Multimodal Expressive Arts Therapy Offered in Clients’ Homes and Alternative Spaces

Most of my clients cannot drive. Many live in economically oppressed areas and sometimes the cost of round trip public transportation is prohibitive, especially when several members of a family would need to travel to visit me in my office.  My clients speak only Spanish and finding a bilingual therapist is a huge challenge where I live in Atlanta. For these reasons, I visit clients in their homes and communities for therapy.

Planning activities, deciding which Expressive Arts materials I will bring with me, and making use of what is available in the home has presented some creative and practical challenges, but also some great opportunities to work a little bit less traditionally.

One client L, decided to pursue her dream of opening a small store a block from her apartment. Because of her busy schedule, we met in her store at a time customers generally did not come in, but where she would be available to greet a prospective client if one might stop by. Her store was a sacred space for her – she had all of her art and creative materials there. It was a peaceful place and a place where she felt safe.

In her store, we told stories of her experiences and I told stories of women who encountered challenges similar to hers, reading from narratives and translating them into Spanish.  We reflected on the stories. She drew with oil sticks or wrote in her art journal. She also kept books with images of artists’ work in her store to reflect on for inspiration.

L liked to create assemblages in the form of “gift baskets”. The basket is an example of a symbol of a feminine container, often related to women in myths. Using the basket as a container,  she could imagine the gift objects that someone might like, and place them in the baskets and decorate them. For example, she placed a teapot with a rose in a basket with pink ribbons and round pink candies. The rose is L’s favorite symbol and it is often in her drawings. The rose is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, or for L, La Virgin de Guadalupe.  The teapot is a symbol of the hearth and home. Candy is a symbol of children and playfulness.  She made this as a gift for a mother.

Basket for Mothers
Basket for Mothers

L created another assemblage basket thinking of me. It contained fashionable sunglasses and a rhinestone bracelet and earrings.  Perhaps  she was wishing me some luxury and the opportunity to be glamorous. Sunglasses could be related to a relaxed, “laid back” attitude, or alternately that the wearer is not seeing “the full picture”. The silver, gold, and “diamonds” in the items and packaging  convey meaning. Gold is a symbol of purity and incorruptibility and is related to sun and spirit.  Silver is related to immortality, to the moon, water, and feminine energies. Diamonds are considered to be indestructible. Perhaps she is communicating to me something about her transference to me.

L's basket created for me
L’s basket created for me

Creating the baskets and then reflecting in words offered the opportunity for L. to work with assemblage – selecting and bringing together symbolic objects and decorative materials by a process that resembles Freud’s method, the  Free Association process.  She sometimes followed the basket creation with drawing. Importantly, her creative and expressive work is sold, offering her the opportunity to provide for herself and her sons.


El Colectivo Macondo: Multimodal Expressive Art, Popular Culture, and Community in Mexico City

Marco and Wendy have been friends and collaborators in artmaking for many years. They have exhibited work together and worked together in the collective, Latin American Artists’ Circle, based in Atlanta. Their families are good friends. Both Wendy and Marco have been wanting to work, create, teach, and spend more creative time in Mexico.  With these intentions in mind, they formed El Colectivo Macondo. Their goal is to invite persons interested in the Multimodal Expressive Arts, Mexican Popular Art, Fine Art , and Mexican culture to join together in community to study and learn together in Mexico. Their first workshop will be held in Mexico City in July and August of 2015.


Image from invitation for Wendy and Marco's exhibition, "La Realidad y el Deseo" ("Reality and Desire") at Georgia State University in Atlanta
Image from invitation for Wendy and Marco’s exhibition, “La Realidad y el Deseo” (“Reality and Desire”) at Georgia State University in Atlanta


Marco y Wendy han sido amigos y colaboradores por mucho tiempo en la creación del arte. Los dos han exhibido y trabajado juntos en el colectivo, “Latin American Artist’ Circle”, con base en Atlanta. En nuestras familias se ha establecido una buena amistad, Wendy y Marco han tenido la idea de trabajar, crear, enseñar y pasar más tiempo desarrollando proyectos creativos en México. Con esas intenciones en mente, ellos formaron el Colectivo Macondo. El objetivo es invitar a las personas interesadas en las Artes Expresivas, Arte Popular Mexicano y cultura Mexicana a unirse a la comunidad de estudio y aprendizaje en México. El primer Taller será en la ciudad de México en julio y Agosto del 2015.

