Monday, August 9, 2010

Interview with Karen Parisian

How did you learn about art therapy?

I was studying art education and felt like something was missing. I didn’t even know what art therapy was and another art ed student happened to introduce me to a book by Florence Cane titled the Artist in Each of Us. That was all I needed.

Where did you get your education?
BA in Art Education at WMU, Kalamazoo MI
MAAT at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Who are your influences artistically?
Paul Klee (he’s so whimsical and unafraid ) Jackson Pollock (for his spontaneity of line and movement) , Picasso (I love both his blue period and cubism and his ability to be evocative with both) Kathe Kollowitz (the beauty and depth of emotion in her work)

Do you have a favorite piece within this portfolio?
The Long Goodbye has to do with the bonds we make in therapy and letting go once we have reached a departure point. This is one of my favorites because it’s about the art therapy work and the people that we travel to great depths with.

How would you describe your style? I like to think of it as Spiritual Modernism. The work I create reflects spiritual needs which I feel are often hidden or lost in our fast paced and consumer oriented culture. Many of the symbols and metaphors I use represent the universal and our need for community and connection. Stylistically I work within the influences of the modern masters.

Would you say that becoming an art therapist has impacted your style? Yes, definitely so. The experiences and depth of the art therapy work elicits a need to respond and connect with others artistically and evokes deep thought and emotion which gets translated in my own process of creating.

Is there any difference between “art therapy” work and “art gallery” work? Do you do things any differently based on the audience? This reminds me of the question , is there a difference between art ed and art therapy? I will give the same answer, sometimes Yes and sometimes No.
My most interesting work and the work that tends to sell is the work that has the most emotion ,spirit and meaning. If you are authentic with your work the work is usually received well by others and ultimately they want to have some of it.

I see that you have gallery representation. What has that been like for you? Do you have any advice for other art therapists interested in showing work in the fine art gallery scene? Just be real. Do what inspires you and what makes sense to you. The rest will fall into place. If your work is truly personal, then maybe it’s not necessary to put it in the public eye. If you are feeling that you would like to share it, then by all means I think people will relate and connect to the work.

You are at a cocktail party and someone asks you, “What is art therapy?” How do you answer that question? There is a quote I recently came across that says “Life beats down and crushes the Soul, and Art reminds us that we have one”. I like to explain art therapy in that sense. Art serves a purpose that helps us give visual form and meaning to the difficulties we face. The art therapist helps the person find that form and voice and gives the individual support, comfort and encouragement in the process.

There is a series of four paintings that are of the same dimensions and have a similar composition. Are they part of a set? Is there something about this size that appealed to you creatively? The vertical format allowed for a moon to stand alone at the top and for the figures to be intertwined and connected on the bottom half. Compositionally it somewhat represents sky/heaven and earth or the notion that we are all connected under one moon, a universal, spiritual sort of message.

In reference to your artist statement, can you talk about an "extreme state of being" that you have explored through your artwork.
I think when we have something important to communicate or say, it is not always apparent in words but it hits us deep in extreme ways that we don’t always have access to.
I think the art allows us to explore that, sometimes without even realizing we are doing so. On the other hand, when something apparent strike us head on, a loss, a trauma, we are often driven to find ways to work through it and art can help with that.   

Christine Hazelett is August's IATA Artist in the Spotlight

Artist Statement
I started creating these post card sized images to help contain my flood of emotion following intense sessions with clients recovering from trauma, neglect, abandonment and abuse. The images reflect my own experiences with environment, relationship, fear and solace.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Erin Mooney is May's IATA Artist in the Spotlight

Artist Statement
Erin Mooney
Facilitators Show 2010

Made from found and recycled materials these landscapes and seascapes are places, pieces of the whole. I add layer after layer to get to a place that feels complete, which doesn’t happen every day. More often I tend to them, building, growing, shifting, adding, subtracting and aiming for balance while waiting for the glue to dry. And that feels right. They feel earthy, organic and I love watching them become.

Since coming to Open Studio Project, my life and my approach to art making have changed tremendously. I am grateful to be a part of this community and make art alongside others.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Karen Parisian: March IATA Artist in the Spotlight

Hope, loss, transformation, and salvation: spring is officially ushered in by the work of art therapist, Karen Parisian.

Karen's Artist Statement:

In general I believe painting has to do with extreme states of being. It may begin as a primitive impulse or a lump in the throat, a love, a loss, a crack in the sidewalk. Ultimately it creates a spark, with the potential for a thousand fires.

I believe art is a powerful way to express and share the important aspects of life, both the complexity and simplicity of the human experience.

