In Honor of Xochipilli – God of Flowers, Love, Dance, Painting, Feasting, and Creativity:
June 20-July 1, 2016 in Guanajuato, Mexico
Day 1: Arrival in the City of Leon via Bajio Airport in Guanajuato State. Transfer to hotel. We will spend our first day exploring Leon and especially the creative, fanciful, and imaginative artisanal shoes and boots that are made there for the purpose of adorning the foot, one of the symbols that will inform our work creative, Expressive, and psychical work in Mexico. The foot connects us to the earth – Divine Mother Earth, and grounds us in relation to each other and the other life forms of the planet. The feet “stand for” who we are, and how we represent ourselves to others including our intentions and what is most important to us in life. Feet can be a sign of humility (as Christ washed the feet of the disciples and allowed a woman identified as prostitute to wash his own) and are also related to the erotic and a sexual symbol, the shoe – as we will see in the sculptural forms of the “tacones” (high heel) shoes and “Chihuahuense” boots offered in the streets of Leon. We will have time to visit shops selling footwear, clothing ,and jackets and if we wish place special orders that speak to “true” identities and authentic Selves to be picked up before our departure on our last day. Welcome dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 2: Breakfast in hotel. Continued exploration of Leon neighborhoods. Afternoon departure for Mineral de Pozos. Check into our Pozos hotel. Dinner in hotel or nearby location.
The region of Mineral de Pozos was first inhabited by indigenous groups including the Chichimecas, Huachichiles, Copuces, Guaxabanes, and Pames. The region was first colonized by Jesuit priests whose goal was to evangelize and Christianize the indigenous people. Once the Spanish realized the rich deposits of silver, mining was the primary activity in Pozos. When mining ceased, Mineral de Pozos became a “ghost town”. Recently it has become occupied and inhabited again. It is a town of spectacular ruins and beautiful light (if you are a photographer or a painter). Many current residents are artists and artisans. You can get a glimpse of Mineral de Pozos in the film made there, “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself” featuring actor Antonio Banderas.
Day 3: We will experience the ritual of Temazcal led by a practitioner/specialist from the Chichimeca culture who lives in the community. Temazcal is an ancient ritual, rooted in the traditions of the original habitants of Mesoamerica. Temazcal is a ritual of cleansing and purification, and is also offered to promote healing. In the afternoon, we will learn from our teacher about traditional indigenous musical instruments and create some of our own. Practicing rhythms we will “get into our bodies”. In reflection on the experience, we will practice journaling using words and images, and movement. Dinner together with artists from the community. Overnight in Pozos Hotel (center of town).
Day 4 We will spend the morning and afternoon in the town of Mineral de Pozos. We will reflect on the beauty of the architectural ruins and the extraordinary quality of the light through photography, drawing and painting, movement, and writing. We will visit the studios of artists and craftspersons who make traditional indigenous musical instruments such as the ocarina, and will receive inspiration for out work with clay in Guanajuato. We will learn and participate in traditional indigenous dance. We will work multimodally together with other mediums and processes in the format of the Expressive Arts. Transfer to our San Miguel de Allende hotel.
Day 5: We will practice Embodied Imagination Dreamwork in the morning. In the afternoon, our dreamwork will inspire us as we create using traditional Popular Art Practices and materials making Nichos. Dinner in San Miguel and Transfer to our San Miguel de Allende Hotel.
Day 6: Transfer to Guanajuato. We will explore the city of Guanajuato, originally inhabited by the Chichimeca, Jonaz, Otomi, Nahuatl, Purepecha and other indigenous peoples. In the 1500’s, Spanish colonists began mining silver establishing mines and importing African people as slaves as a source of free labor. In contemporary times, Guanajuato is an art rich city. The annual Festival Cervantino presents theatrical works and dance. On weekend evenings, University Students parade through the streets playing Medieval instruments and singing. We will visit Diego Rivera’s childhood home, now a museum, art galleries, and also “El Museo de las Momias” (the mummy museum), an example of the Mexican culture’s fascination with death and the other world. We will begin the process of preparing to make our mole – shopping in the market for ingredients: chiles, chocolate,and nuts.
