Article for BRES, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for February 1996 cover issue

Breaking the Silence:  Alchemy and Artistry

We all wear masks.  Our masks conceal as well as reveal.  They are sometimes used as disguises and decoys as well as for protection or to make a statement.  They reveal the hidden and transform the ordinary.  They have always been a medium for cultural expression, used in ceremonies to celebrate significant events of human life:  birth, coming of age, marriage, death.  It is the idea of the mask as a powerful and transformative symbol that underlies Breaking the Silence.  Through catalytic images of human face and form, this exhibit makes visible the whole range of visceral emotions in response to the abuse of power.  And what has been revealed can heal.  In Breaking the Silence art becomes an alchemical vehicle of transformation and healing.

The  Breaking the Silence Project consists of the exhibit along with lectures and workshops that have evolved from it.  The Breaking the Silence exhibit is a 100 piece series of masks and paintings that are touring internationally.  This art depicts the devastating and insidious effects of child sexual abuse, as well as the struggle toward growth and wholeness that are possible with psychological healing.  Some pieces within the exhibit express the fear, frustration, denial, secrecy, anger, rage and guilt of experiencing the sexual abuse.  Other reflect a renewed sense of personal power and comfort within one’s body.  And still others are symbols of protection and wisdom and inner strength.  The works invite the viewer to feel the full range of emotions, to be with them, befriend them, spiral with them and eventually move beyond the role of survivor and become a thriver.

In January 1990 I began the Breaking the Silence Exhibit.  It was birthed out of my own healing process concerning sexual abuse I experienced as a child…and (appropriately) 9 months after I began to create the work, the first phase of the exhibit was displayed in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  In the midst of helping me through deep personal work, my therapist had recognised that my art work, and indeed all of my life, was being infiltrated by memories, pain, flashbacks, and breakthroughs.  She simply reflected back to me the obvious:  ‘Katheryn, you’re an artist.  Why don’t you create these feelings through your art more consciously?’  Once I gave myself ‘permission’ to dive in, I found myself wanting to work full time on only this. Soon after beginning to focus, I decided that if I was going to do all of this hard work to document the phases of pain and joy, shame and healing and everything in between, I wanted to make it accessible to others as well.  I decided to tour the works for a year to a few museums and art centres in my home state of Michigan and then go back to my ‘normal life’

I went about trying to gather grant money, volunteer help, donations, and whatever information people had to share.  Each person I approached seemed to have a few good ideas, some help, and the names of 10 more people to whom I could speak.  This exponential growth became overwhelming fairly quickly. I became reliant on improvisation and kept moving forward in my own circuitous way. I simply had no idea how much time this would involve nor did I account for the amazing knowledge base that I would acquire as a result of doing it.  I had no one to mentor me because such a project hadn’t been done before.  The project became a kind of open University course.

 


Caged Within

 

Back then, in 1990, there was very little published on the subject of child sexual abuse at all.  Luckily, there was The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. This book became like a Bible to survivors and was one of the first of its kind written for survivors, not academics.  In it the authors cite what some find to be startling statistics: ‘One out of every three girls and one out of seven boys are sexually abused by the time they reach the age of eighteen.  Sexual abuse happens  to children of every class, culture, race, religion, and gender.  Children are abused by fathers, stepfathers, uncles, brothers, grandparents, neighbours, family friends, and sometimes by aunts and mothers.’ As I became increasingly aware of how ill-informed we were, and knowing that art can communicate across so many boundaries, I was compelled to continue on with Breaking the Silence. This internationally understandable language of art seemed the ideal vehicle for raising awareness.

‘Ideal’ perhaps, but not at all easy, for the issue of sexual abuse is at once both far-reaching and taboo.  The  taboo against the issue made for some very interesting reactions and presumptions about my work.  For instance, when I was applying for a grant from a large art organisation in Michigan, they said that they would consider my proposal if I would create the work first so they could decide whether or not to give me the money to create the work! What they were afraid of was that my work was going to be graphic depictions of children being sexually abused.  I feel that the ‘job’  of the artist in her culture is to record and express a sense of the times and the pertinent issues, to transform human experience.  To that end I wanted to capture the phases and faces of emotions that I was experiencing myself.