Visit her official website.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

WTF! Winter Tango at Fulton

Last Friday, Fulton Street Collective put on one of the most unique events of which I've been a part. WTF, or Winter Tango at Fulton, went off without a hitch. The event kicked off with a tango class from 8 to 9 p.m. for absolute beginners, followed by a milonga until midnight with DJ Rico, and performance by Dinah Grossman and Jorge Niedas.

The evening brought in a truly diverse crowd of eager beginners, curious hipsters, and elegantly dressed seasoned dancers. The venue was transformed into a surprisingly intimate space with the house lights turned off (with the exception of spotlights on the artwork) and flickering candles providing soft natural lighting. All enjoyed the music, dance, artwork, and ample glasses of sangria. Fine artists represented included Karen Parisian, Dennis Johnson, Catherine Jasek, and myself.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Interview with Lacy Vitko

How did you learn about art therapy?

In my second year of undergrad, just after deciding to switch my major from psychology to art, I met a young woman in my two-dimensional design class who informed me of art therapy. I was instantly intrigued at the thought of combining my two favorite subject matters into a profession, and began to do some research on art therapy. Like many other art therapists I know, it felt like an instant fit. During my final years I developed an artist identity and began to wonder how I could combine my three passions into a graduate program that focused on, art, psychology, and spirituality. It just so happened that I had begun to read Ken Wilber’s work during this time, in which he speaks about his involvement with Naropa University in Colorado. Thus, my future was unfolding.

Where did you get your education?

I received my BA in studio art from The University of Akron in Akron, OH, and my MA in Transpersonal Counseling and Art Therapy from Naropa University in Bouulder, CO.

Who are your influences artistically?

When I first began painting I was most influenced by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, and many of the other Surrealist artists. I remember writing a paper on Kandinsky and reading, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” during a bus trip to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg. This seemed like a pivotal moment for me, the first time that I realized I was not alone in my intention for art making. I found the surrealist movement fascinating and was inspired by the nuance and somewhat revolutionary nature of the time. Their approach to the art process is what I found most interesting. Looking at dreams and using free association as an entry way into the imagination...there was something about their connection with art that seemed “other worldly.” I am most attracted to artists who create from a place of deep passion, where vision is sparked by an almost desperate need to speak from within, while also looking beyond the self.

Do you have a favorite piece within this portfolio?

Yes. “Insides.” This piece reflects a significant change in the way I approach my creative process. Using colored conte, the image was built from emotional expression rather than a planned idea.

How would you describe you style?

Hmmm. I guess I would say, organic expressionism? This is mostly true of my most recent drawings rather than my paintings. My paintings tend to be more representational in nature. The imagery I use is inherently organic; portraying both a visual description of certain internal movement, while simultaneously eliciting a strong emotional response from the use of particular color choices and play of parts. My ultimate intent is to ignite an emotion, or sensation inspired by the interaction of forms in my images. I guess I aim to represent inner movement through an expressionistic lens.

Would you say that becoming as art therapist has impacted your style?

Yes. Absolutely. Prior to my art therapy training my approach was much more analytical. A large part of my preparation was very intellectual, researching, writing, even going as far as creating concept maps to explore my ideas! It was more formulaic. As I began to study art therapy my work became more about listening to my emotional sensations as an entryway into an image. It was less about figuring it out before hand, and more about becoming witness to my current emotional experience, and moving with it. Therefore, the final product is much more expressionistic in essence.

Is there any difference between “art therapy” work and “art gallery” work? Do you do things any differently based on the audience?

Yes, for me there is a difference. I actually view it as being on a spectrum, with my artist identity on one end, and my art therapist identity on the other. Response art is an example of art therapy work, whereby the process of releasing an overwhelming feeling brought upon by a difficult session with a client takes precedence over the arrangement and attention to formal elements in piece of art. Or my painting of “Kali”, this represents a therapeutic engagement with an image. Sometimes the two can overlap, or influence one another for sure. It’s difficult to keep them completely separate once the two identities have been integrated. The main difference for me has to do with intentionality.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you had a hard time making art? If so, how did you get past it?

Absolutely. It become challenging during transitions, which could possibly seem contradictory. Shouldn’t I be drawn within much easier when I am feeling vulnerable? It depends on the intensity of the transition I suppose. When I first moved to Boulder for graduate school and my entire life was flipped on top of itself over night, I struggled for a great while to make art. I was resisting the changes such as, lack of my own studio, lack of desired supplies, and the “new” way I was required to think about art. It took over a year for me to loosen my grip on the person I thought I was as an artist. Eventually I began to let in new ideas and to make things again, things that I felt connected to. I had to push through the worst part, which was creating all of these things that felt empty and isolated to me, in order to get to the other side.

You are at a cocktail party and someone asks you, “What is art therapy?” How do you answer that question?

