Following "The Dream of the Painted Face" it would take another 9 years before I began engaging in a sustained practice of painting. On that particular day in July of 2004, when I sat in front of the canvas and held the brush I considered the act of painting to be medicine.
The canvas seemed so large. Where do I start? How do I start? How do I begin to put what I am feeling, what I cannot explain in words onto the big open white space? My world was imploding, exploding, opening, closing, ending, beginning. I remember feeling as if my heart was physically detaching from my body and was leaving a bloody and oozing wound and no matter how hard I tried, I could no longer hold it in the place that it once lived. At the same time, I felt as if I wanted to rip my heart out, to set it free and yet it refused to let go and surrender to the freedom that it had so long been waiting for. It clamped down even harder and pumped the hurt through my body.
I forgot about trying to figure out where I should begin and I surrendered to the sensations of my heart. As I sat and allowed myself to feel the contortions of my distressed organ, I realized that the middle of the canvas had begun to beat. Rhythmically in and out, thump, thump, thump.
If my life as a whole no longer made sense, if there were only bits and pieces, only fragments that I could grasp and understand, I needed a way to express them. As I painted I felt a release or a transformation of the confusion, the sorrow, the hope, the promise, the memories, the fear. I felt as if I did not have to label or define these things. What was before me was the truth of my personal experience. This did not need to make sense. It was not wrong. It was not right. It simply was. It simply still is. There is no need to explain. There is no need to defend. There is no need to understand. It is simply a visual representation for that which I did not have words eloquent enough to articulate.
The way the paint felt moving beneath the bristles of my brush…the way the red looked and felt as it spread across the canvas...the way the handle of the brush felt while I held it carefully in my fingers…the way the rhythm of my heart began to smooth and become one with my breathing. I was no longer holding my breath, it was flowing. I was beginning to move through the fragmented pieces of my life and my heart.
It began with the heart in the center and ended with the unfinished coiled snake in the bottom left corner. Part of the gift of this painting was the knowledge that the healing, growth or transformation was not complete as a result of expressing it on the canvas, but that the start had occurred there. The painting is a witness to my experience. The snake is a reminder that the transformation caused by the experience is never done and that one experience always leads to another.
The ending is always and also a beginning.
In Gratitude, Love & Art,
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