Art World: Outsider/Insider, Part Two


Meanwhile, I was going graduate school school to become an expressive arts therapist. I thought of it as the ideal career for someone like me. I could continue to express myself in all the varying art forms, free from the constraints of making money within that context, and at the same time, I could make a living as an expressive arts therapist. Through my three years of school, and two years (one year overlapping with school) working as an expressive arts therapist, I developed a new relationship to the arts. Making art was no longer about ego gratification and being clever, but it became a soul need. It became a way of living. A way of making meaning out of life, so that I could have a more playful, creative relationship with myself, and with others. It was a way to take myself less seriously, but at the same time take my feelings more seriously. I found something I really believed in. Making art in this way is magical, deep and satisfying. However, as I headed deeper into the professional world of psychology, with its licensing hours, ethical codes and boundaries, I started to feel uncomfortable. I asked myself is this what I really want? I started to find myself feeling less whole, and more split. The connection I had with being an artist in the world started to slip away, but I wasn’t willing to give it up. I wasn’t willing to put it into hiding. In an expressive arts therapy based desire to integrate this split between the Professional and the Artist, I came up with an idea for a sitcom character--an untrained working therapist, who was very unprofessional, with very poor boundaries because what she really wanted to do was to be an artist. Every week she had a new fantasy, and as she sits with clients she fantasizes about her other life. I did not make the show, and we moved to Mexico soon after. (Since then I have been developing the show within the new context of Baja, and plan to start shooting in 2013).

It wasn’t until last year, when I was planning workshops for Art For Life,  my organization that I am building in Mexico, where I teach cultivating creativity workshops and do creativity coaching, that the realization came to me. What if the work I do helping people to access their creativity IS art in itself? After all, this could be a form of art as social practice. When I think about it, it is not so different from what an expressive arts therapist is trained to do. With expressive arts therapy, “the work” or the therapeutic relationship is private, and therefore personal only. But with social practice art, “the work,”  while still just as personal, becomes public, and therefore universal. In this way, the work benefits not only the teacher/therapist/artist (me) and the participant/student/artist, but also, the public, who witnesses the interaction (whether through recordings, or as a live audience.) Another important difference between expressive arts therapy and social practice art is the context, and the language of aesthetics. My goal is to make Art For Life (its teachings and experiences) relevant in different contexts, using distinct languages of expression. Some workshops will be relatable to people with no arts training, while some will behelpful to people who are fully engaged in the art world. I am interested in connecting the gap between the sophistication and internationality of the art world and the depth and empathy of the expressive arts therapy world. The art world can be kind and the expressive arts world can be hip. 

The internet is an integrative space that can hold the kind of approach I am speaking of. This blog is, in itself, my foray into social practice. My goal is to make it more interactive--so that it feels more of a mutual experience. I want to share one of my favorite examples of participatory art--the project by Harold Fletcher and Miranda July called Learning to Love You More.  If you are interested in social practice/participatory art, please write to me and share your knowledge, as this is just a starting place for me. I have been sharing with you a a new thing, a delicate thing. The first seed of a possible direction of my ever-evolving desire to integrate my dreams, passions and skills, so as not to feel compartmentalized, so that I may live the enchanted life of my dreams, and to help others live their creative dreams. Ultimately, to live life as creatively as possible, to live life as art.