when I was a 7 year old just being me, without as many barriers to being able to be myself. I understand when my clients report that they have bravely forayed into proclaiming their discovery of their gender or something else and gotten reactions of “you never said this before. You’re not this and that so how is it you say you are this (gender, career, creative mode of expression.) It can be as simple as “But you’re a performer, youre not a visual artist.” “You’ve always been “xyz”. Even, “You should talk to your parent. They are so nice or they are your family.” Someone has gotten to the point of taking a brave stand and boundary with an abuser and doesn’t always get this validated; in fact often people devalue whatever you’re proclaiming. I recently read someone’s essay about their identity as an asexual person and what it is about for them. The comments were downright nasty, some insinuating that you can’t say you’re asexual because you had sex in that relationship or you’re talking about having sex, so you’re not asexual. I’m happy that now there is a phrase, “the asexual spectrum”, which was invented to explain especially to such limited bullying individuals that being asexual is not that simple and only works when not a label slapped on someone.

I can say that most of the barriers I have had to being myself have been self created, but maybe I woulnd’t have created these barriers to radical full self acceptance and standing fully in the light if the world were a lot safer and more openminded and accepting.

“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”As I wrote that I think of Oscar Wilde’s words in a way I haven’t before. The two sentences are kind of a dialectic in the sense that being yourself involves having to define yourself in relation to other humans because we use language, verbal and non verbal, to express or hold back who we are. We can’t get out of the aspect of self acceptance that involves negating a sort of “norm” communicated to us by society and their constructs and clarifying taking space as unique and beyond the norm. There should be no “box” to be inside of or outside of in any arena of life; of course that is a fantasy. Imagine being born into a world where gender was a spectrum, where polyamory, monogamy and a romantic approaches and of were all just choices like the color of a t shirt and that your shape, size and color of your skin were seen like a box of magic markers. You wouldn’t need to focus on what you are not and what does not resonate with you as who you are. There would be freedom to be and freedom to play. My challenge: “What gender are you today?” which was the main focus of my last art show, “#Bathroom Art Only” would be like deciding on a cereal for breakfast. Some people want the same breakfast every day; others want different things or no breakfast, or have the same breakfast for years and at age 37 decide to have a completely new breakfast. It would be the ideal of “live and let live”, “whatever floats your boat” and the maxim would be “Be yourself. Be free to be yourself. Be free to evolve and change in your concept of yourself.” with no need to refer to others.

There is a therapy phrase, “ego syntonic” and another one “ego distonic”. I like these phrases because they get to the heart of self acceptanc, self worth and learning how to navigate an unsafe unpredictable world we all have to live in. Something is ego syntonic if it is in sync with who you are and your values and aspirations, like when you put on a t shirt and it fits you in size as well as what it looks like and what kind of t shirt it is. Jobs can be seen in this way. If you are working at a job that is deadening you and feels like it’s not what you want to do or the people you work with are people you would not choose to be around, the job is ego distonic. When I worked cleaning the house of a science fiction writer in the summer during college, it was ego syntonic because he was nice and weird and non critical and paid me cash and the job was temporary; a job doesn’t have to be on your career path to be ego syntonic; it just needs to match who you are and your wants and needs. Same with any relationship. Therapy for example. If you feel comfortable with your therapist for whatever reasons and that there are minimal blocks in the way of your accomplishing your therapy goals created by the therapist, or even if the therapist has done so and you are able to address it, then the therapeutic realtinoship is ego syntonic; at certain points in therapy, it can be very therapeutic for you to notice and tell your therapist that they have said or done something that was not ok with you. Then you have an opportunity for the therapist to adjust/correct and you are improving your communication in important relationships and growth occurs. Often we discover what is ego syntonic by experiencing something as ego distonic. That’s the “everybody else is taken.” part of the dialectic. It means asking “Is this for me or for the other person?” “Am I ok with this or am I now not ok with it even if I was in the past?” “Is this something I want now in my life or not?” “How does this serve my growth or impede it?” The more you can clarify what is ego distonic, you also clarify what is ego syntonic. The process is unique for each person.

As an artist and person who has a deep need to approach life creatively and express myself creatively, I have always been someone who tries many of the t shirts on, or has different breakfasts every day. I like to shape shift and morph and copy and try on things; I learn best by watching how someone does something and trying it out, but reshaping it to do it my way. I don’t learn well by being told what to do in a rigid way or being told what I did wrong. My college was ego syntonic to the way I learn and the kinds of people I needed to find for my life, so I was able to grow as a person during thpse important years. I like seeing diversity and experiencing diversity, as I am easily bored and like the new. At the same time I don’t gravitate towards situations involving meeting new people in a social context. As a therapist I enjoy meeting new clients because I am curious and interested in how unque and fascinating each person’s inner life, identity and approach to life is. As an artist, I often try out new things and then in that process, keep repeating something I’ve stumbled upon. With drawing especially, it involves looking at other people’s drawings or images; to draw musical instruments for my Warrior Series, I looked up musical instruments from other cultures, especially middle eastern and African.

