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…

Advertisements

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.

Writing 101, Day 7. “Hook’em with A Quote.”

I chose this quote because it came to mind right away. Simple sentences are my new mantra. Life without art is stupid. It is true. It is simple. It needs to be said. People take art for granted, degrade it, devalue it, stomp on it, but it refuses to go away. When you use less words you can get to the real stuff more directly. You don’t have an option to pile on words and decorate and embellish. In other words, no bullshit.

Life without art is stupid.

The other important thing about this quote is that Einstein or Van Gogh, the Dalai Lama or Jesus or Virginia Woolf did not say it. I don’t know who said it. I first saw it as a photo on a sign. When you have no person to go with the quote, there is no extra stuff piled on, no association to a great artist. It could have been said by an artist who sold no paintings, had no shows. You don’t get to say, well this person was such and such so blah blah blah. I think some of the best things were said by Anonymous.

If I were telling someone what I’ve learned in the 47 years I’ve been on earth, what kind of wisdom I would impart, etc. I would have this wonderful answer, “Life without art is stupid.”

The great thing is the quote says so much in five words that I have nothing much to add to it. I can say that these are the words I live by, that for the most part, life without art would not only be stupid, it would be unbearable. Imagine having no music, no paintings, drawings, no movies, TV shows, no comic books, no literature, no video games, etc.

There’s your answer to the question, Is this true and what does it mean?. Life without art is impossible. So next time you come across a person making anything, and you know they are going to not get paid for it and maybe nobody will be the audience of it, or that this person or you might make it and throw it in the garbage, just remember that this person, simply by making something that is not useful in any practical way, by making something the world doesn’t need, is contributing to your life having value.

When you see a creative YouTube video and think, wow, only three people looked at it and it’s been up for a year; why do they bother. Remember this quote and know that every person out there has a creative spirit, and without the collective of our creative spirits, life would be unlivable, stupid, impossible, unbearable. You would not be here right now without art. Period.

Art Therapy and Anger; Can Art be Used to Discharge Agression? Yes!

Inspired by a session I had today, I write this. I spent the whole day at SVA at a conference on trauma, and I even saw a presentation of a former marine who is managing her PTSD through oil painting, but what really inspired me was a session I had later with an adult who never engages with my art materials, much less, makes art.

We were talking about anger in the workplace and I started modelling ripping paper from a National Geographic. I had told this person about this app on the iphone called iShatter, which we both agreed is quite limited and not great. It does let you choose what to “shatter” and then you can “break” things on the screen with your finger, glasses, mirrors, windows, etc. Somehow after the first time you try it, it loses its fun. 

So as we were ripping the paper, I got the idea to get out oil pastels and show how to use them heavy handedly to scribble on a piece of paper and discharge excess anger. We were discussing how nothing takes the place of breaking plates, especially throwing them against the wall. I had hear from another patient that there is some place in Brooklyn you can go and actually break a lot of plates or glass. Anyway I modelled scribbling hard on the paper, I happened ironically to have a paper plate I scribbled on, so I invited my patient to try it. We did more rough scribbling, the kind that breaks the craypa, then I accidentally cut into the craypa thick marks with the edge of the paper wrapper so i got out pencils and showed how you can scratch into the craypa, then I remembered you can poke the paper hard with the pencil which we did as well. I was explaining that  it helps to pick yucky “ugly” colors and fill up the paper with them on top of each other, creating a big mess of brownish color, although we noticed with just the red that it very satisfyingly looked like blood. My patient noticed it was hard still to try not to make the picture look nice. I was using uglyer colors and encouraging more ugliness.

The main thing was the kinesthetic discharge of using the crapas and the pencil served as a knife like tool to poke with and atually attack the paper. Meanwhile I wondered aloud if I could get some cheap plates, bottles and cups and some area of the studio to actually break real plates, so we discussed that.

This week I will look for cheap china and some face or eye masks so we can actually destroy some real plates, cups and other vessels!

20140301-085228.jpg

Valentine’s Day Post: Be Your Own Valentine!

20140216-234801.jpg

I used to have a very jaded view of Valentine’s day as a marketing ploy for chocolate, flowers, stuffed animals with hearts and other stuff, as well as this idea of high expectations and not a great day for single people, of which there are many in NYC.