Day 7: The oven has been likened to the womb with respect to its transformative powers. In the oven, raw material (clay, dough, glass, metal) is changed to become something new. Taught by a traditional Mexican artisan we will will learn bread making. We will mix dry and wet ingredients to prepare the dough, kneading it into our bodies as we focus on our hopes and intentions as the dough moves through our hands. We will sculpt it as an Expressive material, creating the forms that arise from inspiration within ourselves. As it rises we will realize the power of our intentions to create something that grows and becomes greater in the process of making. And as we wait, we will practice movement, voice work, improvisation and storytelling. We will wait as it is transformed in the womb-oven, and then we will share what we have made and baked with each other. We will also save a loaf in order to participate in a ritual designed to call forth our dreams- also called a “dream incubation’ among depth psychology dreamwork practitioners.
Dreaming Bread: To make Dreaming Bread, make one round loaf. As we knead the dough we will concentrate of the kind of dreams we want to have. When baked, we will cut the bread into three pieces and take a bite out of each piece. The remaining pieces are put under the pillow at night as long as we do not speak between eating the bread and sleeping we will have the kinds of dreams we hope to have.
Day 8: Making Mole and Ocarinas: We will tell stories and explore the archetypal aspects of totem animals, (the animals with whom we have a special relationship) and discern that which one resonates with us and with whom we have an affinityand a special felt relationship. Led by a traditional practitioner, we will work with clay, creating a personal ocarina, a traditional indigenous wind instrument. We will fire it in a womb-oven. We will mix and then cook our mole ingredients alchemically, stirring Expressively as the elements are transformed into a delicious creation. For a preview of the process of alchemical cooking and emotional expression, view the film Like Water for Chocolate, based on Laura Esquivel’s book. Dinner together as a group.
Day 9: We will finish decorating our Ocarinas and will also participate in Traditional Mexican Popular Art Mask Making and other practices. We will produce a “Dinner Theater” as a group as we create a play via improvisation as we assume the personas of the characters represented by our masks.
Day 10: Transfer to the town of Cortazar, Guanajuato for a day of Multimodal Expressive Arts and Popular Arts Activities with members of the Cortazar community. Transfer to Leon Hotel.
Day 11: Final day in Leon for shopping, picking up special orders. Farewell Dinner.
Day 12: Transfer to Airport for Departure.
This summer, El Colectivo Macondo Expressive Arts Institute offered its first Multimodal Expressive Arts Workshop in Mexico City. We were a group of 13 students and teachers with roots in Mexico, El Salvador, and many regions of the United States. Our interest areas included Drama Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, Musical Improv, Traditional Popular Arts, and Community and Liberation Psychology.
Our teacher Jesus Pastor taught us about traditional Mexican Popular Art practices that have an Expressive component. For example, Papel Picado, the Mexican Popular Art Practice by which complex designs are cut into tissue paper was originally a Shamanic meditative practice through which the practitioner cut designs into traditional Amate (bark) paper while praying to help a family with a problem and bring everything into balance. We learned that we may offer this practice to our clients, giving them the opportunity to cut a design into paper with an intention and a meditative attitude and also to experience the surprise as the paper is unfolded.
We communicated with each other in both English and Spanish during our time together.
We visited the ritual spaces of Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s home/studio, the sacred ruins of Teotihuacan, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the recreated tombs in the Museum of Anthropology. These experiences provided inspiration for our Expressive work with varied materials and processes.
I feel that we have formed lasting friendships and we look forward to our next workshop in Mexico June 20-30 of 2016 in Guanajuato State. Visit El Colectivo Macondo’s website for more information.
Here we are, doing the “Machine” improv exercise:
Please see our website: www.elcolectivo.diasporacitizen.com for information on our projects and our new bilingual (English and Spanish) Multimodal Expressive Arts Certificate program.
