At the fall 2014 residency, we explored Deborah Koff-Chapin’s practice, Touch Drawing. We improvised and repurposed available surfaces (cafeteria trays, and cardboard covered with sheets of adhesive vinyl) as well as sheets of plexiglass. The surfaces were coated with oil paint, covered with newsprint and then we drew – from the unconscious using our hands and fingers.
As we worked, we listened to musical selections made by traditional and indigenous artists. We were surprised and delighted by the images that emerged as the pieces of newsprint were peeled away. We made drawings in succession and did not “process” each piece as it was completed. We began a new piece as soon as the previous one was finished. As our working time ended, each participant gathered her drawings and arranged them on the floor in reflection and meditation and then wrote freely in a journal about the experience.
Next, we created a collective and collaborative Mandala on the floor of the Haybarn Theatre stage. There we practiced aesthetic meditation described by Expressive Arts theorist Shaun McNiff. Per McNiff, it is the process by which, “I applied the ancient theory of healing correspondence (like produces like) to the contemplation of images. I discovered how people could feel internal balance, serenity, energy, and other salutary states by contemplating the same qualities in the visual configurations of their artworks. What we saw outside in the world could be taken in as a source of healing and well being.” (Art Heals by Shaun McNiff, 2004 Shambhala Publications).
In our seminar, we experienced our work with our eyes, we sensed the related energy with our hands and feet, and moved our bodies in response to what we had made.
Here, student Cherie Crowningshield reflects on her experience of the seminar:
“In my heart I knew I needed this today. The smell of the oil paint is comforting like finding a good friend walking the same path as you chose to walk as well. The paint it greets me, ‘I know you,’ I think. ‘Here we are, where shall we go today?’ As I begin to lay the paper on my old friend my heart and body begin to excite. I hear the music in the background but everyone else just fades away. I close my eyes, I open my eyes, I breathe, I let the paint speak to me. I let my soul make the movements. I am here. No past, no future, ‘here and now.’ I am lost in my own sacred space. My soul, the paper and paint explore, experiment. I see spirals dance across the paper. I am lost in the beauty of it all. My soul escapes the chaos for a bit. Peaceful I sit; peaceful I smile…”