Paint and Meditation: Audre Lorde's "Uses of Anger"


"Women of Color in America have grown up within a symphony of anger at being silenced at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.

Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change. To those women here who fear the anger of women of Color more than their own unscrutinized racist attitudes, I ask:  Is the anger of women of Color more threatening than the woman-hatred that tinges all aspects of our lives? It is not the anger of other women that will destroy us but our refusals to stand still, to listen to its rhythms, to learn within it, to move beyond the manner of presentation to the substance, to tap that anger as an important source of empowerment. I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness."

-From Audre Lorde's "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism", 1981

Made It: "Respond"

This weekend I'm participating in an online art journaling retreat my friend (and story coach) Elora is leading. The first session on Thursday was an introductory one, where she shared what got her started in art journaling and a few of her journals. It was awesome. I thoroughly enjoy listening to other creatives discuss what they do, their Why, and their process, as well as see the more intimate work not on display for the public. 

While I listened, I got to work on a spread of my own, playing again with layering, blending & ink while adding some collage elements from my bag of paper clippings.

For these two pages I used gesso to give them a bit more tooth and for ink I used a larger Prigma pen-size 1. I love the thicker, darker line it gives. Will be playing around some more with this lovely bad boy for sure. 




Breaking Through The Dam

Back in December, a friend and fellow storysister asked me to take this large print from IKEA she was given as a gift and paint over it. She's a therapist, and the original picture was of a huge bridge. She (rightfully so) didn't think that would be the kind of visual her clients needed to see when they came in to see her. (Plus it was black and white: BORING)

So I said sure! Totally doable. I bought what I needed to resurface it + bigger brushes + tubs of paint. Gesso-ed it. Then the holiday frenzy arrived and the new year saw my creativity being reinvigorated with new projects.

I went to actually start painting this piece for Ritz and couldn't. I kept coming back to it and attempting layers and nothing would come. It was as if I suddenly had nothing to pull from despite being able to art journal, design my book, and throw words down on a page. When it came to painting on a large scale, I was dry. 

So I waited. I worked on those other things. I apologized it was taking so long. I couldn't shake the malaise weighing on me. I was rocked professionally by an unexpected event. Depression set in. I waited for lithium to stop sucking my creativity dry and stupefying my brain, trapping it in a dense fog. It finally did a few weeks ago. But then it kept raining so I couldn't paint outside like I needed to. Our apartment is too small and too full of Life and Kid Stuff to paint a piece this size comfortably. I like to have space and be able to move around, lay on the floor, and contort my torso to see new angles when I work at this size.

But finally, the sun showed itself last week and I got to work on our front stoop; layering colors on top of one another, the warmth of the sun on my back, Ed Sheeran's latest album playing from my phone. To be honest I wasn't sure wasn't fully sure of where I was going with any of it, but I kept layering and blending each color with titanium white, palette knife scraping in certain areas to reveal other layers of color underneath. I had been painting for 45 minutes when I looked at the messy middle in front of me on the canvas and suddenly felt a shift. I started focusing on circular motion, blending more colors as I moved around the canvas, grabbing varying colors to accent different sections. Then I looked up and saw that I was finished. I saw fluidity; circular intersecting points  flowing through each other, and others breaking through to continue on their path. 


I nervously sent my friend a picture of it, telling her it wouldn't hurt my feelings if she didn't like it. I wanted her honest thoughts. I had struggled my way through this one and if it was crap I needed to know. She replied, saying that she loved it and that she saw families when looking at it. That surprised me because it was different than what I saw. I looked up at it again as she told me where each family member was and I saw them instantly; two mothers (one pregnant), children, and a dad. When I saw them, I smiled in awe because it made complete sense that she would see families: as a therapist that's what she does, she counsels children and their families. This piece is going to hang in her office so we both find it to be very fitting for a space with that specific purpose.   

I sat down in front of it and shook my head. I fought so damn hard for this one to come out. I'm grateful I didn't give up, because the Muse always knows what she wants to say & how it needs to be said-even when creatively, there's a drought. She still shows up as you wander creativity's landscape encountering only dryness and wilderness; even if it's only to come and walk with you as you try to find your way out. She'll even guide you back to fertile ground if can let go of control and grasp her hand to follow. Any space you yield for her to express, no matter how tiny, will create a path out and unplug the dam blocking your flow.

She knows even, what those who will be experiencing and receiving your work need too. She knows the message that must be heard. She knows what will challenge and provoke introspection, what will evoke emotion. I find that if you can become attuned to her voice and prodding, she will guide you to express what will help connect others to your creation, whether it be words or art. This can happen even if when we start or if we're stuck in the messy middle of a piece and aren't quite sure yet where she is taking us.

I'm relieved I wrestled my way through this and won. I was pretty fearful I wouldn't. I'm also incredibly grateful my trusted me and my artistry with such a task, even if it meant allowing me time and space to find my way back. 

Working on this piece help me let go and let the Muse lead me to the dam blocking my flow and to break through it...and with the breaking through comes the release of all that's been waiting in creativity's queue. 

It feels so good to be out of the dry place. Feels like coming home.