Sunday, July 26, 2009

Who is your Art Full Self?

A few weeks ago, I received my first batch of unfinished Matryoshka dolls, for the Art Full Self Workshop that Denver Art Therapy Counseling Co. is facilitating in November through the Mizel Museum, arrived in the mail. They were so beautiful in their unfinished form, I'll admit I was somewhat intimidated to paint them. Here they are on a shelf in my studio.

In case you are wondering , the painting behind the dolls is a self-portrait my mother did when she was in college. It's a great painting. I have a nice collection of family art in my studio, pieces from my great uncle, my grandmother, and my mom. I recommend folks start their own family art collection - its a different but nice way to experience your family. Alas, that's fodder for an entire separate blog post....
So I've begun working on my sample set Matryoshka dolls. Part of being an Art Therapist is familiarity with art making materials and an understanding of feelings and processes inherent in making things. I can't teach a workshop in self exploration if I haven't engaged in such myself, thus the "practice run" of creating Art Full Self Martroyshka dolls.

I was so eager to try out the paints on the wooden surface of the dolls, that I approached the first doll cold without any preliminary sketches. I am ordinarily such a planner, so for me to act spontaneously in this manner was actually, well, therapeutic. I chose the smallest, innermost doll. I felt I should illustrate something elemental as an expression of this inner most part of myself. I thought about outer space, the universe and the millions of stars in the night sky, and how when I stand below them I feel inconsequential but strangely happy, connected and comforted at the same time. Below is an image of my inner most little guy. As I finished him/her, (is our inner most self gendered?), I thought about a line from my favorite spiritual prayer/poem, the Desiderata: "You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and stars, you have a right to be here".

A few weeks later I began sketching my ideas for the second doll. For some reason, I have been especially aware of poppies lately. I remember Art Therapist Cathi Malchidoi mentioning in her book, The Soul's Palette, how for a period of time she was surrounded by imagery of crows. She would create crows in her work and see them frequently her in daily life. It is the same with me and the poppies lately, and I am still searching for what they are trying to tell me.

Because of the manner in which I have encountered the poppies, I am beginning to think their message to me is related to "the Self in connection to others". Who are we without our connections? Our family? Our friends? Our professional communities? This inner dialogue is still evolving for me, so I'm not going to comment about it too much today. I am posting the preliminary sketch for the Poppy Field Doll - see below. It will be interesting to see how closely the actual doll replicates the sketches.

I find this whole process tremendously revealing and fun. Solipsistic as it may be,it feels good to discover who you are. I wonder how other people do this... a thing they do that helps them articulate their identity. Therefore I'll close with some questions for my readers, "What makes you, you?" "What are your strengths?" "Do you use your strengths in a therapeutic capacity, if so, how?" Please share in the comments section of this post - and thanks for reading/participating! Till next time ....erin.


Pink Headbands and Curls said...

**sigh** This is just so fantastic. I'm so inspired by your work. Or and love :)

Jo said...

It was interesting for me to read about your matryoshka dolls. I painted a set of them a couple of years ago when studying to be an art therapist. It was a project about creating a self box that we had to present to the class. I used the dolls to represent the different layers of my self. I have it on my desk and it remains very important to me. Jo. (Australia)

Erin Brumleve MA, LPC, ATR said...

Thank you Pink Headbands! Its so important to be inspired! Keep up the good work in Grad School!

How funny Jo, we are doing something similar with the Matryoshka dolls, they do tend to lend themselves to thinking of the self in layers, don't they? I'm so glad you keep yours nearby and that they are still a treasure for you. Thanks for sharing!