Healing Arts Blog – Painting – Surviving Life’s Turmoil

My art is an expression of my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I paint what I feel in the moment and let my feelings guide me. It is through this process that my art becomes a healing tool for me because it allows me to get in touch with emotions and feelings within myself and express them in a vehicle that is unlimited.

Surviving Life's Turmoil

Surviving Life’s Turmoil

This painting is a perfect example of this procedure. It was completed when I was feeling totally overpowered by life – beset on all sides by problems and complications. This sense of being overwhelmed can be debilitating for me. However, despite the chaos at that time I also felt deep inside my true self that I would survive and flourish from the effort. In this painting I represent life’s havoc churning up from the bottom of the canvas and eventually subsiding at the brightly colored top of the canvas that represents my true nature as the Universe intends me to be. I used several techniques to create the layers and overlapping patterns and colors, including dry brush, modeling paste and palette knife. However, the majority of the painting was created using finger painting. I find finger painting to be a very empowering and spontaneous way to express emotion in my work. This piece was the centerpiece of work at our recent art show here in Portland.

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Healing Arts Show in Portland Oregon

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I haven’t posted for a spell due to my energies and spare time going toward coordinating an art show here in Portland, Oregon to focus attention on the subject of recovery and resources to survivors of abuse. You can read about the show on the Q Center blog at this link:

http://www.pdxqcenter.org/male-survivors-healing-arts-artistic-expressions-of-men-healing-from-childhood-sexual-abuse/

Here are a few photos of the show installed.

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SAMSUNGMy heartfelt thanks goes out to all the artists who contributed their work and their resources in helping make this show happen.

SAMSUNGThese brave men have put their own inner selves on display by allowing me to show and share their work. The show is incredibly powerful. It is my hope that more shows like this can occur in cities across the country to reach out to men who are healing and to those in need of help and healing. This show runs at the Aaron Paul Gallery at the Q Center, 4115 N. Mississippi, Portland Oregon until November 3, 2013. You may contact me at my email kurmcg@msn.com with any questions you may have. It is my hope that more shows like this can occur in cities across the country to reach out to men who are healing and to those in need of help and healing.

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Healing Art Blog – Painting – Life Journey

Back in May of this year, I posted a blog entitled “Tattoo Art”. I want to repeat a portion of that blog as a preface to the painting I’ll present today:

“I’ve presented a lot of my personal healing art on this site, which to date I believe has all been my painting. I have also shared other healing art mediums, poetry, writing, t-shirts, etc. to underscore the point that healing art encompasses a huge variety of types and manners.  Aside from being a painter, I also am an avid tattoo fan. I have numerous tattoos, all of which I have designed myself and all of which have significant meaning to me. They all represent various stages in my life evolution and my recovery process. This includes milestones of achievement, reminders of struggles overcome, celebration of what I’ve accomplished in my life journey and people who have been a significant part of it all. To most everyone else my tattoos are basically colorful shapes and forms and I do get a lot of compliments. (So thank you to Jennifer Cook, my lifelong tattoo artist, for her ability to translate my significant body artwork designs into vivid, relevant tattoos – you can check out her work at www.liquidjadetattoos.com).”

One of my more significant tattoos became the subject of an acrylic on canvas painting. I call the painting “Life Journey”. I represent this journey in two ways, a general sense and a detailed depiction. I represent the general sense of the journey in the background of the painting. The graded wash moves from left to right, from black to a brilliant sky blue portraying a life moving out of darkness, secrets and lies towards a life of illumination and truth.

Life Journey

Across this background is a more significant and varied progression of color and shape. In my art I often use the symbol of a yellow circle to represent myself. I see it as the “true” me, the bright divine light that is who I am, a light that I still struggle to recognize within myself. As a child victim, my perpetrators tried to extinguish that light, to cover it up forever beneath a pile of filth, deceit and violation. This colorful tribal tattoo design begins with the small yellow circle that is me, caught in the dark chaos of my childhood, and move to the right through various color and shape changes, representing the ebb and flow of life as well as the challenges and victories of the recovery process. The diamond in the center of the painting is another symbol I often use that to me signifies supportive family and friends, the fact that we cannot survive the recovery journey without help from others. The tattoo design ends with another yellow circle, this time in the clean, refreshing blue background. This is the point of the journey where healing allows us to move away from being victims and survivors, and to enter that stage where we become thrivers.

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Guest Blog – Poetry – “My Place”

I’m quite grateful that this healing blog has been reaching more and more people lately. It is my sincere hope that what we share here helps others in their personal journey of healing and discovery. I am currently putting together a show for a local Portland Oregon gallery in October that will focus on healing arts for male survivors and I have men from all over the country who are contributing art of all types, including poetry and music. I asked one of these survivors, Marc Krueger, to share one of his poems on this site today. Here are Marc’s words:

“I have lived a life that isn’t me for such a long time – pieces of my made up to keep everyone else happy.  With all my therapy, I know there is an “escape” – a freedom to be had.  The cool refreshing water is just outside my reach.  But I know that if I take that step, move away from where I am to become more complete, more whole – there is no going back.  And as painful as my life is – it is what I know.  And I would rather keep the pain I know than take the chance of gaining something that I want even less.  I am the only one that can free me and I won’t.  So I stay.”