The grant committee needn’t  have worried.  What I wanted to do was express the feelings in an archetypal manner. As Jim Herweg, director of the Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts, said, ‘Each piece of the exhibit presents an emotional aspect of the process of healing oneself from the experience of having been sexually abused.  Not even graphic depictions of abuse or nudity would make as powerful a statement as these paintings and masks of the inner journey of emotional and sexual healing.  It is a powerful and tasteful exhibit.’

Journalists who had heard about the exhibit were either excited to have the work in their pages, on their radio and TV programs, or abhorred it and wanted to go nowhere near the subject.  And many of those who chose to cover the story, especially in the early days, often sought to sensationalise it.  I learned very early to deflect attempts at sensationalising with the fact that my story is only one among so many.  (I also learned  to answer sometimes ‘stupid’ questions with intelligent answers.)  I did not wish to take away from the issue at large. Breaking the Silence was created to bring attention to child sexual abuse and its impact on the culture as a whole as well as on the individuals within it.  One arts organisation, considering the work for exhibition in their art centre, declared that the exhibit wasn’t appropriate for them because ‘this simply doesn’t happen in our little town!’  Slowly at first, and then more and more often, art centres, art organisations and journalists began to approach the work honestly, and to deal with it from that internal place where they connected with the art and its message.  ‘At first I felt distant toward art about so heavy a subject…yet now I have to acknowledge that Trenshaw’s work is far more affective than that. This…selection of masks poses immense dilemmas.  One mask offers protection and the possibility of misleading others, to look as if nothing is going on – but underneath everything cries out for understanding and compassion.’  February 11, 1992 edition of Leidsch Dagblad, the Netherlands

The Creative Process/ The Healing Process

Art, when it is a spiritual expression evoked from the body’s experience, is both high art and the most profound healing path I have discovered.  When I began to make the masks, I would sit with a ball of clay. Instead of carefully creating sketches and studies, I would simply focus in my body, in my belly especially, on the emotion at hand or on the phase I was experiencing, and invite the image to come.  I feel that the  pieces that are the most powerful are the ones where this ‘letting go’ took place the most effectively.  This process became incredibly healing and so contrary in some ways to the notions of the healing process contained in my academic University studies in Psychology.  This body-based work is much more tangible and real to me.  As each mask came into being, it seemed to take with it some of my pent up and stuck emotions. And with each mask I felt a renewed sense of joy and lightness as a part of this surprising process.

 


I Am The Only One

 

When I created What Am I good For? (see photo A), for instance, I went into this particular chunk of clay with the amorphous and painful concept of ‘oral rape’ as the focus.  (At the time I was actually creating the piece, I was not yet familiar with that nice neat two word expression to describe the experience.)  I honestly feel that the tears that I cried and mixed and blended into the clay contributed to an alchemical reaction which people feel and respond to when they view the piece at an exhibit, or even in photographs.  It’s as if the auric field of the work has the ability to transmit the energy encapsulated in the piece.  This one is especially powerful and provocative, as I’ve witnessed time and time again.  Some people want to be right up close to it and revel in its outrageously strong and clear statement; others are pleased it’s there, but want to be on the other side of the room with a lot of space between them and the mask.  Still others simply acknowledge that they are grateful that it is being said.  At the very first exhibit, one woman saw this piece, and said that she was so glad I had made it.  She said that she didn’t have the skill to do it herself, and she thanked me for giving her feelings a face.  Because so many women and men at those first few exhibits came and shared similar relief, my initial shyness about What Am I Good For? slowly dissolved.  Further, I was gifted with the growing awareness of just how archetypal these symbols were.

