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Art and Connection – A healing journey

spring flowers cherry blossoms hands connection
"Always and Forever" by R.A.Holland

I grew up in a northern European (British and Danish) household nestled in the heart of cosmopolitan Sao Paulo, Brazil. We weren’t big on hugs, displays of affection, or anything of the sort. I was well versed in keeping that stuff bottled up and an excellent sense of humour. I was also very diplomatic and got on with everyone I met, which was very useful for a kid who moved a lot, went through a total of 11 schools between the ages of 5 and 27. Okay, four of those were universities. But still, it’s a lot of schools located in a few cities and countries. But you get the gist of it, diplomatic and bottled up.


What do you suppose happens when someone like me decides to become an artist? Especially after the wonderful hormonal experience of getting pregnant, giving birth, and deciding it was more economically feasible to stay home – it was the Math, after all. Your mushy baby brain needs to keep busy and turns to writing, aka, thinking…. And then eventually painting, aka, what on earth am I going to paint? Aka, more thinking. Questions like who am I now that I am not working a traditional 9-5 (more like 8-6) job cropped up a few times. But remember, all of this thinking still involves keeping everything bottled up. It does eventually have to come out and it is in the form of very expressionistic art that you hang up early up in your career and overhear a comment “why would someone paint this?” M’am, would it be because bottled up things have to come out? In that same show I was approached by a high school art teacher who wanted me to teach her class of teenagers how to express their feelings, because we all know teenagers are excellent at doing that – insert sarcasm. I live with a teenager and she isn’t better than I was at communicating. According to my mother, I was very difficult to talk to as a teenager because I was a know it all and because I generally answered monosyllabically, or with a shrug. As I was saying, teenagers.


Then around 2015 I met another artist I actually got on with very well. Until then, I was just in my own bubble, being all emo and expressionistic and slowly moving on to partial portraits surrounded by flowers. Not extremely exciting, but I felt like I was getting somewhere. Needless to say, some comments by people looking at your art make you rethink things, especially in the early days. Also, it was the diplomatic thing to do, after all, who on earth would wear their emotions on their sleeves, I mean, canvas.


Anyway, as I was saying, I met someone. This artist wears her emotions on her sleeves and is an open book. When I first started talking to her online, I did what any sensible person would do, I asked her questions. Ok, I first asked if it was ok to ask certain questions about things she had already talked about. We started a back and forth that has lasted to this day; we have visited each other a few times and in person we can talk non stop when prompted. I blame it on the fact that we spend hours by ourselves dreaming up paintings and starved for human contact, other than the people we see 24-7.


The point being, she taught me not to be so guarded about my feelings and that if you meet someone you get along with, it is okay to expose those inner mushy layers. Talk about anything and everything, talk about your feelings and those things people are generally too embarrassed to talk about, or don’t know how to talk about, or have built a beautiful wall of concrete and stone, and a garden of thorn roses around it because that is something we are never going to talk about. I found out little by little that it is good to talk about things, it can be cathartic and such a relief to connect with someone who doesn’t judge or laugh at the things you think are incredibly embarrassing, or downright stupid. Then you meet another artist who is also great at talking about deeper things and another connection is made.


Turns out that artists don’t have to be as guarded as financial advisers, or economists, the things I used to be…. Maybe because you have to look deeper into yourself to be able to create a meaningful painting, tearing down the walls and connecting with similar minded people is a good way of exploring those feelings and discovering people’s inner worlds and what makes them, well, them. It also helps see that maybe we are more similar than we think and everyone has some sort of inner turmoil that is good to let out by talking and metaphorically holding it in your hand and looking at it from different angles. Like minded friends are good at saying “but what if?” and “have you considered this angle?” They also cheer you on no matter what. Perhaps becoming an artist made me less closed off and made me realise I don’t have to wear a brave face all the time.


Many people and books talk about art as a tool for healing, but it’s not solely art, it’s the connections you make when doing art. While you are making art, you can let your mind go for a wonder and, like meditation, make connections you weren’t aware existed. You connect the dots. But it’s once you talk about these ideas with someone else that the healing actually takes place. Your connection to another human being that understands you and makes you feel seen and understood. Art is healing because it connects.


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