This is what I know: Art heals.
Above is a detail of a painting I’ve been working on. It’s not yet done, and while I don’t usually share work in progress, I’m sharing this one because of its timeliness. Here’s the piece:
I know… It’s dark. But that’s the beauty of making art. I get to express exactly how I feel, no holds barred. And right now I’m feeling dark. I’m concerned, sad, and worried. And it shows in my work. But, while this painting is dark, if you look closely, there’s a thin blue line down left of center. That’s where the light is for me. There’s often, even when I’m in a dark place painting, some kind of light that shows itself. Maybe I’ll call it Thin blue line.
It’s been difficult for many of us this past week. And, no matter which side of the divide you’re on, art is a balm in challenging times. Art can help you find a new perspective and it will soothe your soul.Here, then, are…
5 Ways to Heal through Art
1. Write. I’m a tremendous believer in the power of writing. If you’re concerned about how to move forward in the current climate of fear, hate, and confusion, I would suggest taking time to write. It will help you sort through your emotions and illuminate your path. Writing’s a powerful method of introspection and propulsion.
I recommend a pen with a nice smooth flow, so your thoughts can do the same. See what comes. List one word and then another; release your thoughts and emotions in prose, or even in verse. Let judgement fall by the wayside.Ask yourself where you’re at, where you’d like to be. Ask yourself whatever you want to know. We have wisdom within us – wisdom that is often obliterated by the noise of our world. Quietly writing allows us to find our inner truths.
2. Go see art. People have been around a long time. They’ve survived all sorts of catastrophes, visited by both nature and man. Ancient art reminds us that this, too, is a moment in time. Artwork in response to war and injustice helps us know the immense power of art; reminds us of past events so that we can avoid repeating them; and shows us ways to forge ahead. Go see art.
3. Read poetry. There’s a line from one of my favorite poems that’s been running through my mind ever since the night of November 8. It’s from a Billy Collins poem called Velocity, and the line is this:“
…We must always look at things from the point of view of eternity, the college theologians used to insist…
That thought calms me, giving me a vastly different perspective on this moment and this day. Velocity is from my favorite book of Collins’ poetry, called Nine Horses.
4. Make art. I’ve left this down lower on the list – but it’s integral. There is nothing more soothing than being in the studio making art to music that moves you. I love being in the studio working on the thin blue line painting. Our dear departed Leonard Cohen is there, speak-singing his deeply meaningful words from You Want It Darker, Steer Your Way on repeat. It’s dark – but it’s honest – and that’s the way I like it. It helps me drop into the total experience of it all, nothing else distracting or diminishing the moment. Fully present, immersed in the work.
You might wonder if making art is somehow unimportant in the scheme of things, especially right now. I would argue that it’s more essential now than ever. Art heals; art expresses emotion others can see and share; art reminds us of our humanity. It’s a way to connect ourselves and others with what’s truly vital. So make art. And, if it feels right to you, share it.
5. Make art for a stranger. There are many people afraid right now, and people being targeted and bullied. There are many of us, too, who want those people to feel our support and acceptance.One way is through art. I love what Lindy Stockton’s group, The Collage Cafe‘s GrownUP Girls Club, created. Their plan is to scatter around their messages of love, hope, and peace. Perhaps they’ll touch someone who could use their message of love and acceptance.
There will be many ways art will help us express and share our hopes, thoughts, and prayers with others. The language of art is one that communicates across boundaries of all kinds, transforming both artist and viewer. Art will help us move to greater understanding and kindness in a world filled with possibility.It’s up to us. So let’s make art, be kind, and continue to fight the good fight.
. . .
And now I’d like to take a moment for the other item that has been occupying my time: my new book, Studio Stories. I so appreciate the feedback I’ve been receiving. If you haven’t gotten to read the book, you can read the opening chapters here.
For those of you in the DC area, we’ve got one more book sharing on Dec 1 at East City Bookshop. I love this place – it’s like a living room filled with beautiful books. I’ll do a reading and we’ll create a little art piece. RSVP to East City event.
For our West Coasters! VIDA in San Francisco is doing an event for Studio Storiescoupled with a sample sale on Dec 9! You might remember VIDA: they turn my paintings into wearable art. I can’t even say how excited I am to be there with their phenomenal CEO, Umaimah Mendhro. Let me know if you’re in the area or have friends there, and VIDA will send them an invitation.
I hope to see you at one of the book events. I’ve actually surprised my shy self with how much I’ve loved sharing the book with everyone this way. These events really feel like celebrations and I’m thinking we can all use one of those right about now, right?
To all you are,
PS. I’d love to know what you’re doing to stay grounded these days. You can share here. Thanks!