Even when not single, I thought this holiday was tacky and so mainstream boring; every day challenge is to be loving and celebrate love and give gifts that are not expected. However, since having a child age 3 and up, my point of view has totally changed. I see how the day can be fun and a celebration of love not between romantic partners, but for family, friends and the idea of inclusion in terms of school age kids’ making valentines for everyone in their class, especially age 4 to at least 8 or 9, when gender is not so important and children are excited to make valentines for their friends and family. Of course being an artist and art therapist, I have used the day as an occasion for making art with my child and patients. 

The idea of making your own valentine came from my child when she was 4 or 5. We were cutting out little hearts to decorate for each person in her class. The first one she made she liked so much she asked if it could be for herself. “I like this too much; I want it to be mine!” she said, excitedly. How cool was that. From the same person who said, “of course you have to love yourself,” when we were talking about who we loved the most. What a great idea, while making valentines for others and focusing on who you love, to make one also for yourself. I think she ended up keeping two of her own. We always make one for the teacher and she makes me one and I make her something extra special each year. All home made with art supplies.

This year was no different. Valentine’s Day happened to fall on a Friday, one of my busiest days in my practice. I went to work thinking, I want to make valentines’ cards with my patients and invite and challenge them to make themselves a card. I had a few phone sessions which worked out well for this directive too.

The main idea is to make yourself a Valentine’s Day card and in so doing , remind yourself to love yourself. WIth each patient who did this, I asked them if they would be comfortable for me to make them a card. Nobody refused! For adults this was definitely more oriented toward female clients, or it might have been that everyone I did this directive with was comfortable already with making art in the session, so they happened to all be women.

Anyway, for the people who came in person, I had lots of materials out all day, including: colored cardstock paper for the card, sharpies colored and metallic, decorative paper, foam heart shapes and other shapes, jewels, rhinestones and lots of fun stickers… I had fun in the session making each patient their card, and discovered a new kind of card — the triple decker card. I had cut a small peice of colored paper for a card and realized it needed to be bigger, so I added another card and glued it on top. Sort of like a stacked cake. 

This directive is a simple example of how great art therapy can be for helping people appreciate and accept themselves as they are right now, not who they have been or want to be. Also, accepting a card from me seems to be a sort of connection to their own therapy process and their appreciation of their work on liking themselves in art therapy. The card from the art therapist functions on many levels; as a “transitional object”, as a concrete object to represent the therapeutic relationship, as an indication of the trust that has built in the relationship with the therapist, and as a positive kind of statement about being in therapy and feeling good about it.

Making Valentine’s cards all day long from 8am until 8pm was definitely a fun and different way to spend Valentine’s day. I think throughout the day about 6 of the 8 sessions I had involved making Valentine’s. With the phone sessions, there was a fun part of the process involving knowing what we were making and having a surprise email afterwards, emailing back and forth photos of our cards and knowing that the patient would be getting their card next week.

I also made a Valentine for my colleague during our peer supervision and she made herself a birthday card. At the end of the day, I realized I had not had time to make a card for myself! As an art therapist I am a firm believer in doing the art you ask your patients to do always, so I knew I would be making one for myself. Yesterday while drawing with my daughter, we ended up making Valentine’s for each other; I had already given her two on Valentine’s, but as I started my own one, she asked for it, so I had to make a whole new one for myself. I had fun doing it, especially enjoying writing the phrase: “Happy Valentine’s Day to Me”, with the idea that anyone can look at my image of my valentine and say it to him/herself!

I am happy to be less jaded as I age, and a convert to all things childlike: hearts, rainbows, glitter, beads, Valentine’s Day, stencils, coloring pages, mosaics, all of which I had much disdain for when in art therapy school. Thankfully, I now know better and have a much more broad view of art making and art therapy.

Happy Valentine’s to me and to you and your Self! Make yourself a Love card as a reminder to love yourself every day…

20140216-234608.jpg

20140216-234654.jpg

20140216-235052.jpg

20140216-235118.jpg

20140216-235141.jpg

20140216-235152.jpg

20140216-235207.jpg

Photos: Top, my own card to myself, Sharpie on collaged paper cut out heart
First on bottom: Triple decker pieced together card for a patient, mixed media on cardstock
Second on bottom: detail of above
Third and fourth: other valentine’s cards made by me for patients
Fifth and Sixth: front and back of a card I made for my daughter
Last photo: Part of a Valentine made for a patient