HeARTist Story

Art is a way to reach beyond barriers of language, culture and time. Being creative has been a lifelong passion and one that keeps manifesting itself in my life. Being a visual artist has its rewards and it shortfalls. It is because of these shortfalls, that I made the hard decision to take my education into a more conservative way. I chose to continue my training as an art therapist/counselor. Being an artist is one thing, being a starving artist is another.

After finishing my masters in art therapy counseling, at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, I have worked for a decade in this field, utilizing the healing processes of art and talk therapies, as a registered and board certified art therapist as well as a licensed clinical professional counselor in the state of Illinois; both in the private and public sectors. I have worked with a many populations, but my emphasis has been with the younger populations and their families.

As an art therapist, art is a bridge to healing, a new language and to growth. After 15 years in the field of blending art and psychology, I was curious about where my images were taking me. During my early training, at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, my images were of social commentary, regarding relationships with others. What relationships meant, the diverse levels in relationships and the different roles each relationship has within ones life. I began to explore images that reached beyond the everyday. I found myself looking for stronger connections with my own images and with images of artists that I was drawn to in similar ways. My art seem to have a mind of its own. It was about undulating lines, full plastic-like shapes, unusual perspectives that were reminiscent of many artists, such as Georgia O’Keefe’s images and flowers. O’Keefe’s work was about bringing into view, life that was easily missed, magnifying what is already seen. How light plays on the image, if you were looking at life from a bug’s eye. It was about exploring life for its sensuous shapes, colors, lines, and textures. It was about bring light into nature. As did the images of Jim Dine, with his never ending search for personal symbolism and its psychological overlay. As Vincent Katz, once wrote of Jim Dine, “When Dine lets down his defenses and returns to his simplest emotions, his art willingly follows him, and he creates work of great, even overwhelming, emotional impact.” (1999 Brant Publications, Inc) Elizabeth Murray, also utilizes her images as stories of life with it humorous juxtapositions with everyday objects…cups, saucers, shoes… as cited from a interview with Murray by Sue Graze and Kathy Halbreich;

Heart and Mind?

All opposing things you deal with everyday. I don’t think everybody feels that as forcefully as I do; I must be trying to balance extremes in my own personality. I began to understand what I was doing with “Painters’ Progress and Art Part”. They were so psychologically satisfying because I finally realized the meaning of shattering and of putting an image inside the shattered parts that would make them whole again. Many artists don’t believe there’s a healing potential in working, but I constantly bring up deep difficulties in my character and try to sort them out when I am painting. When I was working on those paintings I kept thinking, “What am I doing?” This is such a silly idea. Why am I going on with these shapes; why don’t I just go back to painting flat paintings? This is ridiculous.” Somehow I put myself into the position of feeling very anxious about an idea and about following my nose. That was a real self-revelation. And for about 24 hours I really felt on top of things…(Elizabeth Murray: Paintings and Drawings, 1987, pg. 127)

As an art therapist, the therapist office becomes the container for the client’s heart (emotions) and their shattered life stories. As a healthy therapist and artist I respond to these stories with intense visual imagery that tries to express a sense of compassion, understanding and hope. As healer, a cleansing of the soul, if you will. These images celebrate what we all experience, on some levels, in our own lives, love and happiness, sadness and anger, sorrows, losses, shame and guilt, all contained and filtered through the “heart”.

I suppose these images are also a bit of a social commentary, a life-long thread throughout my work as an artist, a child of the 60’s and 70’s, where Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Vietnam, the Sexual Revolution, all politically loaded issues were bombarding print media and the airways. The “June Cleaver” way of life was thing of the past. Life was about freedom, authenticity, connections, balancing life, truth, acceptance, tolerance and peace. These issues still are desired in our culture today, as they were almost 30 years ago. Art and artist who have this understanding and desire to send the message are refreshing and affirming and familiar. The “Truism” of artist, Jenny Holzer, an Ohio born artist, whose commentary on everyday social conditions have awakened our society. Holzer’s truisms have jolted our beliefs systems, questioned life’s myths and realities through contemplative, blatant truths and sometimes humorous statements on hidden social issues that society ignores.

All of this, woven into the textural quality of my images, a journey through life’s’ experiences both personally, and professionally, offering the layered richness and depth in my images, with all of its scrapes, scars and imperfections. As with artists such as Eva Hess, Lee Krasner and Louise Nevelson, who create images with found objects, dripping, scraping and layering paint, as a way to create depth, perspective and the play of light and shadow in their artwork. These are only a handful of artists I admire and to me; they are all strong visionaries with a sense of who they are, as offered through the authenticity of their creations.

Thank you for stopping by.