Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Transformation

I read a blog post the other day from a woman who confessed she was having trouble owning herself as an artist. I totally get that. I think of myself as someone who engages in self-expression, rather than as an Artist. But somehow reading her story got me thinking about artistic endeavors in my life and the transformative power unleashed. Creative expression is enormously healing. So for Steven's meme today on Transformational Moments, I offer this account.

Back a few years ago, when I separated from my ex (he of yesterday's post), I floundered as you might expect. My life had focused on loving this man, mothering our children, trying to anticipate and meet my husband's and kids' every need. The "Me" I was intended to be had grown shadowy and vague, like the colors in photographs taken long ago. I had taken all responsibility for the success of our relationship and that meant I had to shoulder all the blame for his repeated misdeeds, at least in my mind which clearly thought I was omnipotent. I was really accomplished at berating myself for not being able to salvage what was for my soul-self so obviously a train wreck. And I have to admit to being amazed that some wise woman who'd been locked inside me for years finally took over and told him to get out, that he'd blown his final chance.

After the shock of my proclamation and his subsequent departure wore off, the obsessive thoughts began. No matter how much I wanted to, I really couldn't stop listening to those malevolent voices in my head, the ones so dedicated to keeping me stuck in feeling bad. Nor could I understand why what was happening was happening and it felt quite falsely that if I only knew the WHY of it, it would be easier to accept and move on.

Some therapy aimed at addressing post-traumatic stress disorder helped a bit, but monkey mind would stop its chatter only for a few hours after a session. Then the racket would start again until the mean monkeys were screeching at a fever pitch. That only gave me a new opportunity: I began to feel bad about feeling bad. Why couldn't I get a grip on myself ? Why didn't I just let go and get over it?

Interestingly, after the crying subsided, I took stock and realized that I had a lot more creative energy. At the time, I didn't understand why it started to bubble up, but I welcomed it with open arms. My concern was how to use it, not where it came from. Unlike traumatic times in the past, writing in a journal held no appeal for me. It felt like wallowing, not healing. I couldn't concentrate long enough to string poems together. I knew intuitively that I had to transform my angst into something else, something healing. But what? And how could I get those damn monkeys to shut up?

I started playing with photographs, teaching myself the basics of Photoshop and Microsoft Digital Image Pro. I learned to manipulate images I'd taken in France and Italy, using filters to turn them into soft, impressionistic recollections. I shared them with my psychologist, who by

"Gondolier Apparitions" copyright 2004/2005 Meri Arnett-Kremian.
All rights reserved. In private collection.


that time, was working with me on learning to honor my intuition and being fully myself. (The image above is all about spirit and guides. Click on the image to see all the unexpected apparitions that just showed up.) Rosalie told me it was time that I had some artistic mentoring and waved a brochure for a painting class at me.

"A Tribute to Monet" copyright 2004 Meri Arnett-Kremian.
Collection of Jefri and Gene Twiner.

So, an already too-long, boring story made longer, through a series of amazing coincidences that worked against my substantial resistance, I ended up painting for two weeks straight. Me, who had never painted anything except a wall. For two weeks, all day long, I was immersed in the colors and shapes of abstract painting, letting my juiciness leak out and play on canvas. And yes, I did a bunch of paintings. Some were even gifts from the universe, like the one at the bottom -- the second or third painting I ever did. But the transformational aspect was discovering that when I was in flow, the monkeys left.

"Orbiting Bodies" copyright 2004 Meri Arnett-Kremian.

They were left brain monkeys. Left brain monkeys are denied entrance to right brain activities.

And though I needed to engage my left brain for logical-sequential functions, making time to fully immerse myself in the creative process and letting it take me where it chose was a way to get a vacation from the incessant screeching of mean monkeys. As I honored the creative impulse more and more, making space for it in my life, I discovered the monkeys had grown quite subdued. They've been replaced by the much kinder, gentler voice of my Soul Self, my intuition.

"Celestial Whispers" copyright 2004. Meri Arnett-Kremian.

18 comments:

Sid Smith said...

Hi there Meri, I've come here via Steven's meme. This is a very powerful account and something of the intensity of what you've gone through really sings out in those paintings.
Thanks for sharing this.

larkspur said...

You certainly have a beautiful soul, Meri!

Delwyn said...

Hi Meri

and I can feel and see that real Soul self now coming through...

great work Meri - the post and your life...

Happy days

Eryl Shields said...

You are my Buddha!

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Meri - Your soul self is incredibly expressive. A beautiful post and your paintings are amazing!!

Kathryn Magendie said...

These paintings are beautiful - breathtaking, compelling!

And the 'apparitions" - my eye was drawn to a smaller 'figure' to the left - maybe you didn't mean apparitions in that way - but I wonder about that figure - of a man ...standing there....wavering in the mist that is himself....

beth said...

meri....those paintings are amazing !

and yes...you are an artist !

we all are, in our own right, but we all also have an amazing hard time owning up to calling ourselves one...

I learned so much about all of that at squam last year...and the gremlins that whisper in our ears that we're not good enough....

and even today....getting paid for my work...I have a hard time owning up to the name "photographer" just like when I put artwork in a gallery and choked over calling myself "an artist"....

maybe we are too humble ?

Michelle Johnson said...

You're right that first picture does look impressionistic. I'm pleased those voices have been subdued with your self, soul. You are a wonderful person who momentarily lost direction but has found a stronger place to grow. Have a great night.

lakeviewer said...

Hi, I came in from Jennifer's blog and thoroughly enjoyed your last post about transformation. You hit it right on the head with this one; realizing one's intuitive strength unleashes creativity. I love your paintings.

Kamana said...

these are beautiful paintings, meri! how can you not see yourself as an artist?

~JarieLyn~ said...

Meri, yours is one of my favorite blogs to read. Everything you write is so profound. It's really strange, but a lot of your posts express some of the same thoughts that I have. You sound a lot like me, only you express yourself with more finesse. You articulate on your blog everything that I am thinking. It's like being thrust into the Twilight Zone.

Caroline said...

I just found your blog today and this post was exactly what I needed to read. There are no coincidences!

I struggle with being an artist. I am a mother & wife...now that my kids are getting older I am finally hearing my inner voice. I am a self taught photographer as well. When taking photos and playing with images in my editing software...my soul soars. I am finally beginning to listen to my heart...but I struggle with my own validation as an artist.

Kay said...

Hello Meri, these are very beautiful....you can just lose yourself in them....so glad i found your blog and will come back!! kay

ellen abbott said...

Hi Meri. I'm catching up from yesterday. too busy to get to them all. I know what you mean about owning the 'artist' label. I didn't call myself an artist for many many years because I never felt the burning desire, the angst that real artist's are supposed to feel. I don't know when but somewhere along the line I just accepted it. Great post. I'm glad you have flowered.

Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday.

Titus said...

Meri - that was a wonderful tale of resilience, and then when the first picture appeared I was blown away! To find that spark after what you had been through is genuinely inspiring to me. Thank you, artist.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What an amazing transformative journey you have been on . . . I love when you say you were finally letting your juiciness leak out. A real tribute to how art heals and energizes. Thank you Meri.

Deirdra Doan said...

What a great story and the Monet is so lovely...I will share your story with a friend...

Deirdra Doan said...

Better yet...I posted a link to your blog and your wonderful Monet!!!
oxoxo