The Art Experience...

Reconnecting to Life Through Art

"Patricia" - (Acrylic: 9" x 12")
This painting was inspired by a very dear friend,
a woman of courage, determination, and beauty.

New Beginnings...

This section is for seekers...
For those who have reached a point in time
where something significant has changed in your life,
whether it has been your health, or career, or family status,
or simply the need to explore new paths, or reclaim dreams deferred.
Whatever the circumstance, you have been led here.
Art is the reason, and Mystic is the process.

Having made this journey myself, I can understand your bewilderment.
"Whatever can art do for me? I'm not an artist."
"I have cancer, I need a cure." "I lost my career, I need a job."
"My partner left me, I'm alone and have no one."
The reason you are here is not because art is some magic potion
that will make life perfect. You have all the magic within you.
Art is the key to unleashing it, and to
helping you reconnect with life as you desire it.

My experiences as an artist have led me to view art as
something far more than just painting a picture or having a show.
It is the spirit of being an artist, the process of creating,
the rediscovery of the colors that fill our world with splendor,
and the infinite patience to try again when a painting fails,
to seek out mentors and find new ways to solve old problems,
to make things work when I'm "stuck," to not give up
when there seems no hope of succeeding, and no point in trying,
that has led me to understand what is really important in life.

Art, coupled with the mystical force we all have to intuit life,
has given me the strength and courage to trust in tomorrow,
and to begin again when I thought I lost everything.
Art has taught me sometimes there are no easy answers,
you must live out the questions,
as daunting and uncertain as that may be.

Art defies one simple definition.
It can't be uniformly summarized in one neat, tidy paragraph.
For that reason, "art" will hold many meanings,
and manifest itself in unique ways, to each individual who explores it.
For some, art is a spectator sport, for others, an intregral way of life.
But to get the most out of art, like life, art is
"not just for viewing, but for doing..."

What is consistent about art,
is the life-affirming force it radiates,
especially for those who engage in an active dialogue of creating.
Once touched by it, you have a glimpse into the universe and yourself,
and your life is never quite the same...You may not be able to change
the particular crisis that is occuring in your life at this moment.
You can, however, change the way you approach it. A shift in focus...
A release of energy, sorrow, or pain.

A word of caution: art is "not for sissies." Being an artist takes work,
and determination, and a constant committment of time and energy and spirit.
You have to be willing to get dirty, make mistakes, and start over.
But with each mistake comes a remarkable "ah-ha" of understanding,
that ultimately makes each struggle worthwhile.

It is a great adventure you are embarking on.

May art lead you where you want, and are truly meant to be.

Enjoy your journey...

My Journey...

From my earliest recollections, probably before I could
hold a spoon, I have been drawing.
Art has always been a part of my life, though in truth,
my career as an artist occurred more by default than intent.
It was not some precocious talent that prompted my parents
to cultivate art in their five children's lives.
Rather it was the chance discovery that putting a pencil and paper
in our hands, and sitting us in separate corners of the living room
would ensure at least an hour of peace and quiet in the house.

Regardless of their motives, we sat and drew so much that
our artistic talents did eventually blossom.
I would draw for hours, oblivious to time and space,
creating my own private world of fantasy and intrigue.
I was an ordinary child, who shut down after briefly being placed
in an orphanage at age four. Art became my saving release,
my refuge in crisis, and my life-long friend.

As I grew up, I learned the importance of being productive and successful.
My parents warned me that unless an artist was really talented,
or chose practical, useful professions like medical art or teaching,
it was not possible to make a living as an artist. Only Picasso did that.
Being an artist was quite low on their career food chain,
and I gathered from their concerns I lacked sufficient talent to survive.
Their lack of confidence in me soon became my own.

It was my fear of failing at that which I treasured most,
that led me to put my art in a safe place,
where I would never lose it, and only rarely use it.
Instead of following my heart and risking all to become an artist,
I did the right and responsible thing.
I followed my parents wishes, and at age 14,
entered the convent to become a teacher and help others.

At 18, I was living and working on mission in Chicago's inner city.
Life was hard, and I was miserable. I was denying everything I was,
to become someone I was not. It seemed selfish to choose to be happy.
But I did. Summoning all my courage, I left the convent at 19.

I was suddenly on my own, alone in Chicago, with no money or home.
After such a sheltered life, this was terrifying, but I was free.
I began studying art, lived with a family and cared for their
seven children. I reveled in learning to be an artist. I studied hard,
got good grades, became a hippie and an activist. By age 20, I was setting up
an art department in a Freedom school in rural Mississippi.

Life was filled with possibility, and the future seemed bright.
Or so I thought...

"Chutes and Ladders..."

Funny how just when you have made it up to the top of a ladder,
a chute appears and you go tumbling back to square one.
I use this analogy as it seems to fit the roller coaster ride
that is my life. If you can relate to this scenario, then you are
familiar with the rapid turn of events over which you seem to
have no control. I realize now each choice we make invariably ricochets
into another, sometimes less desirable choice we are forced to make.
Let's just say my illustrious career as an artist never happened.

I lost funding to complete my senior year, had to drop out of school
and find work to pay off my student loans. Apparently, my mother,
who suffered from manic depression, managed to alter my
parents' financial statement. It didn't matter that I wasn't receiving
any financial support from my family to put myself through school.
I lost my loans regardless.

My plans of graduating, and applying for a scholarship to
study in Florence for my masters in art died that day.
I put my paint brushes and canvases away in the farthest corner
of my world, where they would remain untouched,
like my dreams, for many years to come. Occasionally I would draw,
but I would never call myself an artist.