Wendy Phillips, Ph.D., LMFT, REACE,
IEATA Registered Expressive Arts Consultant Educator
Nahui Olin (Carmen Mondragon): Artist and Muse
I first became interested in Nahui Olin about seven years ago when I encountered her work in an announcement of an exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. The group show was composed of works by Frida Kahlo and her contemporaries who were women making art in Mexico City in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Like Kahlo, Olin used her art to communicate her lived experiences. She painted self portraits and also documented her life with her family and in her community as she experienced it. Nahui was also a woman whose behaviors may be considered to be exceptional or unusual, or even to evidence symptoms of mental illness. As an adult woman living in Mexico City at that time, eccentricities may have also conformed to a non-conformist bohemian culture where women pushed boundaries related to gender roles, gender identity, and sexual orientation and expressed nascent feminist inclinations.
Alternately, her childhood history of nudist practices (enjoying nude horseback riding as a child) and later working as a nude model for fine art photographers, her passion for the sensual and for highly emotional expressions, might have lead a “modern” clinician to offer a diagnosis: perhaps histrionic personality disorder or bipolar disorder. Her mastery of the use of metaphor and the form of the poem as a young child and her rapid acquisition of the French language when her family lived there during her primary school years would qualify her as intellectually gifted.
For Olin, drawing, painting, and poetry offered an opportunity for self expression. She published an autobiography including drawn self portraits when she was only ten years old. As we consider her art and how she used it to depict and express the experiences of her life, a question of “disorder or not” is not important.
That she used words in poems, photographic compositions of her body made before the camera lens, and drawn and painted representations to express her lived experiences is what is significant.
Although she spent the last years of her life alone and only in the company of her pet cats, she taught art each day in a neighborhood children’s school.
Most of Olin’s artwork is owned by private collectors. In my research, I have found that one piece is held by the Frida Kahlo Museum, and one by the Diego Rivera Museum. I hope that we will be able to view examples of Olin’s work during our visits to these museums during our Workshop in Mexico City.
Looking forward to our Multimodal Expressive Arts in Mexico City Workshop! If you have not already joined us, there is still space to Register. All of the information is at our website and blog:
Here, I share links about Olin’s work and her life. Below is an image of her biography researched and written by Adriana Malvido. If you read Spanish, I highly recommend it. Even if not, there are many beautiful historical photographs and images of Olin’s artwork. Till Mexico City…..Wendy and Marco
P.S. Please share with friends and colleagues! We still have spaces available if someone would like to join us.
In 1998, when I taught at Howard Luke Academy in Fairbanks, Alaska (named after Athabascan Elder Howard Luke), I developed a Native American Literature class, the first in the Fairbanks School District. I felt a need to offer a class in which the students could see themselves reflected in what they read. One of the books I used was N. Scott Momaday’s In the Presence of the Sun (1991). Momaday is proud of his Kiowa Plains Indian culture. In one section of the book he writes a series of sixteen shield stories. He explains the importance of shields to Plains Indian cultures. He speaks of the shield as protection, of course, but he also writes that a shield is “medicine” (p. 73).
The shield bears a remarkable relationship to the individual to whom it belongs. Indeed the relationship is so immediate, so intimate as to be virtually impossible to define. In a real sense, the Plains warrior is his shield. It is his personal flag, the realization of his vision and his name, the object of his holiest quest, the tangible expression of his deepest being. In bearing his shield he says, “My shield stands for me, andI stand for my shield. I am, and I am my shield!” (p. 74)
In the book, Momaday has written sixteen shield stories. He has specific directions for how they should be shared. He reminds his readers that the sixteen stories are four fours, and four is a sacred number (p. 75).
And the shields are mediations that make a round of life. The shield stories are meant to be told aloud, either to oneself or to another or to others, on eeach day for sixteen consecutive days . . . The stories ought to be told in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is close to the horizon, and always in the presence of the sun. (p. 75)
So for sixteen days in March of 1998 (late March and April and sometimes May are breakup time in Fairbanks; lots of sun but still cold with hints of spring), we went outside, stood in a circle, and read one of Momaday’s shield stories each day. We talked about the power of each of the stories, and each student discussed their favorite one. It was then that they were ready to create their own shields and their shield stories.
