Art + Process: The Family Dance

There is a beautiful, complex and nuanced dance that takes place within each of our lives. It is the dance of self, relationship, love, perception and connection.

So many experiences with my family, every emotion that can be felt has been – warmth and fear and frustration – some fade and other stay. I find that bringing the Family Dance into my art and process invites me to see through new eyes. Understanding my closest and most complicated relationships through the lens of creative constellations and narrative, brings my stories right up to the surface. When I can seek myself within my own stories I find that there is conscious connecting with new truths and that others in my life, family, friends, those I have met along the way can hold their own voices, stories and perspective. This dancing, mapping, constellation work – image based exploring, offers a rich source of information to guide me and is the inspiration for some of my newer work.

Through our histories and stories, we move in different directions and find our way. Within our families and communities, we circle and sway. Whether large, small, chosen, extended, found, gathered or birthed we dance the family dance with self and with others. Art based inquiry offers an invitation to honor and explore our own dance.

Develop emotional literacy through expressive artsI find that I often create from topics of hidden and disowned emotion. I explore my stories, myths, dreams and desires in a spiral dance of deepening and understanding. My experiences and history have found their way into my awareness as myths, stories, and truth-telling. I find myself unraveling and reweaving experience to find clarity, insight and new perspectives. I want to invite and experience new possibility, an aligned life, fully experienced and expressed.

How do I dance my spiral of experience within art and process?

It took me some time to dive into my family connections through my art. I spent a great deal of time exploring parts of self and stories that were mine alone, but eventually found my way to family. I began with honoring, creating art for the important people in my life using card form with mixed media, SoulCollage® and JourneyCircles™ cards. Some relationships and circumstances were challenging but each piece represented an important part of my life. I chose intuitively, initially making a card for each of my children, my ex-husband, my brother and mother. Later, I expanded out into the spiral dance with cards for my grandchildren, parents, friends, birth mother, unknown ancestors, pets and important mentors. Later still, I sought the deeper stories and patterns that existed in relationships using mixed media and JourneyCircles™ Creative Mapping techniques.

I found that I was deeply delving into the complexities of relationships, myths and stories. My own and those that belonged to others in my family, yet influencing and impacting me. In this period my art making felt more purposeful, as I gathered myself energetically to create I found myself moving into a gentle rocking rhythm as I sifted and sorted images, added color and texture to the unfolding story. Although I was focused on a specific person, I found myself following the images where they led me which often offered things that I was not aware of. Sometimes I would extend the process and develop a larger space in which to explore through art.

Not only did this process open me to a new living language but others joined me and we created parallel stories, sharing our various perspectives through art. My work with the myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hecate grew from this kind of an art based exchange with my daughter, who was battling anorexia, and years later we started to teach Rebirthing the Divine to share the mystery and wonder of shifting stories and relationship roles, through journey process.

As a mother, my first cards spoke to me with the voices of my teenagers. I found that my images held layers of life stories, truths which I recognized as belonging to the individual. They surprised me, too, the images that gathered themselves – often speaking to me of how I was dancing or struggling, with myself, in relationship to my loved one. A card I created about my son resonated with this sense of deep layering. At the time, he was navigating the middle teen years and struggling to find himself. Not academically oriented at this stage in his life, he had retained a sweetness of the strong-willed toddler who had loved me beyond measure. Yet I felt emerging the flaming heart of a budding warrior, an attribute that matched the energy of my brother, who had died years before. The card I created for myself as this same time was of crossing into unknown territory with unstable ground.

Creating with images inspired me, a crooked path marked my son’s “this way and that way” patterns and  images of the deep cavern, a lit headlamp navigating the darkness, a toy knight and a chubby toddler expressed the passage of time in all directions. Flying birds from my brother’s card found their way onto my sons. This process told me of my son’s life path, my brothers and my own. It showed me how to be in relationship with those who were navigating life’s twists and turns. This process also informed me of my fears and assumptions. I was grateful for this insight and have danced with this art for many years.

I have found that the cards I create for some of my family members and circles, particularly the important women in my life, have often held so much content that I have created several cards for one person. I find that a card will tell me, “This is not all that needs to be shown”, and that knowing will alert me to new art waiting to be made. The cards, placed side by side, or in patterns will exemplify the different ages, life experience and voices that are so important for me to recognize and hear. This practice, of working with multiple aspects of my community, has gifted me with recognizing and honoring the time passing, as well as the richness of bringing things back to center. Working with layers of stories, perspective, relationships and voices that are unique at specific ages has deeply influenced my work and I share more about that in my book Gathering Wholeness.

As I explore relationships and stories of my life through images, I am aware of a desire to seek understanding, balance and direction. Yet it is clear as I read from my images over time the meanings reside deep within my psyche, and have their own knowing. The influence of my relationships and family myths color my art and my life. As I work with my own stories, created through the lens of my experience and perception, they reveal more than images, holding energies, beliefs and connections that inform me again and again.

Invite yourself to explore the family dance through your art and process, exposing life experiences in a way that helps you to connect more deeply, heal and grow. Seek how it is that you have be met by others. The spiral dance with family is always part of your journey and there are stories waiting to be told.

Seek the stories that are waiting to be seen within art and process.

In Vision,