I faced my life as it now was. My father, a retired naval officer.
taught us to approach life like a battle: always have a plan of attack
and a plan of retreat. I was now in full-blown retreat.
It is only in my wise old age I realize having a plan of retreat
also means you never wholeheartedly engage to win...

So, I landed a job that didn't require a degree,
working for the European railroads, selling railpasses and tickets
to countries I had never even seen. I married, divorced, travelled, wrote,
worked hard. When my parents became ill, I moved back home to New York
and helped care for them until their death.

It took ten years to pay off my loans. When I did, I left travel, and found
a job at a human services agency for adults who were blind and visually impaired.
I knew nothing about this field, but perhaps that was best, as I was trained by
those who knew the most -- people who were blind, living in a world which relied
almost exclusively on the visual to exist.

It was the blind community who taught me how to see.
And it was here that I learned even if I couldn't be an artist myself,
I could at least help others become artists in their lives.
This was especially rewarding as most of these people might never
have been given the opportunity to be artists because of their disabilies.

For the next twelve years, I worked in a field where I flourished.
It was a fascinating experience, and it was also one of the most challenging.
I was now pulling together all the threads from my studies in art, education,
and life-long learning, to develop life enrichment programs and services
for persons with visual and physical disabilities.

Our agency had a terrific staff, and a supportive community.
By 1995, we are offering over 50 weekly programs, including photography,
Seido karate, sculpture, jewelry making, ceramics, performing arts,
a music library and in-house radio station, volunteer services,
adaptive computer training, foil fencing for the blind,
and we had just completed a fitness center.

Then, just when everything seemed to be in place, a new director convinced
the board all the agency needed to provide the blind community was
interet information and referral services. It was more "cost effective."
The week before Thanksgiving, the director advised me I had been terminated.
Two hours later, my office was cleared out, and my career was over.
Four years later, all programs and staff were systematically eliminated.

Though downsizing is quite common, it is by construct and intent,
a singularly devastating experience. It strips the person of not
just their livelihood, but their identity and status in the community.
I had been the Assistant Director of my agency for years. Suddenly, I was
unemployed, and could not find a job. I had experience and ability,
but no degree. My "skeleton in the closet"
reared its ugly little head again.

In Chinese, "crisis" is comprised of two characters: danger and opportunity.
The lessons I had learned working with a community who refused to let adversity
deter them prompted me to re-evaluate my life. I decided to take this situation
as a gift, an Opportunity to return to school to finish my degree in art.
Which I did. In 1997, I completed my BA in Fine Art. It was a proud moment.
Finally, I was an artist. Now my life would turn around.

"Life is What Happens..."

Just when all the pieces seemed to be in place - I had my degree,
I was interviewing for jobs - one sunny day I fell down the subway stairs.
In a matter of seconds, I broke my leg, and tore the ligaments in both ankles.
Two homeless people (who turned out to be Transit police undercover) came to my aid.
At first I was like, "Oh great, now what." Considering I was the one
crawling on the platform, I guess I looked pretty suspicious to them too.

It was a stunning event. One moment my life had direction and momentum. The next
my biggest challenge was getting from the bedroom to the bathroom, on
crutches, unable to rest on either foot for support. This minor accident had
given me greater insight into what it was like to be disabled than all the
years spent working with persons who were disabled. My injury was very painful,
but remarkably enough, I was strangely serene. I had no control over what
had occurred. The healing would take its own time, and it did: s l o w l y.

From the time I fell, I had to let go, and simply trust. That is perhaps
the hardest thing for a Type-A personality to do. I had always taken care
of everyone else's needs. This was unfamiliar territory to me.

Money was low, so my family helped support me. I couldn't sue as the accident had
been no fault of the Transit Authority, amazingly enough. It just happened.

Hours into days into months revealed many things to me.
Lots of cliches began to make sense. But the most sobering revelation
was that, after all the years I had put my dream of being an artist
on hold, even after finally completing my degree in art,
I was still looking for a job in business, not art.
I was running away from my "passion,"
my "muse," my "self," yet again.

I am not sure if my fall down the subway stairs was God's way of getting my
attention, but Art Mystic came together soon after. (I may be slow, but
I am not stupid. And one warning was enough.)
Art Mystic was my way of affirming, "Yes, I am an artist."
and so are you...

I decided, as long as I can afford it, I would work part-time,
and continue my art in the remaining time.
So now I run the Patient Library at a hospital in the city,
three days a week, and the other two are reserved for art.

If I didn't first make the committment to my art,
and then create the time and space, I would never have come
to realize how significant a place art has in my life and in my soul.
I am incomplete when I am not creating.

I also believe when we do not listen to our inner voice,
and acknowledge our true spirit,
we create dis-harmony within our selves, and in our lives.

Reclaiming Your Dreams...

This may seem like a long, meandering journey.
Some people have nice ordered lives that move smoothly from point A to B.
Then there are those of us who take a more ping-pong route to achieve our dreams.
I share my story only to affirm even if the path is broken,
and filled with detours, you too can reconnect with your dreams,
and your sense of wonder, and magic.

Art always helps me stay on the path,
or to find my way back when I take a wrong turn...

I am painting, again. I am not always inspired.
But when I don't paint, I get lost in the details.
Art centers me, like an anchor in the storm.
Right now I am painting portraits.
I love the symetry of the human face, and the emotion
that emerges. Perhaps it is mine. Perhaps it is a face
I saw lifetimes ago, or just last week.

When I paint, or draw, my worries seem to disappear.
They may still be waiting for me when I finish,
but they are not as intimidating, or overwhelming.

Being an artist is a very powerful force.
It connects us with our own divinity.

Cherish and nurture your artist within...

1. The Why of Art Mystic
2. Reconnecting With Life Through Art
3. Back To The Drawing Board
4. Resources And Other Tools For Artists


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