Lacking buffalo hide, I purchased a bunch of muslin and some embroidery hoops. The students had to cut their own muslin to fit the size of the hoop they chose (the hoops were in two different sizes; in Fairbanks back in 1998, before all the big box stores arrived, I had to take what I could get in local stores; online shopping wasn’t very prolific). After cutting their muslin and fitting it onto the hoops, they created their design on paper. Then they transferred their designs onto the muslin with pencil. The next step was painting the design. I allowed about two weeks for this project; the painting was time consuming and I did not want to rush the process. After the shields were completed, each student named his/her shield and wrote a story about it, in the same vein as Momaday’s stories.
The students shared their stories and shields with each other, and then we hung them in the hallway. I do not remember how I managed to end up with the bulk of the shields, but I am grateful the students gave them to me. Over sixteen years later, they have even more resonance to me than they did back then. I feel blessed to have them, and blessed that I received permission to share some of them here.
I do not have all of the stories, and again, I don’t know why. I am grateful for the ones I have. What I am left with is how powerful the shields and stories are and how the project resonated with the students. I continue to do this kind of work in my classes—including my college classes—and also with the teens I work with in juvenile detention. I have found that even the toughest adolescents will engage in deep inner work if it is presented in a way that touches the profoundly deep, soft part inside themselves—some might call it the soul. I personally believe that everyone wants to be healed. Some just need more help than others in accessing their self-healing abilities. I also believe that even a small project over the short term can plant a seed and make a difference. It can be “medicine.”
The Double Life Shield by John
Once long ago were the star gods, Libra and Scorpio. They were forbidden to be together because Libra was an air god and Scorpio was a water goddess. So each time they saw each other, it was in secrecy.
The star gods’ children were the guardians over the human children born at the same time. The guardians were to keep the humans balanced in their way of earth, air, fire, and water.
With Libra and Scorpio’s secret meetings they conceived a child. Scorpio was frightened at the thought of the other gods finding out. They did all they could
to keep the others from finding out. Then the guardian child was born. The child was born with the markings of both Libra and Scorpio, so the human child that was born with this guardian always had the powers of Libra and the powers of Scorpio fighting for control.
This human child grew up living a double life. That was the only way the guardian could keep the human child balanced.
Julie’s Shield (It is hard to see in the photo, but the buffalo’s eyes are pieces of turquoise.)
Kirstin’s Shield (also below)
Beth Horikowa is a student in the Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Track of the MA in Psychology and Counseling Program at Goddard College. She participates in the Expressive Arts Therapy Emphasis.
In the Expressive Arts Therapy Emphasis at Goddard College where I teach, students use Expressive Arts practices as a way to reflect on and to constellate theoretical materials that have been read or experienced in other ways. After reading and writing academically, a creative piece often emerges that embodies the experience of a particular topic related to study in our Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program.
Here, student Phil Bowman reflects on his experience studying Psychopathology. He created photographs that express his response to the theoretical writings he about the “diagnoses” that are related to the considerations of mental illness per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM ) and also from the perspective of Buddhist Psychology. Here is Phil’s statement and his artwork:
“This series of sixteen photographs is the expressive arts component for my final project for PSY/CMH 700, Psychopathology. They represent a very personal interpretation of very specific psychological disorders as described in the DSM. I attempted to match the internal feelings that were conjured by the DSM descriptions of each disorder to the feelings I felt when I spent time taking in each photograph.
All of the photos in this submission are created by moving a camera using various slow shutter speeds. My intent was to use the world as a palette and to imitate brushstrokes with motion. With this technique I attempt to see the unseen–the light that is registering with our eyes as we move our head, but which our brain is constantly interpreting as solid object. Perhaps other living beings see the world more like this?
None of these shots have been “Photoshopped” or cropped apart for some sharpening and light balancing; what you see is what the camera sensor actually “sees”. With experience, I learned how to move the camera to create specific brush strokes with natural and man-made objects. By controlling focal length, focus, shutter speed, rate of motion, and range of motion I can create predictable effects. With practice, I think that a technique can be developed for using the camera much as a painter uses a paintbrush for creating beautiful, unworldly abstracts.”
