In their passports, participants of the Storytelling and Art from Around the World course inserted a picture of themselves as a character of their choosing complete with name, magical attributes, and planet of origin.
Using coloured acetates, windows were made to look in upon various characters created in response to folk stories. This week: Il Gatto Mammone, or The Tale of the Cats in which a girl tugs up a cauliflower revealing a large tunnel into the earth that leads her to a house of cats and adventures therein.
In the creative wellbeing sessions this week, I asked participants to create collages and sculptures to represent aspects of themselves. Searching through old magazines for words that resonated seemed to be conducive to both reflection and supportive conversations about elements of participants’ lives. I don’t initiate these conversations, as I am not an art therapist; they arise naturally, just as elements of participant’s journeys towards wellness often manifest in the artworks. I work with individuals who may be coping with conditions such as OCD, paraplegia, anorexia, anxiety and depression, but the emphasis in these sessions is always on the creative process. The classes are a safe, confidential space to share, join in with creative activities, or just take time out from other concerns.
When the sculptures were placed together, there was great potential for narratives about the characters and objects that had emerged from the clay. Participants wrote wonderful short pieces, linking sculptures together in often stream-of-consciousness poetry and prose which was afterwards shared.
The Other Side
The bat told them of a flower
beginning to unfurl
so the tree walked along the ridge
with a basket to collect the petals and the tears.
The sessions that I am running at the lovely new mental health unit Hafan Y Coed have evolved into a combination of writing and art. As this is a new venture for me, it has been interesting to see how the planning of the course translates into practice.
We have taken a generic theme for each session, and this week was ‘weather’. As mindfulness is really useful in cultivating creativity, I’ve tried to incorporate it into the sessions. Learners initially used pictorial prompts as a focus, imagining themselves into various natural scenes, engaging all the senses through a short guided visualization. From this, they did some free-writing – jotting down anything that came to mind without worrying about punctuation or spelling or whether it seemed relevant – anything at all. This free-writing often leads to some unexpected story seeds and associations that can be developed later into a poem or short prose piece.
We read poems by some well known poets relating to the weather, and discussed how we felt about each piece. Then I presented a few examples of expressive art such as Frank Auerbach’s series of drawings he made after walking on Primrose Hill, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolour, ‘Sunrise’.
Working Drawings for ‘Primrose Hill’ 1968. Coloured chalks and black pencil on cartridge paper.
As we had access to the resources in the art therapy room, there was a good variety of mediums for learners to choose from to create their own weather-inspired art works. Within the work, they could incorporate their favourite words or phrases from those they had written earlier.
Two wonderful landscapes with text, using acrylic paint and coloured pencils.
There is something raw and deeply absorbing about Hannelore Baron’s multi-layered work. Found materials are combined with enigmatic text and abstract figures in her collages and box constructions.
The work suggests both the condition of entrapment and the possibility of release, no doubt informed by her early traumatic experiences of war in Germany in the 1930s. Unlike Joseph Cornell, her box assemblages are not wrapped — or trapped — in the air of poetic-romantic longing. Baron’s boxes and notations insist that the human spirit can persevere, however damaged.