Ah. To put it simply, I would respond by saying that art therapy is using the creative process as a vehicle for inner growth, emotional release, healing, insight, and developing self-trust. The process can become a gateway for future self-discoveries, providing an entrance to previously blocked inner territory while offering a new language for communicating ones inner world.

In your description of “Becoming Kali,” you sought to “create a 'container' to hold our experiences while moving through an issue of our choice.” What about Kali made her seem like the right container for the issues you were addressing? Have you used that process since “Becoming Kali?”

At the time I created Kali, she seemed like the perfect “container”. I needed something powerful and omnipotent to hold my experience. Kali represented everything that I feared: darkness, destruction, pain, and death. Her fierce portrayal was one that had haunted me since I was a young girl. Having grown up studying eastern spirituality through the practices of Siddha Yoga, I had a longtime relationship with this goddess. The time had come to confront her, it was time to make peace with the fears I had been running from up until that point. On some level I feel as though she saved me. This image became a part of me, standing at eye-level, I was asked to look into the eyes of Kali on a daily basis. As I painted each of her symbols I was continuously reminded of a force stronger than myself. On many levels this piece stands alone from the rest of my work. It was the first conscious, personal experience I had of using art as therapy. After I presented this image, meditated on it for an entire semester, I put it away. It remains away. I have not since personally used the process in such depth.

I see the same combination of materials often come up in your work. What is it about the combination of ink, oil, acrylic, paste, and tissue paper that has been so appealing for you?

Materials are the greatest source of joy for me when working. I am not afraid to combine materials, to experiment with different combinations and see what happens. I love the process of building up layers, creating texture and depth, and these materials seemed to lend themselves to this outcome. I find translucency appealing. I like making something two-dimensional a bit misleading with areas of three-dimensionality. I like to play with materials and when I find something that feels or looks interesting, I will use it again and again, in different ways, until I have exhausted its every use.

Your work references the brain fairly often. What is it about investigating the brain as opposed to say, the heart, the body, or the soul, that kept you coming back to this subject matter?

This is a great question. Much of my earlier work is about exploring the brain, particularly the impact the brain has on our emotional and physical wellbeing. As I mentioned above, the piece “Insides” marked a transition into different territory. The center of the image references a large heart, with organ-like objects swimming around it. Having wrestled with my mental chatter, my inner critic, and all of the unnecessary negative thoughts that weigh me down, there was something freeing about dropping below this to create this piece. I had a very poignant dream over the summer. I was rummaging around my childhood closet where I found a large box, which contained a human brain on one side, and an empty, lifeless face on the other. I picked up the brain and spent what felt like hours wandering around empty buildings and open fields trying to find a place to put the brain. In the end I buried it deep in the ground. I was astounded by this dream. What could it mean? I felt it was a symbol for burying old mental patterns, for letting go of old neural pathways that were no longer serving me. My work has become softer, less rigid, lighter....seemingly from a less fearful place. More from my heart, and less from my head.

To see Lacy's complete portfolio, visit IATA's page on

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Guide to Deities

For years I have been drawing the same images over and over: interconnected human faces. Sometimes they emerge as doodles, sometimes as complex compositions, sometimes as archetypal or godlike forms. I have attempted to understand why these images have been so omnipresent, and at times haunting, in my artwork. Over time, I have applied myth to try and understand them, much like humankind has done since it's existence. The following is an art-based mythology that I have used to enhance my understanding of my own work. To this day, I cannot completely quantify my many deities, phantoms, and harbingers. This exploration, however, has provided me a context in which to better discuss and explore them.

[elder god]

[elder god] is without a name. It is massive in the way you may think of planets as massive, it lumbers/drifts slowly through space. If you could compare its motion to that of a living creature, it would feel most like that of a whale. [elder god] is an incomplete approximation of life. It is unclear what [elder god] would look like if it were whole, though its structure implies a fusion of humanoid and insect. [elder god] is power without purpose. It is unclear whether or not [elder god] has any consciousness at all. When [elder god] comes into contact with a sentient being, the being may be ignored or simply blinked out of existence seemingly at random. [elder god] is surrounded by two-dimensional fragments of prismatic light. They bob and spin like fish food flakes sprinkled into a bowl of water.

One: Insecurity

One is the first truly sentient deity. She is shimmering, bronze, and strikingly beautiful. Being truly alone, she has no idea how to respond to yet-to-exist deities and has little sense of self. Therefore, she simultaneously seeks and hides from attention. While she has a powerful desire for connection, fear and apprehension prevents her from reaching out. As she adapted to her existence, silken vaporous stands of hair began to form around her. Luminous: they attract the attention of other beings. Although they draw others in, they also shield and obscure her. However beautiful she may appear, she is totally unattainable. Having never interacted with any other form of life for eons, her useless eyes have long since shut. Gazing upon her, despite the fact that her eyes are closed, it seems as though she is looking directly at you. She is the inept mother and idealized lover all in one desperate form.