Algunas de mis más profundas experiencias de aprendizaje se dieron durante mis viajes enriqueciéndose con las experiencias de otras culturas. Algunas de esas experiencias se dieron viajando sola en autobús, en Ghana – fotografiando y entendiendo de donde mis antepasados vinieron; celebrando Semana Santa con mis amigos en un pueblito al oeste de México, visitando Oaxaca, y fabricando papel con un colectivo San Augistin Etla en las afueras de la ciudad de México, comprando papel para hacer impresiones fotográficas en el cuarto obscuro, y participando en un seminario de fotografía dirigido por Mary Ellen Mark y Graciela Iturbide en Oaxaca.
Aquí mostraremos un ejemplo del programa:
Sábado 25 de Julio- Desayuno en el hotel o en el barrio. Transportación en el metro (Tren metropolitano de la ciudad de México) al taller de trabajo en la comunidad de Tlalpan.
Multimodal Artes Expresivas y Practicas y Procesos Tradicionales Mexicanos
Bienvenida y Orientation
Ejercicios de Calentamiento e Improvisación
Introducción a la Teoría “Rogerian Informed Multimodal” de las Artes Expresivas
Introducción y exploración del papel picado
Movimiento y Música
Reflexión final escrita y hablada
Domingo, 26 de Julio
Un dia con Frida y Diego
Visita y misa en la Catedral- Experiencia de la riqueza del ritual que profundamente influencio el trabajo de Frida Kahlo y en su forma de vida. Nosotros tendremos que prestar atención detallada a las ofrendas y ex-votos que representan las formas tradicionales mexicanas en las Artes Expresivas
- Diego Rivera- Presenciaremos directamente el hacer artístico en los murales de Diego Rivera. Se discutirá la creación del mural, su proceso creativo y los materiales que lo componen, además de las posibilidades de adaptación en nuestro trabajo, con nuestros clientes, y en nuestras comunidades. También se tomara en cuenta las ideas y el contexto histórico que influencio el trabajo de Rivera, en la creación de sus símbolos.
Casa Azul- El Museo de Frida Kahlo-Visita a la casa de Frida donde ella vivió y a su estudio donde desarrollo su trabajo artístico. Durante la visita a la casa de Frida entenderemos como su modo de vida se basó en su totalidad en la expresión artística. También tendremos la experiencia de ver su obra pictórica además del trabajo de otros artistas. Nos detendremos a reflexionar en el jardín que ella creo junto con Rivera el cual contiene esculturas y ejemplos del arte popular mexicano
Museo Nacional de las Acuarelas-En el museo vamos a explorar la diversidad de técnicas que existen en la pintura de la acuarela, y como se han usado en el hacer artístico y expresivo. Disertaremos sobre las posibilidades de aplicación de estas técnicas en nuestro trabajo expresivo con los clientes, también nos prepararemos para su futura exploración dentro de nuestros Talleres.
La tarde en Coyoacán- Los Domingos en Coyoacán son muy especiales, la gente sale a disfrutar de las plazas públicas, a caminar, a gozar de la música y del teatro al aire libre, también salen a probar la comida tradicional, como los churros, panes y dulces. Es un día perfecto para quehacer fotográfico. Cena en Coyoacán
Jueves, 30 de Julio
Un día en honor a Quetzalcóatl el dios Azteca de los comerciantes, de las artes, artesanías y del conocimiento
Todo el día en La ciudad sagrada de Teotihuacán visita guiada.
Viernes, 31 de Julio
Día de Rituales influencias de las tradiciones mexicanas y del arte popular.
Reflexiones de las experiencias de Teotihuacán( escritas y habladas)
Milagros Hoja de Metal Proceso de Diseño y creación de trabajos expresivos en metal
Reflexiones y Expresiones en movimiento
Les presentaremos imágenes de dos de mis libros favoritos de Frida Kahlo del autor Salomón Grimberg quien hace una interpretación psicoanalítica del trabajo de Frida. Además de un trabajo artístico elaborado por un artista anónimo quien usa la técnica en metal que aprenderemos en nuestro taller. También incluye información de acceso por internet a la película “Frida, naturaleza viva” de Paul Le Duc. En esta película, Frida evoca las series de viñetas que configuran las memorias de los diferentes momentos de su vida.
