My artistic endeavors started in a rather unusual fashion – by accident you might say. The only art I had previously pursued encompassed a few art lessons at school as a teenager, where the focus was firmly on ‘nailing’ perspective. I must admit I found that a difficult task but in latter years have managed to achieve some degree of mastery.
My artistic journey began in earnest in 2004. By that time I was already in my thirties. I was retraining, studying psychotherapy. As part of our initial introduction to the subject matter, one of the tasks we were given included producing a piece of art that expressed what it meant for us to be in ‘connection with the other’. The idea of having to produce something artistic was enough of a challenge in of itself – let alone representing the notion of being in ‘connection’. Anyway after much thought and somewhat by accident I found myself a few days later looking longingly at an old fabric covered mannequin in a second-hand shop. I bought the mannequin, at that time not quite sure of what I was going to do with it but eventually the notion of covering it in tiles and buttons emerged.
The buttons were to represent ‘connection’- second hand buttons from several family members and the second-hand shop. My thought was that by sewing these onto the mannequin, placing them next to each other I was representing the connections between family and the connections with others in the world – so I went about placing the buttons next to each other. I spent many hours sewing each individual button onto the fabric of the mannequin. The mannequin was representative of the person, in this case me, and I slowly clothed it in ‘connection’.
So the art work was simultaneously a representation of the self and the representation of the interaction with others, or the distinction between ‘I’ or the self-as knower’ and the ‘me’ or the self-as-known. The ability to look at the mannequin represented the self in self awareness and the self-concept i.e. ‘who am I’. The mannequin in its completed state represented wholeness i.e. a system as an organized whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and its properties (the buttons and tiles) and cannot be understood by merely studying the individual components but attention must be given to the totality. The individual is composed of subsystems that are related to each other. Each of those relationships can be regarded as a subsystem and studied in their own right. Within the system the pattern of influence is circular rather than linear. All the components are mutually interdependent and a change in one of those has implications for all the others. The buttons from the second hand shop represented the extra-familial influences i.e. the self as both a changing process and enduring features. The self is a fluid process constantly varying as it encounters each new person, remaking itself as each fresh figure of contact emerges in unique response to different aspects of people in the environment. While simultaneously the individual encompasses a consistent personality, habitual styles of contact, self organization etc.
So these were the concepts I was trying to represent in my first piece of art. My psychotherapy art project was one aspect of this experience. More importantly, by the end of the project I was truly and completely hooked on the process of mosaicing, adding small pieces together to create the whole. This mannequin was the first of several more to follow. This psychotherapy project was the start of a life long interest in mosaics and in art generally and as the years have progressed I have delved into all kinds of artistic media – textiles, linoleum cutting, drawing and much more. I am most thankful for the gift that that project and psychotherapy generally unleashed within me.
In the posts that follow I will share my artistic adventures as a diary of my own process in art – perhaps it will inspire someone else to discover a side of themselves that they weren’t aware of.