Looking at my Self Portrait: 生き甲斐 (Ikigai)

Recently I have been working on a personal art project for one of my classes for the MA in Expressive Arts Therapies with Art Therapy as specialization. The experiential course in Materials and Creative Processes class with super inspiring lecturer, artist and art therapist Dr. Tsaphie Zohar, Ph.D.

Throughout the course we got to explore hands on and understand the therapeutic utility and psychological influence of art processes, and the therapeutic qualities of art materials.  The course really enabled the experiential encounter with the art therapy world, and allowed me to delve deeper into the use of different art materials in relations to therapeutic intervention. In class we got to experience different media and look at processes and products considering the mental states, different populations and patients’ needs.

Looking at my Self Portrait: 生き甲斐 (Ikigai),

This project started with exploring different materials and settings. The more I was working with materials the more I digged into an very personal journey about myself and what matters to me. So the project took shape while I was working both out in nature and with art materials in different settings. It looks into a core idea that is part of my philosophy : the Japanese concept of 生き甲斐 (Ikigai),“the Japanese equivalent of the French, raison d’être. In English, these translate respectively as ‘something one lives for’ and ‘a reason for being” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikigai) . I think the concept is better grasped by the nuance: “what gets me up in the morning” as Janet McLeod, Art Therapist/Artist/Photographer/Puppet Maker and friend describes .

While delving into art material letting the process guide me I suddenly realized that the inner child, the artist was now under the scrutiny of the art therapist in training. All emotions and feeling that emerge in the process and in the art piece are nonetheless something very deep about my inner world and interaction with my surroundings. So the message becomes clear: All I have been doing is sharing my world and what I am about. I truly believe that art and creative expression speak louder than words and give infinite nuances. So bringing mindfulness to the product I can see and feel it is my own personal response…The message is simple: I ask to pause and breathe, try to tune into a moment and be, then look at my artwork and connect to it…Somehow it will speak to you and will give you a window into my world and yet you as audience will go through your own unique experience. You will get to know me from the inner self speaking, through the layers and emotions. It is a special connection enabled by the artistic dialogue…

You get to “feel” what I am extravagant and passionate about and hopefully see my deep connection to nature and artistic creative expression as a way of life. Connecting to nature and finding balance is the core of my exploration…..

While putting together this installation with mixed media I got to appreciate how the creative process revealed my story… Through the use of materials I connect with the inner child, the inner artist. I used nature as my constant, my safe place where the power and energy of the elements remind me of the essence of being, practicing mindfulness and finding balance. Connecting to the the water, the earth, wind specifically here as I am adventuring to them: the art sign that states presence and the ephemeral moment. The sensory experience is amplified and held by nature that allows presence. The sea and its flow meets with the sound of the wind and the music of Ludovico Einaudi Una Mattina. The constant change and movement in the sea, the swell,the stormy weather…Everything contribute to a cycle of energy and emotions that reconnect to a personal journey and have a cathartic effect: whatever brought uneasy feelings now is washed away and taken back to the sea and more space is left to focus on the good.

The video then continues with the sequential display of my artwork created both during this course and also inspired by it. I am leading you into my own body tracing figure by connecting to it with a real jump in the air. I find it elevating, raising good positive energy and also that beautiful sensation of feeling and seeing freedom and connection to the world around you.

The body tracing of my figure was done with help of my friend, artist and fellow art therapist in training Megan Adair . 

After having my body outline I went on creating the content: funny I am my own container LOL:) In art therapy one of the therapist functions is to contain and here I am “containing” my world.  I felt drawn to use collage so I intuitively assembled pieces of paper : interesting parts reflecting sides of me and my being in the world, my influences, cultures and places I love and connect to…The images are torn and not cut so there is no clear defined line, but rather a more natural flow of paper engaging in different nuances with acrylics, guache and oil pastels to bring nuances and light. The figure was sewed to a large natural canvas that folded as a scroll but also open as an origami puzzle each time revealing different parts and more guache printed paper parts extends extremities, giving freedom, wings to fly.  Creative expression travels  within the canvas and outside of it: drawings also travels outside the canvas onto an olive tree and reach for the sky: different art creations enter the installation space and time. Charcoal and pastel drawings highlighting connections from the heart to the spiral, more watercolor detailed parts of emotional paint lead the way to paint capturing the waters and its reflections. Further there is a small artwork that is a an homage to a special mentor and celebrate the spiral of life the power of nature and the connection with the inner child. To close the circle the video shows how these parts folds and unfold and echo my essence, my presence in the surroundings. It is all part of the whole yet there is value in unique presence and relations.

The last sequence shows the pages of my personal story. I used the paper from previous class experiments with paint and water, torn into smaller pieces and I made a little booklet with natural sturdy thread…Inside and throughout words meet the magical flow of paint and you get to “feel” my story.

A special thank you for patience, hard work in all weather conditions and hours to fab videographer, artistic director and friend Hubert Wybransky.

I hope you enjoy the experience and until we meet next Namaste.




3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. catinter
    Feb 07, 2016 @ 06:44:32


  2. William Charlebois
    Feb 07, 2016 @ 15:43:48

    What a beautiful expression of yourself! Being on a seashore and watching the waves ride in and out is the time I feel truly at peace.


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