Using the line from Annie Hall comparing relationships to sharks, as an artist I need to be like a shark, constantly moving. The dialect between me the artist and me the art therapist is being the shark and the snail. As a therapist I slow down and stay with whatever the client brings in to explore and process.

Mission Accomplished: Art Therapists Are the Experts!

An Art Therapist Explains Why Justin Bieber Needs Coloring Books

Yes! Mission accomplished!!!

My biggest complaint about the media and art therapy is that they need to interview art therapists as experts when art making is involved. Too often I see an article where a psychologist is looked upon as the expert to explain people’s pictures. They ain’t the experts. We are, and we need to be the first ones out there. We need to be on more talk shows and all the stuff the psychologists do, and we’re on the way to getting in people’s living rooms and in their Twitter and other feeds.

For me, that’s the goal; get the general population to know about the existence of art therapy, by all means necessary. That means television, magazines, newspapers, articles, Youtube, all social media.

Now that we have the best adult coloring book out there: The Real Art Therapists of NY Coloring Book (https://nycreativetherapists.com/real-art-therapists), we need it to be sold in airports and supermarkets, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Duane Reade!

So check out this article in Vice and read Nadia Jenefsky’s take on Justin Bieber coloring as well as what he colored and how.

As art therapists, we are trained to look at images and pictures, and we know how to translate and explain them. We are trained in understanding what makes people drawn to certain materials and images, verbal and non-verbal communication. We make our own images, and we get other people not just to make images but we invite people who haven’t touched paint or other materials since they were 5, to get back the joy of art making and get in touch with their creativity, whether it’s cooking, gardening, sports, writing, coloring, sky diving, etc. Art therapy is not just about making stuff in therapy. Art therapy is about creative environments, connecting with others…

That is what it is really about, connecting on small and large scale, so this article is at the forefront of raising awareness of Art Therapy and who the expert art therapists are!

Mission Accomplished!

Last month, I was hired to do a very challenging commission, and I am posting the final results here. I will post as some of my process of making the images on the next post. 

It involved a lot of fascinating research about the Lakota Native Americans and their Sun Dance and rituals as well as vision quests. The commission involved drawing images to be put together on a t shirt. This t shirt is a very meaningful gesture of greatfulness from the giver to the people at the Sun Dance…

The process of making the nine images for the t shirt was intense and a spiritual journey vision quest for me as the artist.

Words on t shirt and meaning:

Mitakuye Oyasin: All are related. (We are all connected…)

Cangleska Luta Wiwang Wacipi:

Need to ask the person who comissiinsd the images, as I did not know that he was putting words in it or what words. Seems to mean the sun Dance Circle and unity. Luta may refer to cloud or a person named Red Cloud…

Each image on the t shirt contains many meanings and experiences connected to participating in the Sun Dances. 

The final result t shirt:

   
   

Only In Art Therapy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly… First story: Saudi Arabia

If you’re reading this and you are a patient of an art therapist or have been or if you are an art therapist, and have a story of an incident, please let me know and I will post it here.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, whats’ that?: Basically there is great news and exciting things going on in the field of art therapy, like an article in National Geographic about art therapy with veterans with PTSD and photos of their masks, and bad and “ugly” things, like annoying portrayals of art therapists in current Tv shows and movies, as well as a lot of misconceptions about what the scope of what we can do is and whom we work with. I will use the pronoun “they” when talking about patients to further protect identities.

With the not so great news stories, I will follow with the question: So what can we do to change this NOW? because we’re in a better place today than ever before with respect for the profession, but not enough…
I’m not satisfied!

I will start this series off with a great story I found on Facebook linked to an article about art therapy in Saudi Arabia: Using Art Therapy with Former Jihadists, turns out it is a very effective modality for lots of reasons:

http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/using-art-therapy-to-open-the-minds-of-jihadists

Being Authentic to Myself and Others, Both as an Artist and a Therapist

It is not easy to be honest with oneself, to confront strengths and weaknesses, to take off the masks and see ones’ true Self and be authentic to oneself as well as others.

What does this really mean? I read something recently about “right speech”, as in mindful speech. One key is to ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself or anyone else is “true”, “kind”, and/or “necessary”. We may not always be able to do all three, but I think it is a safe bet that if you are aware of at least two of these, what you are saying is more likely to be authentic and “real”.

What are we all doing on this planet? What is life truly about? What is meaningful and how do we spend our brief time on earth in as meaningful and authentic a way as possible. What does it mean to contemplate your life’s “purpose”? I think these questions are important ones at every age and stage of life.

I am at a turning point in my life, which I have realized more through the process of really contemplating the passage of time and the new year. In my process with my patients of joining some of them in writing down what we are ready to let go of from last year and what we are wanting to focus on and embrace in this new year, I have learned that I want to be more true to who I am, and more authentic to myself and others. I read a great blog post about how therapists often put a lot of “baloney” and fakeness in their public profiles and even the photo can be hiding more than revealing. I think the patients over the years who have confronted me about what I am about and what I have to offer. Sometimes being a bad fit with a patient can teach you a lot about what and who you are as a therapist and person and what your limitations are.

