This is the first personal expressive artwork I ever did! I love this piece dearly.
I started grad school August 2017. It was an online program. The first week of every semester students had to be on campus which was called residency. Before this moment I don’t think I ever went out and did something for myself this big alone. I was 23 and it felt like this was the first real adult thing I embarked on.
I’ll be honest with you… Entering grad school to become an art therapist I didn’t really know what Art Therapy was. All I knew was that I liked art and I wanted to help people. Since I wasn’t fond of everything else in school this seemed like the perfect fit. Even though I didn’t fully understand what Art Therapy was. So, when students had to complete an art therapy assignment before residency it was the first time I engaged in creating art in that way!
During residency you are in class all day every day. One of the first classes the students were sitting in a circle to then take turns in sharing what their artwork meant. This was the first time I had been exposed to such vulnerability. Each piece of art beared a part of that person’s soul. I felt honored to be in this container of courageous individuals. Immediately something was being stirred up inside of me. My darkness finally felt safe enough to come to the surface.
Any break I had in between classes I started to write poetry. This was the first time I had expressed or confronted the sexual abuse I had experienced. (this blog post contains a lot of firsts if you haven’t already noticed!) I honestly don’t know how I held it together during residency. When I had longer breaks in between class I went back to my hotel room to cry. I was not consciously aware, but I think my soul knew I was stepping into a new life. I mean shit, this could have been my first ego death!
Then one of the longer breaks I decided to sit outside and do some art. Again, I had never utilized art in a way to express or release my emotions. Before it was always academic, I had to follow specific rules, and it was graded based on the way it looked. Reflecting now, it was such a precious moment, sitting outside by myself getting in touch with the hidden parts of the self through art.
I created the piece you see above and these two pieces below in one sitting.
First image: The purple represents me. The black figure represents the essence of abusers. The figure is big and overpowering. Then when the figure touches me I combust. It is like my energy becomes scattered. I was once contained and pieced together, now I am not. I was forever changed. I am still awestruck at how big the combustion feels when looking at the purple. It spreads out so far and in every direction.
Second image: The purple represents me. The black represents my darkness. I feel that this piece shows what the combustion felt like internally. In that moment I felt that darkness all throughout my body. It was like an inner door opened up inside of me and the darkness was bouncing all around. If I was in an Art Therapy session I would have just pointed at this piece and said, “This is how I feel.” So much energy went into creating this piece. I applied heavy pressure the entire time I was drawing, and I was creating marks really fast. If anyone saw me while creating this piece I’m sure they could instantly understand I was having an intense moment.
Third image: The purple represents me. The black figure represents the essence of all abusers. The black circles represent people in society and in my life. The abuser has one hand on me, then a hand in each member of society. The abuser influences (manipulates) the perception of society, and that perception comes down onto me. I am then held down by all these factors. I feel that society does not support victims of abuse. It feels like we are viewed as guilty until proven innocent. I really felt the pressure of this which was a main contributing factor to my silence for all of these years.
Wow! I just impressed myself reflecting on these images! I did not even know how to express myself with art when starting grad school, let alone talk about such deep emotions, and yet these creative pieces said so much. It goes to show that ANYONE can do this. There is endless value in Art Therapy. When coming into an Art Therapy session you do not have to know what you are doing with the art. Something will come up. Then you will be able to process it with the art therapist. You all just got a window into how the healing started for me! If interested, I also share a few of the poems I wrote during residency on my podcast, Creating Light with Kelsey, on episode 6.
When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.