My Place Poem

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Healing Arts Blog – Painting – Off on Another Journey

If there is one thing I can attest to, it is that change is definitely inevitable. This can be a positive thing as we grow in our recovery and heal the wounds of the past. It can also be pretty damn frustrating when changes come at you out of the blue. There are times when I would really appreciate it if life could just stay still for a while. But that’s not how life works. I guess it might get rather dull if existence became predictable for any amount of time.

I’ve seen a lot of change in my own life recently, in areas I never would have imagined. I could interpret many of these events in a very negative way if I chose to do so. It often feels like taking a step backwards. Of course, that feeling is a product of thinking that recovery is a destination, when we are all too aware that it is a journey. I had a therapist who once told me that truth is your best friend. He meant that knowing the truth in any situation gives you the power to see the situation clearly and deal with it. So it is with our recovery and healing process. While it is often painful, and we would rather not remember and feel that pain, it is only by working through it that we come to terms with it and find peace.

Today I want to share a painting I did that for me captures a positive mood that comes from acceptance of truth and change. I often think about the maxim that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you choose to do about it. So when life throws you a curve ball and change smacks you in the head, you really only have two choices. You can fight it and make yourself miserable (while ironically not affecting the change), or you can accept it, adapt to it and make the change work for you.

Off on Another Journey

This painting is called “Off On Another Journey”. I painted this to capture the positive mental state of change. When I was hospitalized in June and diagnosed with several mood disorders I was understandably NOT happy about it. I initially felt that with everything that I have been through in my life, especially the childhood sexual and physical abuse, it wasn’t fair for me to have to adjust my life to manage these mood disorders in addition to everything my abuse recovery process has entailed. The undeniable link between the past abuse and these disorders made it even more frustrating for me. But as I said before, truth can be a great ally for us. In the weeks and months following my release from the hospital, as I’ve worked to manage these illnesses, I’ve actually experienced a great deal of peace of mind. When I feel myself being overpowered by depressed thoughts and feelings, I can look at these and realize that it is just a passing feeling, part of the mood disorders. I don’t give the depression the enormous power I used to give it. When I experience a manic episode, I recognize what is going on and don’t allow myself to make any decisions in this condition that will cause problems later on. I’ve learned to recognize triggers from my abuse, and this skill has helped me recognize the triggers of my mood disorders. All in all, my personal excursion makes me a better person, more understanding and more able to empathize with others. So I try my best to take life’s inevitable changes and look at them as yet another facet of my life’s journey.

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Healing Arts Blog – Guest Poetry from DC Snell

I’m very happy and honored to present poetry by Doug Snell, a survivor who contacted me through this website. Here is his submission:

I have found poetry to be very good therapy for me and I appreciate the chance to share it with others. My healing journey started about six years ago when I had my first flashback.  My life had always been plagued by fear and a big part of the healing journey has been becoming aware of that fear and overcoming it, a process that continues.

Fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My flashback occurred after a talk with my wife about needs.  It triggered me because, although unaware of it, I had always felt that my needs didn’t matter.  Now I am beginning to realize that they do and this poem expresses both the shattering and the beginning of restoring those needs.

Needs

 

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Healing Arts Blog – Painting – “Awakening”

Awakening FullI recently completed a new painting, one that I am quite happy with and has been quite well received by others who have viewed it. I call the painting Awakening, and it reflects my experiences attempting to know myself better – my true self. In the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse I experienced a loss of myself – pretty typical for survivors. I’ve spent a lifetime looking to outside influences and ideas trying to discover who I am. I’ve investigated religion, western and eastern philosophies, numerous support groups and other institutions that often claim to have the answers. I’ve taken quite a bit from each of these entities as their teachings and ideas ring true to me. However, overall I still find I am looking outside myself to try to find me. All the while, I keep hearing that the best way to discover my true self is to look inside me. I have to admit, this is a concept that I find very challenging and elusive. This is not a concept that I’ve ever had instilled in me or been allowed to believe, especially as a child and young adult. However, I believe that any movement is progress, and I continue my quest with hope that as I continue to search my understanding will become clearer and more meaningful.  

Awakening1I completed this painting as a statement that it is okay for me at this point to not be done with this journey despite my natural inclination to want all the answers quickly. In this painting, I represent what I feel to be my true self in the large rectangle at top. This rectangle contains a somewhat indefinable background representing my continual struggle to understand myself. The brilliant metallic colors emanating from inside me are the things I do know about myself that feel true and good. It is important for me to be reminded of what good I have found in order to not get overpowered by what I still want to identify.

Awakening2

Below the large rectangle are several small boxes, each in a black and white pattern that differs from box to box. These illustrate ideas and thoughts that come to me as I meditate, search and learn. These are Awakening4impressions about myself that I don’t understand yet, concepts that I still struggle with. I’ve been told that the best thing to do with these concepts is to compartmentalize them, which to me means taking these ideas, accepting their existence but setting them aside for now until such time as Awakening3I can make some sense of them. I can allow them to exist but I can’t risk overwhelming myself by trying to figure them all out right now. Like many elements of myself, these parts of me will reveal themselves when the time is right, when I am able to access them fully, understand, embrace and internalize them as a fraction of the whole of who I am.

As survivors we are often inundated by memories, emotions and feelings that we don’t understand or can’t quite figure out at the time they surface. I have found that allowing these misunderstood portions of ourselves to exist but sit until we are ready for them is the best way to keep a positive focus on the future and on our progress without getting overwhelmed.

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