Tender Observing

I belong to a wonderful Facebook group called “A Stand for Art Journaling”, founded by the amazing Orly Avineri. Orly posted a very provocative statement that spurred a gamut of responses from all of the art journalers in the group. I wont include her exact words here, but I will say that they triggered a flood of thoughts for me about other people making meaning of or judging another’s art….especially journal pages. I am so grateful to her for sparking this dive back into why art journaling is so powerful and sacred for me.

I love art journaling so much because it is deeply personal, and a way to process emotions without words. For me it is all about using the symbolic in a stream of consciousness manner in order to access places that I could not otherwise access. For me, a page is never planned or executed with any intention other than showing up honestly in any given moment. That’s not to say that I don’t get caught up in my ego sometimes and want to make “pleasing” art (read more about that here). Just like with meditation, I go astray, but if I can gently remind myself to come back to the page (which for me is a tangible representation of the present moment), then I can be in that honest flow again. That flow is very personal, and most times defies literal explanation, which is why it is tough for me to get on board with the notion of analyzing or even trying to understand another’s art (nor anyone else doing the same with mine). Making art for me is such a vulnerable process, so to try and make meaning of someone else’s brave offerings feels intrusive and presumptuous. That’s not to say that another’s art does not evoke emotion or create a sensory experience for me (for this is why I surround myself with other artist’s work in my home). It’s also not to say that seeing another’s deep work does not inspire and remind me to be honest in my own art (for when I witness a brave artist revealing themselves through their honest expression, it can bring me to tears). What I am trying to say here is that I just don’t feel it is my place to analyze another’s work. What I try to do instead when taking in another’s work (a colleague or a student) is the same thing I try to do when someone I love is sharing something scared with me in a conversation….. hold the space, listen, take it in, and witness as non-judgmentally as I can. When I work with my clients and students and their creative process, my intention is to help them to find and then use their unique creative expression to glean their own meaning and healing, and to illuminate their own insights and strength rather than imposing mine on them. Thanks to Orly’s question, I have been trying to be even more mindful about how I respond to another’s sacred offerings. I am grateful for this awareness, especially as I start to put my own art and process more and more into the public eye. I pray for the same mindfulness coming towards me, for this business of sharing my work (my soul) so openly is  a tender process.