Through the Fire

It was, surprisingly, the African Literature (part of my French studies at University) which first led me to  the clay firing technique, called ‘raku’, that I have used on all my masks.  I was trying to capture an organic and earthy feel, vibrant with life for my masks.  The Japanese term raku means happiness, comfort and pleasure.  The term raku  is also used to refer to the firing technique which originated 400 years ago in Japan and was used to fire sacred tea vessels.  It is a primitive and dramatic form of firing.  Fine cracks and crackles, black smoky effects as well as metallic lustrous surfaces are characteristic of raku.  A great deal of chance plays into the exact  surface (and survival) of each piece, lending character, delicacy and adventure to each one.

the firing process:

* The bisqued, glazed and dried pieces are heated in an outdoor kiln until they are glowing red/orange hot and the surface is evenly melted and smooth.

* The kiln is opened and the pieces are removed with long tongs and protective gloves.

* The pieces are placed into containers in which they are surrounded with combustible material, then covered, to burn and smoulder there.

* After a short period (10 – 20 minutes or so) they are removed again with tongs and, depending on the glaze and desired effects (as well as climate and time of year) they are dipped in water or covered in snow from which steam billows and hisses

* Once cooled, the soot and black charcoal are removed with steel wool and soap and the surface is revealed.

Each of these abrupt changes in temperature is a time at which the work is very vulnerable and can even crack open or explode.  The works that survive this fiery process are, therefore, more dear and exciting.  The artist obviously has some influence in the resulting look of the piece, yet chance plays an enormous role.  The artist does not have control.  The final result of the process always remains a mystery until the very last moment.

 


I Won’t Say a Word

 

All the technical bits aside,  there is an important parallel between this process and the process of healing from child sexual abuse.  You see, if you fire pottery in a traditional ‘safe’ method…you heat up the pieces  in the kiln over a long time , perhaps 12 hours, then you fire and cool them for similar periods resulting in, for the most part, a very uniform and predictable outcome.  The human healing process parallels raku dangerous, exciting, unpredictable and you can’t know what lies through the fire until you get there.  Raku is everyone’s journey.  You can skew the results and you have some influence of course, but sometimes you are completely surprised and bewildered. It is in this way a very Zen process as well.  You need to let go and trust and accept what comes of your efforts. Only by subjecting the clay to this sort of treatment, can you achieve such splendid breathtaking beauty:  metallic golds, reds, blues, web-like crackle effects, lustrous rich blacks.  Only by going through the fire can we as survivors heal.  What lies at the other side is unknown.  It is the result of alchemy of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and of course Spirit.  The process is tough and dramatic and filthy at times, and incredible beauty and lustre and magic await us if we survive.

The Masks

The BTS project progressed with the help of amazing friends, volunteers, and organisations (both service and corporate).  In order to solicit help and funding as well as simply to share what I was doing, I found myself giving quite a few lectures each month.  This became yet another avenue for fostering healing.  Sharing the art images in slide form (along with their stories) served as a dynamic catalyst for other people to understand better their own emotions and to express them through their own creative work.  What follows next are the stories of some of these masks.

In the mask You Stole My Voice, I set out to portray the simple and inexhaustible theme of having one’s voice taken away.  Here, the ‘voice’ has to be attached with a screwdriver and that tool has been controlled by someone other than the would-be speaker for a long time.  Somehow, using real metal screws in the 4 corners of the mouth piece makes the feelings that much more tangible.

In a similarly-themed piece called Ripped Away Voice, the organic rough hewn edges of the piece are matched by the jagged edges of the roundish form that has been ‘ripped’ from the lower portion of the face.  The surface is rough and metallic gold with splotches of  metallic purple, blue and red.  It was pointed out to me that the piece looks as if it has been bruised.  I didn’t intend this at all and I find it always enlightening to hear the impressions and views other people have to share.  Viewing is also a creative act.  The process is shared with the artist and becomes empowering and validating on both sides.

