The Power of Art – how I witness it working

Musings…. That’s what this blog will include. Yeah, it’s preparation time for the trip to LA, but daily life is of course tangled in as I contemplate the next few weeks.

Spent tonight teaching classes at ArtsDepot where I very recently began leading art for 5-7 and 8-12 year olds, after two terms of teaching Messy Play to toddlers. I seem to have found a tribe of like-minded humans. It’s an extraordinary and fantastic new experience to find myself teaching art to children and adults alike. The mess, the expression, the energy and squeals of delight from children in the room. Man, that energy is pure and wonderful.

I went freelance last year, following a period of severe depression and chronic anxiety. Life shifted dramatically for me when illness hit. For months I floated about my home like a ghost. I lost a sense of purpose. I lost a whole identity I had built and maintained for a decade. Therapy started months into my hibernation from the world and of course when the health professional realised I had an art background she suggested I tried to make again as part of a way to occupy my mind and body. I felt like a fraud at first. Stilted. Awkward. It wasn’t instant for me, it took many weeks, but slowly something began to happen. Without words, I began to process visually what my depression and anxiety felt like. Cathartic is an understatement. The work that came was dark. Inky images made in my bath… The only place I felt connected to the world again. Warm baths were the staple of my days of hibernation.

The resulting body of work, Curdled Anxiety Series was shown for Anxiety Festival 2014. It was shown at Southbank and Bethlem Gallery’s inaugural exhibition this year. This is the work I’m taking to show in Los Angeles.

After months of veiled blankness in depression, I started to build back my strength through the artwork. It felt like gradually the old me was peeled back to reveal a new version. The new version was a bit frail, but grew fast. I suddenly had a choice. I realised it truly was simple. I could walk away from a decade in a great Arts Management job and follow what I had always wanted to do. It was a leap of faith…I had always been in permanent employment. Freelancing?!  Somewhere in my gut I knew that my experiences of art were profound. I started to recognise art had a powerful new path for me.

Art is probably the biggest factor in my recovery, not only from Compulsive Skin Picking but from depression and anxiety.

Teaching was not something I thought I’d do. But here I am…It’s come though the most intense experiences, the greatest challenges of my life. But I know first hand the shift that happens in the brain with art materials in hand. I watch the tiny humans in my children’s art classes flood with concentration, creativity and action. Uncensored wonderful making is encouraged. “Make what YOU want to make today. You’re in charge! Where do these materials take you.”

They take you on an adventure…

The responses are always extraordinary, surprising and full of spirit, I believe art opens these doors.

It’s the right time to go to Los Angeles to connect and help others through art. My next adventure is now just days away.

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One thought on “The Power of Art – how I witness it working

  1. Liz., I love the fact that you are so outspoken about this, and I love your honesty. I really hope I can get you involved in workshops and talks in next years #FHFW alternative catwalk #ForestHill #FashionWeek #SE23 #MentalHealth #Disability #Homelessness #SkinDisorders and others with #Pavement2Catwalk Hope to have a chat when you get back Xxx Would love a creative #Art #Workshop to coincide with this next year #PowerOfArt See how I have changed it this year after taking on the whole event with virtually no funding fhfw.co.uk and focused on the alternative. This is what counts and matters to me and makes a difference I think Xxx

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