After a few months of hiatus, today I thought I would share an exert from the final art review I created to complete my coursework. It seemed appropriate to share today, as today marks one full month since I moved back east after completing my practicum. Since then, my days have been filled with gardening, visiting family and dear friends, attending weddings, and studying in preparation for my qualifying exam.
It has been refreshing to spend some time allowing myself the space and time to reflect on the past two years, and to fall back into the rhythm of life outside of school work and practicum. I have treasured this past month of transition time, but it’s time to get back into full swing of exam preparations. With that in mind, sharing this piece of my final art review of my career as a graduate student seemed a lovely way to dip my toe back in the pool before lunging head first. Gotta test that water, afterall.
The below exert has been edited slightly, mostly just to remove the APA formatting or a few details so that it fits better with the flow of a blog post, but I hope the spirit remains the same. Here’s to reflecting upon past adventures, and preparing for the new ones!
The past two years have been exceptional. They have been filled with exceptional learning, from exceptional professors, colleagues, books, and clients alike. The time I have spent on the west coast has been exceptional in reopening my eyes to the joy and power inherent in art, in creating for the simple joy of creating, as well as creating in order to express a felt experience. These past two years have seen exceptional friendships blossom, landscapes experienced, food enjoyed, and so much more than I can convey in mere words alone. They have also been exceptionally trying on a personal level.
In pursuit of a dream I have had since the age of fifteen – an entire decade at this point – I moved over 5000km across the country. Every step I have taken and every choice I have made has led me to this point, to this program and all that it entailed. It has been a great honour and joy to be surrounded by like-minded, inspiring individuals and to have learned from their diverse perspectives. Despite the warmth and love I found in my new-forged west coast relationships, the 5000km has been trying. Being separated from the only city that has ever felt like home, from my family, and from all those whom I adore has had a profound impact on my well-being.
These past two years have been particularly hard for my family. Strokes, funerals, cancer diagnoses… It has been increasingly hard for me to remain out west, unable to be with them during these trying times. I wished more than anything to be able to support them and be supported by them in turn as each new wave crashed on the heels of the last. It has been harder than I ever imagined to be separated from my family of origin and my chosen family. I do not think I was fully prepared for the consequences of making a cross-country move alone, to an unfamiliar city and province.
And so, to reconcile and to cope, I returned time and again to my art. These past two years, I have returned more frequently to creating as my main means of expression, self-soothing, and exploration. I have worked with paint to remember and to mourn, and to sit with uncomfortable emotions and experiences. I have worked with clay and with food to reconnect with the culture of my family of origin, and with soft pastel and natural materials to rekindle a connection to earth and to spirituality. I have created safety and coping in order to find clarity in the murk where I could. These past two years, I have been almost prolific in my art making: what had become a chore during my undergraduate career transformed, almost unconsciously, into a habit which anchored me in the here and now. The pain I felt at my mother’s re-diagnosis of cancer, grief-induced nostalgia at the sudden, violent death of a childhood friend, the anger and frustration caused by sleep deprivation as I worked myself sick in a coffee shop each morning: it all found form and expression on the page, in the art.
Safety, grounding, and self-soothing repeatedly came up in my art as I tried to hold myself together through every bump, twist, and unexpected loss or difficulty as I navigated harm-reduction, loneliness, and loss. I worked again and again with materials that allowed me to feel and move through emotions. Forgoing the brush in favour of dipping my fingers directly into paint, I applied paint to canvas directly mirroring where I felt energy stored in my body. I self-soothed by working with colours I find grounding and moving, particularly with shades of blue/teal and yellow, even within art works about loss or pain.
Michelle Oucharek-Deo told us, “Keep returning to the art. It will save your life.” I think it did. I think that the art helped scaffold me up when I thought I could only crumble. It helped me to not rush my own process, but to also contain it on the page; make the bigness of it all more manageable. In this way, I feel that my collected pieces represent not only my artistic journey over the past two years, but also represent my own resilience through art.