One of the wonderful things about working in three dimensions, and particularly in clay, is the intricate detail and flexibility of the medium.  In Exploited (see photo B), for instance, I was able to give a ‘cut away view’ in the mask.  The top layer is smiling and happy ‘as one should be.’  ( My now loathed childhood phrase ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’ is somehow embodied in that top stiff mask layer.)  Below, a screaming childlike face.  And then the whole image is still a mask.  Who knows how many more layers lie below this one?  This kind of image ‘play’ with clay and form is what makes the mask format so perfect for Breaking the Silence.  This same mask was seen at an early Breaking the Silence exhibit by a woman who came along to support a friend.  She realised after feeling this image that she had also been sexually abused and had thought she was the only one.  She said that seeing these works and the other people attending the exhibit were comforting and she would begin to make the long journey toward healing.

After a slide lecture I gave that same month, a 50ish woman came to me  with a torn photograph clutched in her hand.  It was a childhood photo of her and her father, with his arm around her shoulder.  He had been her perpetrator and his image had been mostly torn off the photo.  What became apparent was the startling expression of the 13-year old face in the photo.  If you were to draw a line vertically through it, the side of her face toward the man was smiling and ‘happy’ and the side away from him was completely grimaced and contorted.  She said, ‘I always felt like he made my skin crawl.  He did.’.  This mask honours her and all of us who have manifested incredible survival skills like hers In Order to Survive (see photo C).

Some of the masks represent other ‘players’ in the scene. I Won’t See (see photo D) was quite a difficult mask for me to create as it deals with the anger I felt toward my mother.  Though she in no way perpetrated me, she was my mom and my friend and should have been my protector.  And at a certain point I realised that this was an issue where I really needed to do a lot of healing work and expression.  I went through my normal procedure of sitting without a preconceived notion with the clay that would somehow come to represent my mother and my feelings concerning all of this.  What emerged was this strange image of a woman with odd coloured curly hair, lipsticked and made up with blush and even a beauty spot.  Her eyes were covered with a lovely deep pink satin ribbon ‘x’ to keep her from seeing.  When I had finished I found it to be such an unfamiliar image of my mother.  Only a month or so after its completion did I realise that  though she had nothing to do with make-up or funky hairstyles at the point I made the image, she had worn wear a wig, make-up and even a beauty spot occasionally during the period in which I was being abused…and so it was from that time that I drew the image.  One of the most amazing aspects of the creative process that I’ve been developing is how it directly accesses unconscious material through the body.

The Breaking the Silence (see photo E) signature piece is that step beyond having one’s voice taken away.  It signifies becoming fully conscious and aware. It is intended to give you the sensation of steel wire pinging and curling as it is pulled apart and the long awaited voice is released and free.  Even though this is a painful image to some, it is essentially an image of freedom and change.  This represents for me the first step in changing deeply-embedded patterns of generations.  The wire can never be repaired or replaced once it is opened like this.  And so it is the way in which we as a culture can begin to heal and create new paradigms for living.

Protector Gargoyles & Symbols

As the exhibit and its many faces developed, the themes evolved and danced and moved as well.  I was drawn to concentrate at a certain point on a new phase of images.  I wanted to create some masks that, like the gargoyles atop Notre Dame, protected the space in which they ‘lived’.  The Notre Dame version of grotesque creatures are intended to ward off evil from the cathedral.  My protectress/protector gargoyles are modern renditions, inspired mostly by wise older women, which protect spaces, buildings or neighbourhoods.  They can hang outdoors or inside, guarding and overseeing, creating a sense of safety, welcome and peace while remaining fiercely  protective like a mamma bear watching over her cubs.   Further, these pieces give a proclamation that the space in which they hang is sacred.  They encourage those who interact with their ‘territory’ to approach with honesty, integrity and peace.

