art and empathy

Art is often described as either a luxury or past-time. Rarely do we hear art being described as essential. But science is showing that art is a valuable tool for developing empathy and attention.
I was thankful to be asked to provide a workshop ‘Art and Empathy’ for the ‘We Together‘ Conference for the Anglican Dioceses of Islands and Inlets in Nanaimo BC, Canada.

Most participants did not identify themselves as artists.
In this workshop I shared a short talk and provided three exercises.

The first was an introduction to the practice of contour drawing as a form of mindfulness.  This is a simple method to encourage hand and eye co-ordination which allows us to look deeply and develops empathy with the natural world around us.
The next had participants pair up and draw, however arbitrarily a description of something that they really love. Then partners were told about that activity by describing the drawings. This allowed story telling with the aid of an object which alleviated the pressure of one on one encounter and encouraged empathy with the ‘other’ without losing a sense of one’s own self.
The last activity was using collage to find relationship with random selection of images and textures. This was a direct use of the creative act which is about pulling apart and putting back together. It is also a means of ‘listening’ and exercising empathy to  ourselves without passing judgment or demanding explanation.

By the end of the workshop there was a wonderful atmosphere of busyness, connection and joy.

I am very grateful to the Diocese of Islands and Inlets for the opportunity to share the every day benefits of the visual arts.
( update: In November, I adapted the talk I gave with this workshop and the related sermon I presented at the Abbey Church into an article for the Diocesan Post which can be found here.)

interworld opens

Interworld opened on May 3rd and ran to May 12, 2019. It was the first of two exhibitions from the mentorship program at arc.hive.
“Seven artists navigate the Interworld to produce works exploring time, transformation, the uncanny, and the secretive and silenced worlds of trauma and mental health.”  The artists included Shae Anthony, Desiree DeRuiter, Markus Drassl, Susan Feilders, Sheryl Fisher, Amber Morrison & Cornelia van Voorst. We are all so grateful to our mentorship facilitator Connie Michelle Morey.

The exhibition showcased the art that was made during the program since September. I produced over a hundred rose pictures and edited them to 40 which were displayed as a grid.

Here is my exhibition statement:

A Complex Grief
There is an ambiguity to these portraits of roses from the neighbourhoods  in which I spend my days. As I made them I began seeing them as plumes of bombs seen from above. Sometimes they look like glimpses of landscape from the air through a break in the clouds. I also imagine them as broken voices or wounds.  And sometimes, thanks to the sheen of the ink, they look wet, and the roses become small pools of tears.

My  experience as a child witnessing my German father’s memories of war influences the concerns of my practice. The  materials and images of this body of work are simple yet demonstrate complex feelings and ideas about war, good and evil, loss and hope; about the connection of history to the present, of grief to healing.

A perennial symbol of love, the rose is often presented as an image of romantic perfection, yet these roses are set in the midst of a dark ground and are in various states of wholeness, integration and visibility. By reclaiming the image of the rose from a limited, sentimental narrative I am referencing not only personal persistence in the face of suffering but a social activism and idealism that calls upon love as the means by which to overcome turmoil, violence and uncertainty.

lenten presence

1CvanVoorst- Untitled- 2019

Lent ( the 40 days before Easter) is traditionally a time in which we are to consider our vulnerability and fallibility as human beings. I was asked to contribute to a small booklet of Lenten reflections which is edited by the Rev. Meagan Crosby Shearer who is priest to the Emmaus Community and St Matthias Anglican Church in Victoria BC, Canada. I was asked to share a reflection on three ancient texts that are readings for March 29th in Lent. Hosea14:1–9; Psalm 81; Mark 12:28–34

Here is my response:

God’s love is not only for the perfect, for the unblemished, the strong; it is also for the unfaithful, the complaining, the weak and the wayward. God’s love tests us, and even though enemies surround us,  love holds all of it- the dust, the dark, the songs, the cries, the joy, the sorrow.

The art I am currently making features  roses expressively drawn in ink. My recent work has become a sort of testimony to  my negotiating life with a disability – a complex form of PTSD.  There are many times when I wish I could be free of this complication so I might be more successful in life professionally and relationally. But the irony is I would not be facing pain if I did not love. The reality is, that for all of us, life to some degree or another is a mixed bag of hurt and happiness, freedom and burden and for us to try and separate our experience into the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, leaves us outside of what love is supposed to do: hold our earthly experience tenderly and boldly so that life is complete.

This picture illustrates the swirl, confusion and beauty in which we humans find ourselves within our lived experience.  I chose this picture because I can see in it the roots, branches, and flower of God’s promise of healing in Hosea 14: 4-8.  Sometimes the image appears to be the mark of a tear in the dust; or it could be a tree pushing upwards even though twisted and hindered with roots deep in the ground. Light is present, sometimes brightly, sometimes murkily, but from within the dark there emerges the perennial symbol of the presence of love.

published

“the complex relationship between ethics and aesthetics” 30×22″ 2015

Having had my so much of my world view informed by listening to Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, I cannot say how much it means to have a written piece published in the Religion and Ethics Report. The article Art and the Nature of Good and Evil  is an expansion of a talk I originally gave in concert with my first solo exhibition The Other Side of War.

 

interworld

INTERWORLD POSTCARD

I am very pleased to taking part in this exhibition coming up in May.

Interworld

May 3 – 12, 2019

arc.hive artist run centre
2516 Bridge St, Victoria, BC V8T 5H3

Opening: May 3rd, 2019 (7-9 pm)

Shae Anthony, Desiree DeRuiter, Markus Drassl, Susan Feilders, Sheryl Fisher, Amber Morrison and Cornelia van Voorst

Through drawing, painting, printmaking, collage and sculpture, seven artists navigate the Interworld to produce works exploring time, transformation, the uncanny, and the secretive and silenced worlds of trauma and mental health.

Poster image by Desiree de Ruiter