Allostasis

This series of work investigates how self-concept and identity are altered by emotional responses to personal trauma. The imagery examines how neurotransmitters react to emotional responses.

As I recycle perceived memories or process current events, communication within the brain develop allostasis, or the balancing and stabilizing of basic physiological life functions during changing environmental and developmental contexts. My goal is to gain an understanding of the self and to use art as a vehicle of healing. The end result is a documentation towards understanding.

Labyrinth and Academic Pressures are responding to an increase of anxiety among teens in high school related to academic success. Since testing and high academic standards are not likely to go away, students and teachers are left to choose their level of attachment to failures along their journey. As a teacher, I examine my role in this game. I recognize the same pressures placed on teachers as the scores are used to measure my success as well. Starting with old tests showing failing grades as still life material, the acrylic paintings are pushed past the literal form into a space of structural balance. Acceptance of these beautiful failures offer some peace.

Twisted and Biopsy work through my mother’s bout with cancer and fears surrounding my own health. Shortly after announcing my pregnancy of our first child, my mother called to inform me that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, I remember feeling very conflicted about wanting to be with her during her treatments and preparing for our child. Twisted was an attempt to remove the weight of worry moving towards a sense of peace and resolve. Biopsy examines my own test results. The angular forms towards the bottom of the painting blend with collaged images of breast tissue and test results. They push upward searching for a peaceful moment. The central circular form surrounds a small triangle representing the “area of concern”. As the forms revolve outward, they loosen.

Grieving Sucks was completed within hours of returning from a funeral. “Sucks” works both as an expletive but also a descriptor for how grieving sucks the breath out of your lungs, the life out of the room, the brightness out of the day, and leaves a flat expanse of numbness. The painting’s four orbs, representing each lost spirit, float over a grid of tears. Jagged shapes huddle in an arch over the lower section looking downward away from the floating orbs and towards the ground. In Breathe, I find the resolution. Breathing in peace, I use my breath as a means for calming the storm. The flat forms reference a church window as I was having a very pointed conversation with God at the time. The breath, held within the intersecting orbs, is a presence of Peace that does not overwhelm the painting but holds a lightness within. Tears are still present but move upward in a release.

Subtle Changes, offers a reminder that peace does not come with fanfare. No fireworks explode as I reach this stage. Turmoil gives way to acceptance of the present moment. The soft velvety forms easily flow in and around each other without resistance. The colors offer a calm reflection. Each orb sits in suspension within the open space of a larger ring. This holding of space allows the tranquility to flow around objects. Acceptance is key. There are no shortcuts.

Paintings Bubbling to the Surface, A Playful Launch, Pushing Past the Fractured Support, The Dance, and Distant Support examine the role of personal relationships in the development of identity. “It is through others that we discover who we are. When we learn how to step aside and watch ourselves, the other becomes an agent of transformation. Dialoguing with images is a method for expanding ego’s singular vision.” (McNiff 2)

Bubbling to the Surface recalls a conversation with my son, Jacob, while he described a favorite memory of anticipating Christmas. He said it felt “bubbly” as he thought about the anticipation. This painting gives the story structure and connects me to his innocent expression. Pushing Past the Fractured Support considers my own short comings as a support in particular relationships. The white egg form is a symbol of hope that sees the barrier and stubbornly continues to push through. The Dance expresses my relationship with my husband James. Masculine and feminine forms move back and forth through the painting as we work in concert to care for our family. He moves, I respond. I move, he responds. Our non-verbal communication is the culmination of our long relationship built over three decades.

Navigating the Maze processes the previous three paintings in quiet contemplation.

Release, Remnants, and Rebuilding serve as the final functions of processing the previous paintings. Each painting began with writing segments from old journal entries, and are cleaning up any residual effects moving towards resolution and transcendence. Transcendence is not a destination but the horizon to move towards. Ever distant but providing a path along this journey. I do not have all of the answers and am not an expert. However, through this is the journey which I have embarked I find peace by working with my hands. The steps towards this elusive goal are one of letting go- putting the baggage down- and sitting in acceptance of each part. The resolution of all of this work emerges through the remaining paintings and sculptures. There is still work to be done as self- actualization reveals itself more as a cycle than a straight path. With practice and dedication, each cycle becomes a little easier, a little more confident, a little more sure.

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