Back in the Mix: Return to Art Making After Professional Detours

It’s been a few years; to my readers, some going back to 2009, welcome back! There are photos at the bottom of this post featuring my new work!

Why the absence? A few big losses that took years to assimilate and the sad reality of economic survival–death and a series of bad jobs, to make it short.   The death of my father suddenly from a glioblastoma, the sudden death by heart attack of my best friend/astrology teacher of 20 years, the death of my dog Bearbear (more here)…sounds like a verse in a Hank Williams song.

Death is nothing I could plan for; but the jobs, those were my own doing.  One serious detour away from making art was working as a psychotherapist–I long had these crazy ideals about getting a license to be a therapist, and after you get an MSW the only way to do this is to work several years and accumulate enough supervised hours–100–to apply, and the only jobs that meet the state’s onerous requirements are  in community mental health or at the VA–these are the places that have a chronic shortage of psychotherapists, probably because they are so toxic and dysfunctional no one with any heart or soul can work there, you have to check those at the door.

This took me a few years to figure out;  I was not fully aware of what was going on in my environment as I was coping with settling my dad’s estate, which was really a non-estate if you know what I mean: a lot of time and effort settling nothing just to break even. And then my mom broke her ankle in a car crash 9 months after my dad’s death.  Anyone who has been through any grief/loss event knows that about which I speak: it’s a long fog and you just don’t catch all the details. Long story short: I had all kinds of ideals about getting a social work therapy license and then using my art-making skills–described in this blog since 2009–to help people creatively solve painful, intractable life problems. Artists solve problems all the time. In my mind’s eye I had an ideal I was working towards. Just needed, I thought, the 2 years work experience and the supervisor to sign off on the hours–then apply to the state licensing board. I had at this point been working for 10 years straight as an MSW for state government and as a medical social worker in a Nursery ICU. I felt confident, given my track record.

Was I wrong. I failed to imagine, with all of my future thoughts of rainbows and unicorns, the predatory, sociopathic social workers/psychologists who would also be there–they were the gatekeepers–the supervisors, the ones who signed the forms during the process of acquiring the 100 supervised work hours I needed. And I had made some enemies among the gatekeepers. I am not one to pick every hill to die on, quite the contrary. I usually see the hills and walk around them. Unfortunately in these environments there are some very lazy and very powerful predator type gatekeepers who have nothing to do but scout out prey and then sit and wait. I simply was not paying attention; or perhaps I’m blaming the victim–me. I did not see how I was being set up.  One  I was sitting in my social work supervisor’s office, getting what I thought was hour 97 of 100 and about ready  to submit my request to the state licensing board. Instead, I was told that I was administratively not quite measuring up; my work with individuals and families was not being questioned, it was in fact very good—-but my ability to complete every keystroke in the VA computer system was being questioned, and until that was resolved to my supervisor’s satisfaction–through some arbitrary metric– there would be no recommendation for licensure.

I was finally able to see what was going on. I quit immediately. And I am now a life coach; for the past 1 1/2years I’ve been working in this capacity, and I’ve had some success! It’s such a relief, after so much negativity. I use all my training as a [psychotherapist….but I use my powers for light. Defense against the dark arts folks. I feel much more effective in my new capacity.

Now for the art: here is a photo of me and my mom at our recent art show in Benson, Arizona at the local community college. We had a mother daughter show. My mom cuts paper; I rip it. Behind us you can see her lovely paper cuts.

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This is a close up of an unfinished paper cut that design-wise just didn’t make the cut, just to give you an idea:

 

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Meanwhile I rip paper, in this case, photocopies of my own photographs:
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Then through an elaborate process I transfer the paper collage on to silk organza; that’s been described elsewhere in this blog:
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Here are 2 of my finished pieces for the show: the first is 40″x30″; the next one is 18″x24″: both are silk/paper collages mounted on wood panels and framed.
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And here is a shot of these pieces from a distance–it’s just a community college, but a lovely venue with a big lobby and lots of natural light:

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So that is a lengthy update; but on the bright side, I’m now making art. One thing I learned in my training with the Veterans as a psychotherapist, our brains can make habits up way too easily. In 2 months we can have a habit down and it can be hard to change. Not making art has been a habit. Such a relief to have that changing.

Where’s the Blog?

Yes, well, I’ve been having lumbar disc-related pain the last 3 weeks, aggravated by sitting (which puts the most pressure on the lumbar spine) so I haven’t been sitting much, hence not sitting and updating my blog.

But I’ve done plenty of non-sitting things recently; and I’m feeling better enough, and optimistic enough, to park myself here to get back my good blogging habits.

First off, I had one particularly sore night and went–I must say–for the Screech (OK just one drink); and then I made preparations for sausage rolls:

Above, you can see the sausage on the left. I got it from the University of Arizona Collegiate Cattle Growers weekly meat sale; it was too salty I thought, but, I wasn’t about to taste-test raw pork ahead of time to check, so I didn’t know until the rolls were done.

Below, the rolled out pastry. Made with lard. I mean, the sausage is already there, right? Crisco would hardly make any difference.

Here’s the actual sausage roll before being cut and baked…

…and here’s the finished product. I took these to work for a potluck.

A few days later, I had the women in my art quilt over for an afternoon of fabric dyeing. Here is everyone having a go at scrunching wet fabric and pouring dye on top. Even my mom made it!

After all the work, a well-deserved break while we wait for the dye to work for an hour.

Here’s Bearbear, clearly intent on learning how to knit. It’s about time he started making some sort of contribution around here so I’m completely in support; perhaps he could learn how to spin during the 8 months a year he sheds.

The next week I had an Octoberfest dinner at my house for friends from work and their kin. I made bratwurst and sauerkraut, german potato salad and a single-layer black forest cake. It was superb. As you can see, there was plenty of dopplebock:

And then yesterday was Tucson’s annual All Souls Procession; here’s a shot of a couple of skeletons at sunset:

Also, during this blog hiatus I started the steps for a bathroom remodel….and….I ordered a new Juki straight-stitch sewing machine for machine quilting. More on that later.

Traditional Irish Music Session in Tucson!

There are no bells and whistles with this post; no photos or MP3 uploads….yet. Next time. You’ll just have to believe me when I say today we had a super traditional Irish music session here in Tucson; it was a house session; and like in ye olden days, the kitchen table was moved aside to make room for a circle of musicians. We had:  one flute, two fiddles, one bodhran, one lovely voice for song, one guitar, one mandolin, and one set of amazingly in tune uilleann pipes (no small feat for this climate).  In addition to the usual war-horse tunes played at sessions (what I think of as the “global Irish repertoire”) we had some great tunes by the likes of Paddy Fahy and Sean Ryan that are less commonly heard, at least around here. All in all the sound was great and the craic even greater. Well done everyone!

The next house session is set for Sunday November 15th. I’ll report more then.