I spent a beautiful week in the red rocks of Sedona AZ and the Grand Canyon. Tea and coffee with sunrises. Painting with daylight. Smoke with sunsets. Colors crescendoed all around from subtlety to fanfare and back again.
While the golden mountains stopped me in my tracks, it was in the luminescent blues and purples of their shadows where I just lost myself. I just handed myself over and said "Take me." What more could I do? The shadows were exquisite, as though the sky were reaching into the land to swaddle the rocks forgotten by the sun. Those dark nooks and crannies lured me into their mystery, and my own.
In many spiritual practices, there is something called shadow work. Shadow work is a practice of facing and transforming the parts of ourselves that are operating from a wound, or a "dark" place. When we operate from a wound or trauma we are living through unsupportive patterns and dynamics. It feels awful, or at the very least, uncomfortable. It can feel like darkness. But where there is darkness there is room for the light to enter.
Creation yields vulnerability. As I type that word I can feel the collective cringe. Vulnerability is a hard state to be in, regardless of whether it's witnessed within oneself or by an audience. It requires tremendous courage, bravery and trust to allow oneself to be seen when vulnerable. I admire those who can lay themselves bare, raw, and open.
Many see vulnerability as an absence of power, as a victimhood. However it takes a powerful individual to be so open, and an equally powerful individual to hold the vulnerability of others with gentleness and compassion. This power is an innately feminine energy, a divergence from our predominantly masculine understanding of power as dominance. (I'm not talking men v. women, I'm talking specifically about the energy of the feminine and masculine that we all have within us.)
Many people despise vulnerability. They reject it in others as they reject it within themselves. Many subscribe to beliefs that tears make you weak, compromise is submission, and susceptibility to pain makes you inferior. I do not subscribe to this disempowering belief system.
I believe in the power of the feminine; that tears are as valuable as diamonds, compromise is an act of service and creation, and pain is fuel for empathy and passion.
I believe that vulnerability can be powerful.
Since arriving at my residency at Art Hub 2 weeks ago, I've acknowledged tremendous changes occurring within myself and my life. I've oscillated between overt strength and tender vulnerability. I've been flooded with intensity; laughter, anger, sadness, guilt, glee and more. As a result, I've also flooded with tremendous soft power. I'm not talking about the muscle-through-it resilience against the odds, I'm talking about a power that stands firmly yet gently, and needs no permission to curl up and care for itself when needed.
This power has found color in my work. My technique is the courage to feel.
On Thursday I sat in the studio.
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