El Colectivo Macondo, who we are:

Our Colectivo Macondo is inspired by the imagined town of the same name from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Macondo symbolizes the entirety of Latin America, especially focusing on its cultural richness. Our objective is to introduce the students to the popular art of the different cultures of Latin America: the indigenous, the European, and the African. We will study the manifestations of culture in the arts, creative processes and techniques, ceremonies and rites, churches, markets, archaeological ruins, and culinary traditions all of which are fundamental aspects of their cultures. The name of our collective, Macondo refers to its work and purpose: the diffusion (via the arts) of the cultural richness of Latin America.

El nombre de nuestro Colectivo Macondo, tiene como inspiracion  el pueblo imaginario de la novela de Cien anos de Soledad del escritor Gabriel Gacia Marquez. Macondo  simboliza la unidad latinoamericana, se centra esencialmente en su riqueza cultural, nuesto objetivo es la intoduccion de los estudiantes al arte popular de las diferentes culturas en Latinoamerica, las indigenas, europeas y africanas . El curso estudiara  sus  manifestaciones culturales en las artes, los procesos creativos y tecnicas, , ritos y ceremonias, sus iglesias, mercados, piramides y tradiciones culinarias, estas   tradiciones  son parte  fundamental de su cultura. El nombre de nuestro colectivo Macondo  tiene como objetivo y proposito la difusion (via las artes) de la riqueza cultural en Latinoamerica.


Coming soon, the announcement of our Multimodal Expressive Arts Workshop in Mexico City Summer 2015

En el proximo blog, habra information de nuestro taller de las Artes Expresivas en la ciudad de Mexico en el verano de 2015

El Coronel pintura por Marco Razo El Coronel, pintura por Marco Razo
El Coronel pintura por Marco Razo
El Coronel, pintura por Marco Razo

Welcome to My Space

New Year’s day feels like a good time to begin this work. As I chose the name, I thought about the incredible experiences I have had making my work, sharing with others, learning, and teaching. I will begin with some of the places I went and programs I participated in during 2014.

An experience that was powerful and transformational for me was the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA) regional conference in Antigua, Guatemala in February-March of last year. I was searching for ways to learn more about Multimodal Expressive Arts Practices and as Carl Jung might interpret the way I found the conference, by synchronicity I found the conference announcement on the IEATA webpage.

With just enough frequent flier miles in my bank, I registered for the conference and the pre-conference workshop. The pre-conference workshop that was composed of visits to locations outside of Antigua that were relevant and important to Expressive Arts practices. We first went to the ruins where a shaman from the Mayan community introduced us to rituals for blessing seeds before the planting season and also a ritual for cleansing. He taught us about the symbolism of the colors in the ritual and about ideas about relationships with other human beings, nature and Divinity. He offered a cleansing to all persons in the group who were experiencing illness or stress. The smoke from lighted tobacco cigars was the element of purification. Following the cleansing, the cigars were placed on the fire where they were allowed to continue burning, consuming negative energies.

Preparing for the Ritual
Preparing for the Ritual

Guatemala Ritual 3A

Cleansing and Purification
Cleansing and Purification
Ritual Fire
Ritual Fire


After the work with the shaman, we walked to the site of the adjacent ruins. Our guide explained to us the strategic significance of the placement of the structures as the indigenous people resisted the Spanish as well as architectural aspects that are related to metaphysics and ritual. For example, the narrow steps used to climb the structures were not designed to accommodate the small feet of the peoples of the region. Rather they assured that those who ascended would move sideways in an act of reverence to the gods. He introduced us to the Mayan calendar

and names of the days and the associated energies.  At the site of the ball court, we learned about how the game was played with a heavy rubber ball and that the games lasted for days sometimes ending in death for participants.  We learned that the course and movement of the game had metaphysical significance.

The experiences of the day remind me of the importance of ritual, and how the incorporation of ritual into Expressive Arts psychotherapy practices creates culturally relevant, meaningful therapeutic interventions.