One such gargoyle, entitled Peaceful Angry Woman ‘lives’ at and guards the Women’s Building in San Francisco, California.  She is bold and clear in stance, inspired in part by the protest song, ‘We are peaceful angry.people, and we are singing, singing for our lives.’  For survivors, realising their human right to be angry is often a huge breakthrough.  This gargoyle celebrates that freedom to express.  Her third eye is adorned with a spiral of transformation, her cheek decorated to do her pacifist ‘battle’.  Her ears are adorned with stone and feather and her breast tattooed with an ancient Goddess symbol.  These kinds of very simple symbols are my personal links into collective and archetypal vocabulary and have evolved into a personal language and mythology.  I find that as I continue today to create masks, they are almost all gargoyles.  For I will not live with less than honesty, integrity, and peace.

My language of symbol has become much more refined and clear as my work has evolved.  Moons, for instance, are one of the most central symbols and inspirations that I use in my work.  They are reminders of the cycles of change.  When things seem dire, I can look into the sky from wherever I happen to be on the planet, and the moon provides a source of comfort and a reminder of renewal and hope, rebirth and the inevitability of change.  Also, moons are the ultimate feminine symbol, moving in time with the female cycle, becoming full and pregnant each month, and slowly returning again to the beginning.  And the sheer strength and awesome power of the moon!  She moves the tide and pulls blood from my womb each month with precision and grace.  So a great number of my protectress gargoyles incorporate or are in the form of moons.  One such is Protectress Moon VIII (see cover photo).

Closely linked to the moon symbol  is the ancient symbol of the spiral: transformation, change, movement.  When it feels as if we are at exactly the same place (e.g. difficult situations or flashbacks are happening again when we thought that they had stopped forever), the spiral reminds us that we come back to the same issues to deal with them, only we are not in exactly the same place.  We have progressed and are one level further on, even if it is ever-so-slightly further.

The symbols of protection continue to build as I draw from dream and shamanic experiences the images that are the most potent and appropriate.  In Protector Totem, this white monkey was a powerful hero and saviour to me when I sought help after having been ‘poisoned’ in a shamanic journey.  The monkey came to me, cleansed ants from my open poisoned wrist, sucked the poison out of me, and gently wrapped and protected the wound with its tail softly spiralled around my forearm.  Only later did I discover that the white monkey is an Indian Monkey hero/God from Bali who is loyal and selfless, and can fly and disappear.  Archetypal symbols and the collective unconscious play a huge role in the power of this type of creative expression work.  It goes so much deeper than the here and now.  We are  in the process of healing ourselves, our lineage, our communities and the universe at large.

In Dragonfly Magic (see photo F), the fiery raw connotation of ‘dragon’ combines with the elegance, grace and transformative quality of the dragonfly.  In my life, dragonflies have often appeared at particularly magical moments, as if to confirm that they are indeed spirit-filled times and to draw my attention.  To get me to simply PAY attention.  In my personal symbolic language, they insure that I am taking soulful notice with the influence of the dragonflies lightness and flexibility.

Interactive Art

As the Breaking the Silence project has moved from city to city, viewers have become participants as well.  Some have written poetry, the best of which travels with the exhibit.  Others have accepted the invitation of the exhibit’s interactive functional bench sculptures. In envisioning what would make the space feel safe and protective, the BTS volunteers and I decided to create some kind of safe haven or island within what is potentially quite an intense environment.  The result was two large wooden benches into which visitors can carve affirmations and encouragement for other survivors, make use of the built-in Kleenex box, or simply sit and contemplate.

As the benches have moved from city to city, they have taken on an incredible amount of energy.  At an art center in Michigan, the somewhat surprised curator of the space shared with me with the following story: a woman from the community came with her husband to see Breaking the Silence.  The couple slowly took in the work and the woman expressed a great deal of sadness and recognition as she viewed the pieces.  Her husband supported her and helped ‘hold ‘ her in the difficulty and healing she was experiencing.  She then chose to carve into the bench as her partner waited and witnessed.  She sobbed and carved and used a lot of her energy to put word and emotion and sweat into the bench.  Her husband, a local, fairly macho, no-nonsense-kind-of-guy, became paler and paler and finally confided to the curator that he was seeing an incredibly powerful aura around the bench which he found difficult to deal with as he didn’t believe in ‘these things.’  And at yet another art center, the staff awaited me at the door, on the day I came to collect the exhibit, to tell me of their experience with the bench.  A woman, middle aged and quite small, came into the space, took in the exhibit thoughtfully and slowly, then proceeded to the 8 foot long bench.  She lifted the entire thing by herself, flipped it completely over and carved the words ‘I’m Still Silent!’ in a corner of the underside.  In so doing, she broke her silence, and left the entire staff moved and in awe.