It is always strange to come to an awareness about myself, I have found, as usually it hits me over the head and then I say, “wow, this is so obvious, how come it has taken me so long to figure this out. what kind of fool have I been, etc.”

Maybe the truth about getting older is that you come to see more what you are about and what you have to offer as a human, a parent, a family member, a partner, an artist, a therapist, etc. How can you have self-acceptance without being real about who you are.

This blog post I mentioned above: https://girlintherapy.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/dear-potential-therapist/, as well as the reflections on the passing of the old year and the coming of the new year actually led me to look long and hard at my therapist profile on Psychologytoday.com, the sort of Yellow Pages of therapists website. I had an ok photo, but I updated it to reflect that I am older and do look older, as much as I may be vain about my hair and like it better in the older photo. Then I rewrote my personal statement, trying to follow some of the advice of Girl In Therapy, to avoid a lot of intellectual garbage and boring explanations, and take a risk and show something of the Real Me, that my patients all see anyway. And to make it more personal. I may not have shared my interest in Chakra and Tarot and other things, but I talked about my tea, as the first thing you will be asked when you come to my studio office after the preliminary greetings, is, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

I thank my colleague Nadia Jenefsky at ArtSpa (https://nycreativetherapists.com) for many years ago introducing me to the idea of sharing tea with whoever comes to the studio, when I went to her first office for the first time, probably about 8 years ago, and she offered me tea. (FYI, for those interested, they are having their 8th annual Open House at ArtSpa on January 16, 6:30-8:30pm so if you’re in Williamsburg, I recommend visiting, quoting their invite: “Try your hand at art therapy. Dabble in drama therapy, Eat good cheese. Drink a little wine. Network the old fashioned way—in person!
Every year for the past eight years, we have welcomed friends, colleagues, and other Willliamsburg business owners to make themselves at home in our creative arts therapy studio. We hope that you will join us in anticipation of a healthy, happy New Year.” Knowing my colleagues there, I am happy to say that they have a great thing going on there, really unique in the field of creative arts therapy, so I am always glad to send people their way!)

I lived in Japan for two years when I was 11 for fourth and fifth grade, and that was when I learned/discovered the ritual of tea and that drinking tea with others is a lot more than just sharing a hot drink on a cold day. Tea has always been associated with ritual, connection and camaraderie, with the sharing of current news of your life with another person. It’s cosy, full of variety, warming on a cold winter day and cooling on a hot day. From collecting teas and being given great new teas, I have developed an array of flavors of herbal non caffeinated teas as well as a supply of a variety of green and black teas. For a long time, I saved tea bags, and collected and displayed them all around my studio with dolls I had made. I was inspired by seeing art made on tea bags, and I have used tea bags in my art, from gluing them onto canvas, including them in altered books, painting them, adding them to dolls, even gluing tea bags together to form a doll’s body.

Anyway, that blog post got me thinking that when people see your profile on psychology today, they want to see what you really look like and what you are about. This makes sense as all the studies on the effectiveness or lack thereof of therapy point to the fact that people feel they are comfortable with their therapist and making progress in their therapy when they feel good about their therapist and actually “like” their therapist. Everything seems to point to it being NOT as some would think about what you studied, what your “approach” is, whether you are psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral or “eclectic”, but just how the patient feels coming to your office and sitting sharing with you for the session time. Of course one’s training and education and professionalism are all important, but the human element is too.

So here is what I put in my new revised profile. Let me know what you think. 2015 for me is all about taking risks and trying to be braver, so even if I fell on my face or went too “out there”, I am happy to be trying hard to be as authentic and true to myself as possible.

As an artist, it is easy to be myself, because I just make my art and let it come from my creative place and I follow where it wants to go. I love making stuff because it is such a free and playful process. I hope I can be more free and playful in other areas of my life as well!

Here is the link to my profile: http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Natasha_Shapiro_ATR-BC,LCAT_New+York_New+York_65057

This is what I said:
We all have a creative spirit within us; I strongly believe that depression anxiety and other imbalances are fundamentally a wound in the creative spirit. Art therapy with me involves our embarking together on a journey to find and nurture your creative spirit; we may make art together; we may talk about what’s missing in your life and reconnect to your life force energy and find images within you. The journey is yours. I can help you find your true self and open up to awareness, self discovery and self acceptance.
Art therapy includes a variety of approaches It is useful for exploring emotional issues as well as other goals and relationship challenges. Mindfulness, sitting with yourself and being in the here and now, is one important key to growth and increased self awareness.
When you come to my studio office, I will offer you a cup of hot tea in winter and mixed flavor herbal ice tea in summer. I have collected all kinds of teas and believe in the sharing of tea! Also, I love to work with culturally, ethnically diverse clientele.

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