Some of my most profound learning experiences have occurred in conjunction with travel, embedded in the experience of another culture. Among those experiences are travelling solo by bus through Ghana making photos and trying to understand the history of slavery and where my ancestors came from; experiencing Semana Santa (Holy Week ) with friends in a tiny town in western Mexico, visiting a Oaxaca, Mexico and a papermaking collective in San Augustin Etla on the outskirts of the city and buying paper to make silver gelatin prints in the darkroom, and a photography seminar led by Mary Ellen Mark and Graciela Iturbide in the same city.
With those experiences in mind, my colleagues Marco Razo, Jesus Pastor, and Morgan Phillips-Spotts have planned an experiential Multimodal Expressive Arts workshop in Mexico City July 24-August 3, 2015. Here is a sample of the program:
Saturday July 25 – Breakfast at hotel or in neighborhood. Transfer to taller (workshop) in Tlalpan community (metro).
Multimodal Expressive Arts and Traditional Mexican Processes and Practices
Welcome and Orientation
Warm up Improvisation Exercises
Introduction to Rogerian Informed Multimodal Expressive Arts Theory
Lunch (On your own with neighborhood suggestions)
Introduction and exploration with papel picado
Introduction to Mexican Muralists and public expressions. Exploration of collaborative mural making.
Movement and Music
Final reflection written and voiced.
Dinner in Tlalpan or Coyoacan (to be decided)
Sunday, July 26
A Day with Frida and Diego
Breakfast in hotel or Coyoacan neighborhood
Mass and Cathedral Visit – we will experience the richness of ritual that deeply informed Frida Kahlo’s work and way of living. We will pay particular attention to the ofrendas and ex-votos that are traditional Mexican forms of Expressive Arts
Museo Anahuacalli – Diego Rivera Museum – We will experience Rivera’s mural and other work “in real life”. We will discuss mural making including process and materials as we think about how these may be adapted to our work with our clients in our communities. We will also consider the ideas and historical context that informed Rivera’s work and his use of symbols
Lunch in Coyoacan
Casa Azul – The Frida Kahlo Museum – We will visit the home in which Frida lived and her studio where she created her work. Here we will get the sense of how the whole of her way of living was artistic expression. We will view and experience her artworks and the exhibition of the works of other artists as well. We will pause and reflect in the garden she created with Rivera that is adorned with sculptures and examples of popular art.
Museo Nacional de las Acualeras (National Watercolor Museum) – Here we will explore the varied ways watercolor paints have been used in artmaking and expression. We will talk about how these may be used in our Expressive work with clients and will prepare for further exploration with these materials in our Taller.
Afternoon in Coyoacan – Sundays in Coyoacan are very special. People come out to enjoy public spaces, to walk, enjoy music and performance artists, and to sample traditional foods like churros, breads, and candies. It is a great day for making photographs. Dinner in Coyocan.
Frida Kahlo’s art and spirit provided great inspiration for the workshop: the very personal and expressive elements in her art, her work around her experience of her own body, the way her work is informed by Mexican popular art and indigenous and ritual traditions, the materials she used, and the way creativity informed many aspects of the way she lived her life.
Thursday, July 30
A day in honor of Quetzalcoatl,the Aztec god of merchants, and of arts, crafts, and knowledge.
Full Day at the Sacred Aztec site of Teotihuacan with Guided Tour
Lunch at Teotihuacan
Dinner in Coyoacan
Friday, July 31
Day of Rituals Informed by Mexican Traditions and Popular Art
Reflection on the experience of Teotihuacan (Written and Voiced )
Milagros Hoja de Metal creating expressive pieces using a process of making design of punched holes in a sheet of tin
Reflections and Expressions using movement.
Images here are of two of my favorite books about Kahlo by Salomon Grimberg who provides a psychoanalytically based interpretation of her work. Also an art piece made by an unidentified artist who uses the metalwork techniques we will learn in the workshop. I also include links to the film, Frida Still Life directed by Paul Le Duc. In the film, Frida reflects on vignettes that are glimpses of memories of her life.
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.
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.
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.