Exhibitions

In its first year, Breaking the Silence did indeed tour to several art centres and various spaces throughout Michigan.    The response to the work was very strong (breaking attendance records in some places), and it clearly touched a deep chord in the collective unconscious.  Most people who viewed the work, felt the work.  Often at openings, people would come to me to share how they felt about the exhibit, and say, ‘ I can really feel it here!’ with a gesture of both hands holding their lower belly.  Others would share that they appreciated the mask form as a powerful and ancient link to our psyches.  Still others came as supporters of survivors who happened to be their lovers or children, or siblings; and they left with a clearer sense in their own bodies of what it felt like to have been abused.  The exhibit ended up touring much further than I ever could have dreamed:  Madison, Wisconsin; Kansas City Missouri; San Francisco, California; several cities in the Netherlands; and in June of 1996 the exhibit is scheduled to be in London.

When I had my first exhibition in the Netherlands in late 1991 I was approached by an 80ish man I had never seen before who had a strange look on his face: that of delight mixed with teary eyes and a nose reddened by emotion. He came up to me at the opening, opened his arms and gave me a huge hug and thanked me in such a profound way for doing the Breaking the Silence exhibit and sharing it. ‘I know what it is to be silenced and have your voice taken away,’ he said. ‘I was in a Nazi concentration camp for 5 years and I FEEL in your pieces that you also express my experience.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!’  By this point we were both crying and laughing at the same time.  I felt so very honoured by this man for acknowledging my work so strongly, but also because he had not dismissed my experience as less than his.  He saw them as related and equal in their result.  This is especially interesting in the Netherlands.  I soon discovered through meeting with different groups and giving workshops there to therapists and survivors alike, that a ‘Survivor’ is almost always considered to be a Nazi concentration camp survivor. What we Americans call a survivor , however, is referred to in the Netherlands as a victim.  That slight, seemingly unimportant difference, is a huge statement about the direction of healing and optimism, and how far we have yet to go.

Masks, Movement, Meditation

As the Breaking the Silence exhibit has toured, each organising group has also hosted slide lectures for general or specific audiences, as well as sponsoring mask-making workshops.  In these multi-experiential hands-on workshops, a format is created for participants (both survivors and therapists who work with survivors) to express their feelings via various media.  These might  be movement, drawing, sculpting a mask in clay or plaster gauze,  or theatre improvisation.  In all of the different workshops, several themes are consistent: meeting as a circle of people is essential as a form; sharing our stories is one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves and for the culture at large; and creatively expressing from the body is a means of transforming and affirming our lives.

In the ‘Relinquishing Baggage’ exercise, for instance, each participant will take part in a simple meditation and guided imagery.  Within the guided imagery, they are lead into themselves, into their bodies, where they discover the one part of themselves, the one mask that is worn out, tattered, and basically an outmoded bit of themselves that they no longer need.  This part is then created in clay (with as little interference from the head/left brain as possible).  The resultin–>-> mask is often very surprising to its creator.  A man at a Kansas City workshop said, ‘Not until the workshop had I actually been in touch with the images that could not be mistaken for anything but what happened to me…’  And usually everyone participating can relate in some way to the archetypal images that emerge around them.

