Artist Residency

(November 30-December 15, 2016)

Here I’m just back from an artist residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where I had the privilege and joy of creating art every day, un-interrupted! It seemed a daunting task, at first, as I had no idea what I would create and frankly, my creative language was a bit rusty after so many years spent tending to my art therapy clients and creating opportunities for community art.

While I dearly love that work and will continue to be an art therapist, I felt it was time to focus on my own inner world. A blank piece of paper, paints, brushes and time, exactly what I had dreamed about. At first my marks were bold and broad, at times tentative. Color beaconed and the amount of choices was overwhelming.

I worried that I would muddy the work, that I had nothing to say, that what would appear on the page would be awkward, unschooled, unappealing. In other words, what I experienced was exactly what I had experienced my students and clients feeling every time they faced that blank page. How could I help myself?   As I was gradually reminded, there is an unspoken alchemical process (some call it the ‘muse’), that takes over when one allows ‘creative time’ to unfold. The work revealed itself to me, once I allowed this process to happen. It was not what I had planned, which I had to accept, and yet it was entirely new and carried new information (insights) to me. It was a physical, mental, and meditative synergy where paint was the tool and the brush was the extension of this process. I created seven large works on paper, loosely connected to each decade of my life so far. It was physically and mentally demanding, as all work is and a strong reminder that the art is heavy  duty work, as glamorized and underappreciated as it is by most. I emerged with an even greater appreciation of this and deep admiration for my fellow fellows, all of whom were making visual art, music, poetry and prose every precious minute of the day.

The evenings were spent listening to music and hearing novels, essays, poems, memoirs etc in progress. The visual artists had ‘openings’ and ‘critiques’ and model sessions. The bar of creativity rose high for me because of all these gifted people, that I could not help, but raise my own. I’m sharing here some of the work created with the caveout that creativity never really stagnates or dies. It just lies dormant, like a neglected garden.

The potential is there for all of us, given the right climate. While browsing through their extensive library of published work by past Fellows, I came across a lovely book by my favorite painting instructor, Mindy Weisel and it brought tears to my eyes, that she had been there too. What made Mindy so special, you see, is that she gave her students permission to paint as little as 10 minutes a day, if that was all the time they had. You’re still an artist she would say. In truth I was a 10 minute artist and had been for ages, because I was afraid that if I went longer than 10 minutes I would either mess up the painting or have nothing further to say. Mindy’s words gave me a lot of courage and I actually created works in her class that I loved. I sent her an email (she now lives in Israel) telling her about the book and my joy to find ‘her’ there.

Her words of encouragement came bouncing back to me;  exactly what I needed to have a successful residency experience.