A number of years ago I worked for an arts funding agency. One of my positions there was to oversee a series of artist residencies. These residencies were atypical, in that they paired professional artists with workplaces, (all kinds of workplaces!), to both raise awareness of how art can benefit our lives in myriad ways, and to debunk the myth that the average person can’t or shouldn’t make art. You see, the staff, board members, and at times clients of these workplaces, though hesitant at first, actually made art or at least engaged artistically. Given space, time and a range of materials, these ‘non-artists’ allowed their right brains to exercise themselves a little. The results were not only heart-warming to witness, the emotional impacts were, at times, astonishing.
I thought of this generative period in my life as I slowly meandered through an exhibition today, mounted at a nearby rural cultural centre/gallery. Unbeknownst to me, an artist friend whom I deeply admire, had coordinated numerous pieces of art work produced by the elderly residents she works with who live in three rural care homes. The work created by people of all backgrounds was not only inspirational, it was at times mesmerizing and courageous. I quickly scoped out two pieces, (one large and one small), in the hopes of purchasing one of them. Alas, they were not going to be made available for public purchase. I felt strongly that I wanted to live with one of these freely rendered beauties in my midst but had to be content to absorb for a few minutes the resonance produced by these primarily ‘non-artist’ creatives.
I share these two stories of resident artists working within the midst of diverse folk, to encourage you, dear reader, to consider doing something creative, something intuitive, something DARING as a means to liberate your right brain and your spirit. Start now! Both of these projects, by the way, occurred almost two decades apart.
I receive many calls from individuals interested in the Nature in Me© Retreats. When asked what drew him/her to the retreat, I often hear something like, “I’ve always wanted to paint but feel some fear” or “I’ve tried working with paint but don’t know what to paint” or “I live in the business world and I’m wanting to activate my intuition…I want to heal”. These are all calls from within seeking expression…seeking balance. These calls serve a purpose and need to be acknowledged or illness may transpire.
The power of art moves us beyond where we are at. It is alchemical, and it’s certainly transformative. I offer one final story to demonstrate what can transpire when working intuitively with art. My father has never liked my paintings. Regardless of my choice of subject matter, his response has never been one of interest nor appreciation. It was, therefore, an immense surprise to me, that he called one day out of the blue last fall to tell me that he and his partner had made plans to drive several hours to see my exhibition of large canvas paintings hanging in his birth city. I quickly leapt to call the gallery director, humbly asking for a special tour of the show for my father, his partner, and the couple they would be visiting there. Of course, I asked my father to ‘report in’ once they were back from their trip. It was several days after they’d returned that I received that call. While his feedback on my paintings, (many of which depict bones, skulls and experiences arising from the decisions/choices we make), was not a surprise, what transpired during that follow-up conversation astounded me. Not only did he share his views with me as to how he wished his experience in a gallery to be facilitated, (he wanted stories posted alongside each art work; that is, nothing left to the imagination), he actually launched into a personally challenging conversation about something we’ve never been able to discuss: cycles of life including death, and his will. This was truly the greatest gift I could have received from anyone. To know that my efforts to paint intuitively would move someone as crusty as my father to begin such a tender conversation with me, (and of his own volition), was exactly what I had always hoped for; that my work would inspire dialogue and an alchemy of transformation.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you intuition is an inferior form of intelligence, or that they don’t see the benefits of art and art making. If it can move us to discover our own realities, it can help us to discover our own potency in being there for others.