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.
Unrest stirring within. Instead of reacting to my unrest with a dramatic flailing of paint at a large canvas, I sat with a small page and some watercolors. I felt into the pain and agitation that was surfacing. What's the color? With which brush? And what mark? I pressed the brush into the rice paper, fusing fibers with wet purple pigment. I leaned back and watched, as the paint slowly. slowly. dried. I felt the purple blob on the page, and began to write; anything that came up in response, until I knew what needed to happen next.
Soon, another mark, followed by the same feeling, writing. I allowed myself to move slowly through my unrest so I might know it, myself, better. In the past I would have raced through the discomfort of my emotions, hoping that I could get it over with, or purge it from my system. Today, the slow quiet space that I offered my inner unrest proved to be what it needed. By serving the unrest, I served myself. The entanglement of discomfort unravelled into threads of curiosity, information about my emotions, needs, desires, wonderings an onward.
I met myself in a purple splotch.
I hung these pieces on the studio wall with no explanation. A mentally ill person wandered into our public studio and said "I really feel the depth in your paintings." To me, that means I'm doing something right.
Deep presence with my inner rumblings offered me gifts, the Truths I needed to lean-in to hear. Space and permission to be was required. Any effort to purge the discomfort would have been a passive, quiet robbing of my Truth.
To Create is to be vulnerable. Everytime.
Please give yourself permission to feel deeply, to be vulnerable. Your bravery in doing so may be the permission another person needs to crack open and see themselves, and even love themselves.
All site content copyright Anna Fox Ryan 2021