On October 26, 2012 my Mother fell and broke her hip. Little did I know at the time how this event would shape my life over the course of the next year.
Every week I came to teach my long-standing regular class of Expressive Kavannah bearing a heavy emotional load. My students suggested I take part in the sessions for my own therapy. They coaxed me to take advantage of the same opportunity I offered them to f process my feelings in relation to my mother’s worsening state. As an only child I felt all the burden on me. So I readily accepted their suggestion to deal with my “real life” as the events unfolded.
However, I faced a true dilemma. How was I going to facilitate the group, hold the space for them and participate as well? I felt divided. I was distraught and it was a relief not to hide my emotions. On the other hand, could I maintain my professionalism and focus to give to my students at the same time? I realized that I just had to be me. I knew I would feel comfortable sharing personally with this special group of people who had shared so much with me over the years. I had always witnessed their support for others in the group and confidentiality was an important aspect of our work together.
Considering the different modules of Expressive Kavannah, I realized that they were some I could easily participate in and remain available to them. We always started with journaling, so I also took advantage of this opportunity to update the last week’s events. Following, as I joined in the free dancing which we do to feel the wisdom of our bodies, it felt so good to lighten my load! I taught my class as prepared, a psycho-spiritual interpretation of the week’s Torah portion choosing relevant contemporary issues to be processed through meditation and image-making.
My own artwork is very intuitive and spontaneous. I produced a quick brush strokes or a collage that evoked my feelings at that time. I have included some of the images here as they became the genesis of the work in the studio. At one point I realized that even these “quick paintings” were too involved to maintain my focus for the group, so started an “image diary” with collages from magazines. Today, as I look back on the work I produced in the diary I realize how fortunate I was to have had this context to record and process this trying time. It also gave me a chance to experience Expressive Kavannah in a very personal way and gain perspective on how it works for others through a deeply personal lens.
Adieu is a collection of etchings created in 2013-14 in response to my mother’s death. Adieu, “farewell” and “to God” in French, reflects my mother’s and my common language. The collection documents the “continual” mourning process that I expressed intuitively through my art of printmaking. The technique I used involves many processes, one of which is preparing printing plates. I intuitively “knew” that I wanted two equal plates divided in the middle, making a diptych to create a communication between two parallel plates divided by a gap. I strive to create in flow; I do not design or plan anything, rather let my soul guide me. I honor the fact that my artwork quite often precedes my intellectual understanding.
As I completed the first spontaneous piece I produced, “Hope”, I understood that this creation was powerful and important, the beginning of something new. As I contemplated the piece, I felt how the pain in it related to my mother’s death. This deep pain that was only the beginning of my process. Over the year, the powerful creations I produced came from a deep place of psychological and physical pain. The techniques I chose to get the desired effects were difficult, and even dangerous. I often used very strong undiluted acid to cause the plate to disintegrate and decompose. I always used a mask to protect myself, but it was very debilitating to work that way. I described it as excruciating, but the process seemed to be part of what I had to experience, paralleling my mother’s own long period of deterioration. The paradox is, that no matter how “arduous” the process was, I remained focused, absorbed and totally involved for art’s sake, a state of mind Csikszentmihalyi describes brilliantly in “Flow”.
On the completion of the first work, my process of mourning was just beginning. The pieces together represented deep transformative experiences and revelations that preceded conscious knowing. I have learned to trust my intuition, the impetus and the spiritual creative process. I experience clarity and growth as a spiritual artist which in turn brought healing and insight into our life-long mother-daughter relationship.
Life is about Beauty
About the Author: Edna Miron-Wapner EXPRESSIVE KAVANNAH is a pyscho-spiritual, intermodal model for the Expressive Arts which evolved from my own creative process. It is inspired by the mystic tradition of Kabbalah in which the word “kavannah” has been defined as intention, direction, focus, concentration, attention, devotion, and even meditation. It means all of these, and more, the sum being greater than its parts. I am now in the final stages of the book: “Expressive Kavannah: Quest for Meaning”.