(…continued from My Introduction to Expressive Arts Therapy).
Cosmos Dancing within my Soul – a collaborative expressive arts therapy project
For a couple of weeks toward the end of our two semesters of art therapy, only “Mary” and I were able to attend regularly, along with Kimberley, our program facilitator. For us, she cooked up something new, alright!
A large sheet of paper completely covered a large art table. On another table were laid out paints, pastels, feathers, string, glue, stickers, and more. We were all going to work on this simultaneously, each starting in our own section. We were to remember scenes of our past, think about now, our hopes for the future, our feelings… So we stood there, we three, silently contemplating this very large piece of very blank paper.
I can only describe my own thoughts here. I remembered the farm where I grew up, and chose to represent that time of my life with zigzag cedar-rail fences, also called “snake fences” or “Indian fences” that surrounded all our fields. I painted a zigzag blue line to delineate my space on the paper, and it also made a fine protective boundary for me. I glued string along the paint lines to give texture.
I found myself becoming obsessed by this fence as it was starting to make me feel hemmed in. Situations that caused me deep hurt as I grew up there popped into my head; I tied pieces of yarn into knotted bows and glued those hurts into the corners of the fence. But I also had to add feathers for the good times.
Sometimes we had gone to the highest hill at the back of the farm to watch fireworks at distant towns along the horizon- an exhilarating memory. Now I used red and blue squiggles, lines, polka dots, and yellow brush strokes to represent the happy times, filling out my section to the edge of the paper – a simplistic but wild mess!
We three didn’t talk much except for encouragements from Kimberley. Next, we walked around the table, looking at, admiring, and questioning each others’ work. Kimberley had painted a huge fire inside a blue shape resembling a cave, while “Mary” had painted free swirls and soft shapes of mainly blue and green. Next, we went around adding painted elements to each other’s work.
So what was our entire mural about? We taped it on the wall four different ways – vertical, vertical upside down; horizontal, and horizontal upside down, staring at each version and discussing which we liked best and why, and how each version “spoke” to us. This horizontal version won. Somehow, even the title, “Cosmos Dancing within my Soul” emerged organically, collaboratively.
Finally we sat down on the floor, contemplated the image, and individually wrote down our own poetic response to this painting. I’ll end this post with my “poetic response”:
A jagged fence of hopes, plans, thoughts, fears,
With hurts knotted in its corners,
Separates, yet ties together
My exuberant bursts of joy and laughter
With the fire of inner passion, imagination, love,
While all around, the swirl of dreams—
Thoughts not yet formed,
Memories felt more than remembered.
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