Two: Conflict/Duality

Two attempted to solve the problems endured by One by willing itself a partner. Unfortunately, this duality led to a new set of problems. Eternally connected, the two wills find themselves in constant conflict. The lack of resolution between the opposing desires has created an eternal state of inertia. Two finds itself so at odds with itself that it can hardly function despite its immense power.

Three: Instability

Three attempted to solve the problems endured by Two. The central form created two mates to share its power. With three wills, there could always be a majority so that true decisions could be possible. Unfortunately, the wills share too much. The central form shares an eye with each mate. It is dependent on them to see and interact, yet they depend on him for a sense of foundation and stability. Should either side of Three decide to make a decision, it brings the deity out of balance entirely. Three suffers from the same impotent inertia as One and Two.

Four: The Mundane

In an attempt to eradicate the problems encountered by Three, Four rejected variation. A single form and vision is shared by all aspects of Four. Although Four existed before all biological life forms, the collapsed time line of a god allowed Four to borrow from future events in biology (cell division) to achieve its desire for uniformity. Essentially, the first aspect of Four cloned an exact copy of itself by splitting its essence in two. Additional splits occurred in order to arrive at the final form of Four. The individual aspects hold together through physical joins of will. As Four's desire to maintain uniformity and stability while avoiding conflict, its resources are perpetually consumed and it does not extent its influence beyond itself. Four is the physical manifestation of the status quo. Although it experiences no internal conflict, it is unable and unwilling to connect with anything beyond itself resulting in the same impotence of the other deities.

Five: Creativity

Five was disgusted by the banality of Four. Rather than rejecting variation, Five rejects cohesion. All aspects of Five spread apart forming a five-pointed star (a symbol of creativity). Each aspect, facing a different direction comprehends 1/5th of all possible information. Each aspect is enamored with its own view, believing that it has the answers to all questions. Should the aspects combine or communicate with one another, they would encompass all wisdom in the universe. Philosophers trapped in a dreamy opium haze, they can do nothing with their individual knowledge and lack the desire to collaborate with others. Five is just as impotent as all deities that came before it.

Six: The Chaos Wheel

Six bears resentment and disdain for the passive masturbatory wisdom of Five. Six takes the form of a wheel with each aspect sharing one bond. The aspects of Six are spiteful and self-important, each believing itself to be the dominant component of the whole. The motivation for dominance causes each aspect to fight for the highest point in the circle. As each aspect is equivalent to the others in power, the wheel perpetually spins. Six is chaos and destruction, consuming itself along with any being in its path. Its internal conflict precludes it from achieving any influence beyond its own internal struggle.

Seven: Power

In an attempt to solve the problems faced by all other deities, Seven arranges itself in vertical linear segment. All aspects, comprising both male and female, spin around the segment and constantly rearrange themselves in different hierarchies. Imagine the column as a drill bit in constant motion. The perpetual motion allows each aspect to witness all possible information from all possible viewpoints. This information is shared with itself, making it the wisest of all deities. Seven appears to be a column of fire as its movement is too fast to comprehend with mortal eyes. The image of seven distinct aspects is the purely theoretical, a static snapshot frozen in time. Seven is the light bringer and the destroyer. The functional cohesion of Seven elevates it to the status of a true god and it is therefore incomprehensible to all other forms of life. This prevents Seven from having any true direct influence over mortals outside of conjecture and the limited understanding of imperfect beings. Like a “bug zapper” at a family bar-b-q, beings are drawn close to it, but will be completely destroyed by contact. Therefore, Seven's status as a true god removes it from mortal understanding just as the other deities.

Eight and all other numbers above Seven: Messengers

Any combination of faces beyond the magical arrangement of One through Seven are mutations. They are cut off from the power wielded by the dominant deities. Ironically, the lack of divine power allows them to interact with their environment more effectively. The Mutations are Hermes to Zeus; Gabriel to the Judea-Christian God; Mohammad to Allah; Jesus to the Christian God. They are the electrical signals between the synapses that are the dominant deities. As such, they relay messages from the deities to mortals or other beings. Although the deities are incapable to direct communication with one another, it is the job of the Mutations to understand their relationships. They lack the symmetry and beauty of the deities. The Mutations are most connected to One: the Mother/Lover and revere her above all others. Anything close to a true understanding of the deities comes from the Mutations. They are the divine hand of the gospel and the gaps between Insecurity, Conflict, Instability, Uniformity, Creativity, Chaos, and Power. They embody suffering, joy, love, adaptability, and the synthesis of wisdom.