Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mermaids and Art Therapy

Being an Art Therapist means that I need to have many art ideas. On average I see seven clients a day and each client wants and needs something different. Some clients engage with a lot of art making, others none. Consequently, I am always searching and researching art ideas that can be used therapeutically.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon Jane Davenport and Teesha Moore’s online workshop called Mermaid Circus. Find out more about it by going here They are both amazing teachers and artists. I wasn’t sure if I could turn what I was learning into therapy, but I did and with great results. The main concept of the class was to create handmade journals from drawings and collage images to explore the circus and mermaid themes.

I created my own journal in the shape of a mermaid and left it in the studio where several teenagers saw it and then wanted to create their own. I explained that I was making eight different mermaids that expressed different parts or qualities of myself. I illustrated my reflective side, joyful side; I named three mermaids to show my curiosity, desire, to pause, and forward movement. I created one to represent chaos, another for openness.

I was thrilled that several people wanted to do the same project to represent different parts of themselves. Other clients chose to create a single mermaid to which we added a self-portrait and then decorated. The project has been fun, illuminating and insightful for the clients and myself.

 I love using the mermaid form for symbolic reasons. For me it speaks of going into the depths of our unconscious, swimming in silence, and moving through currents. As women many of us have experienced losing our voice, being silenced, disconnecting, dissociating, and being misunderstood. Mermaids symbolize the different ways women have bound by society, lost their ability to move and be seen. Mermaids are mystical beings that are desired and feared. The mermaid started out as a fishtailed Aphrodite and was called “Virgin of the Sea” carrying all the symbolism attributed to Aphrodite.


While working on my images I was reminded of Clarissa Pinkola Estés story, “Sealskin” in Women Who Run With the Wolves. Estés writes that in Jungian psychology, “the ego is often described as a small island of consciousness that floats in a sea of unconsciousness.” The story talks about how women lose and then reclaim their own voice, own values, imagination, clairvoyance, stories and memories. It talks about how we can practice intentional solitude opposed to being dissociated or lost in fogginess.

Working with these mermaids has been a joy for my clients and myself. I am always thrilled when I discover such a rich, deep image to explore as therapeutic art. Thank you Jane and Teesha for the inspirational class.  


Elena said...

Holy cow woman these are awesome! What an amazing concept and how wonderful of you to use them in helping heal. Huge hugs for what you do. :)

A bird in the hand said...

Lovely and uplifting.
So glad to see you here again. I've missed your posts.

Karen Wallace said...

Thanks Elena. Nice to reconnect with you. Hugs Karen

Karen Wallace said...

Thanks for your support Colette. Nice to be back. Hugs Karen

Anonymous said...

These are truly magical.

Your workspace must be so much fun to be in.. Glad to be be back here.

Jane Davenport | Artomologist said...

Thank you for being part of Mermaid Circus and sharing your adventure!

Carole Reid said...

Well hello, Karen! Long time no see but so worth the wait. Love your new header and the new photo of you, looking so relaxed and happy. Great mermaids!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your creative and interesting blog. I see it's been awhile since you have posted, so I hope you are well. I am coming back to do some of your art activities and generally just enjoy the learning process!

Kat Gottfried said...

I love your mermaid journal! I'm also in MC2, but don't recall seeing these on the FB site. Glad I stumbled on them here. Beautiful work.


avrille said...

Hey Karen, this post is fantastic.....i am also intrigued by the symbolism of mermaids... at the start of last year i painted my legs into scales.. and explored my own art therapy ocean.... love the use of body paint in art therapy! and this idea is such a non threatening way of exploring one different aspects of self! i was reminded too of the story of seal skin from that book....i think that story can speak to all of us :) great workkk :)

Unknown said...

I've heard of music and art therapy before. I think it's definitely worthwhile. It can be easier to get out your feelings in color and sound than it can be to talk at times. It's important to do your best to help people however you can.

Nora Moore |


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