These tangible images of our masks can then be dealt with in any number of different ways.  We do movement with them, write poetry ‘to’ or about them,or  direct a partner to ‘act’ them.  And at a later stage, with all of the images and masks and stories we create, small groups weave their stories together in the form of ritual theatre improvisation.  Here participants can consciously create a format for ritually dealing with this part of their ‘baggage.’  That could mean they decide to bury the mask, throw the mask in a heap, float the mask down a river on a small stick raft, or store it in a box in the attic for another year and then decide if they are ready to let it go.  For each person it is different and for each person it is absolutely right.  There are no wrong solutions.

Other workshop exercises and themes include:  ‘Creating a Personal Protector,’ as a symbol of inner strength and ancient wisdom, ‘Child Within’ exercises for healing and reclaiming joy and spontaneity, and ‘Body Image’ to further a healthy whole relationship to the self.  In the last few years, I have developed other variations and themes which include several week-long residential formats:  ‘Healing our Female and Male Selves’ to consciously use the dynamic energy between men and women (I co-lead this workshop with a man), and ‘Affirming the Female Body’ to gather a circle of women and explore how our lives would be different if we had been taught the magic of women and their bodies from our earliest years.  This workshop is about reclaiming our ancient knowledge.  Both workshops include mask-making, play, movement, sweatlodge,  theatre of the self and ritual.  These workshops and the others that I lead are all, in the end, about transformation.  As one workshop participant said, ‘A tree needs nourishment to reach all the way down to the roots, through all the packed dirt, for a tree to live and grow.  I…soaked in your rain and sunshine.  With my own hard work and sowing, my dirt becomes my soil.’

What’s Changed?

The core pieces in the Breaking the Silence exhibit will always represent those windows into the emotions of the devastating impact of child sexual abuse: timeless photographs in time.  As the exhibit has toured, however, it has relinquished some masks and added others, particularly the popular gargoyles.  This is ever so fitting as these Protector Gargoyles are the pieces which I am currently most interested in creating.  As some pieces leave the exhibit, another few join it and so the spiral keeps cycling.

The current work must evolve and change as I have.  For myself, and for the work I do as a workshop facilitator, lecturer and therapist, I remain committed in my personal life to ‘walk my talk’ as much as possible.  The workshops have evolved a great deal since the beginning.  New information, trainings, feedback and life experience have all fed and nourished the work, and from this have grown more refined workshops, new themes and new art.  As I have changed and evolved, so also has my art.  In addition to the new protector gargoyles, I am now creating a new series of watercolour paintings entitled ‘Voice of the Stones’ based on my experiences of meditating in Stone Circles throughout the UK.  In these paintings, I listen deeply to the ancient wisdom of the earth through the Stones in these especially sacred and powerful sites, then I give it colour and form,…translating Earth’s wisdom into human expression.

From Surviving to Thriving:  Alchemy and Artistry

Transformation, evolution, courage and change: these are painful, necessary, liberating and healing.  The alchemical secret is that the honest sharing of our stories is what makes it happen.  And, from the swirling midst of our human stories, as from the fiery chaos of the raku process, what creativity and unexpected beauty can emerge!

Unmasked

Turn your naked face to the fire that remains

An ember in the center juice of earth’s living heart

The fire survives as you  survive and all may yet survive in you

Beside the fire She is still sitting the story woman

Her whisper makes a dry sound like the sliding of snakes coupling and uncoupling at the cell’s core

Like the memory of being alive with all life living in you

She says

There is another way

You knew it once

Remember

Memory sleeps coiled like a snake in a basket of grain deep in the storehouse

Breathe deep

Let your breath take you down

Find the way there

And you will find the way out

excerpted from Starhawk’s  A Story of Masks from Truth or Dare

 


 

This article was excerpted from Breaking the Silence: an experience in healing to be published in 1996-97.

To book a workshop, organize an exhibit or to receive more information please contact: 

Katheryn Trenshaw, P.O.Box 3, Totnes TQ9 5WJ, Devon, England

[1] The Courage to Heal , Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, Harper & Row, New York, 1988.

 

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