Processing the overwhelming world

Sometimes ugly thoughts, disappointing feelings, overwhelming emotions get stuck in me. They come in from social media, from conversations with friends and family, from the radio, standing in line at the store, at work, holding space for others, my own mind. I try to let them rollover me, to hold my own space, and to remember who I am. But it doesn’t always happen automatically.

How do I process these feelings? What do I do with them? I felt frozen. I stayed with those feelings for a while and tuned into where they were sitting in my body. My heart felt constricted. My breath was not flowing. My throat was closed. The message I got was. “Express and release”.

I decided to paint but cleaning a space on my studio table would cause more stress which I didn’t need right now. So I went outside and set-up a place to paint on my fence. The action of creating a new painting area felt positive. The sunshine felt good.

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I selected large leftover packing paper and red and black colors to work with. As I stood back to look at the painting area before I began, I thought it looked like an archway and seeing that, I felt curious and hopeful.

The paper was hung like on a clothesline and as I painted  them they moved around, floating up with the breeze and moving with each 30043019542_dc6d9d1562_zbrush stroke. I thought about how life is sometimes – how thoughts and information float and move – it is not always easy to be steady and still in the midst of what’s happening in the world. I liked making the large black strokes – moving my body up and down the length of the paper.

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Next I added the vibrant red with slashing brushstrokes. The way the color stood out from the black was satisfying. I then splattered a mixture of the black and red and it looked like purple flying color. For me, purple is a sacred color and it came about serendipitously.

I noticed my emotions were shifting as I was creating. My throat was no longer clinched, I breathed as I worked, my heart felt open again. I no longer felt heavy and weighted down – as if I had purged what I had been too full of and what I did not want to hold and carry around anymore. I could see it was outside on me now and in the painting.

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I looked at the paper archway and realized I had created a portal to travel through to the other side of where I was and to another place. I took a big breath and felt free.

 

 

 

 

 

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If you are interested in learning more about creating in this way and would like to work with me one-on-one or in a community class please go to my website for more information:

http://www.judykitsunestudio.com/

 

Most women will know what these are

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If you’re a woman and have ever gone in for a gynecological exam you will recognize this medical tool called a speculum. I’ve had these devices for a few years, waiting for the creative inspiration to hit me so I could include them in an art piece. Every time I took them out and showed them to my women friends, every one of them squealed and asked me to put them away. Having a cold stainless steel speculum inserted into one’s vagina is not the most pleasant activity.

Yet we women in first world countries are fortunate to have access to gynecological care. In many 3rd world countries pap smears (collecting cells for cancer testing) do not happen because there are not enough qualified technicians to do them. In the poorest countries, many women have horrible child-birth injuries called  fistulas, often due to being young mothers. Most likely these women do not have  the choice to have birth control either.

The wrapping of the speculum in silk is my way of honoring these medical tools and our ability to get reproductive care.

I am entering this assemblage into the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art upcoming exhibition http://www.4choice2013.com/artist-call.html

The living and the dead join together

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An atmospheric space in-between worlds is glimpsed in this installation. Fragments of sound from crickets, voices of monks and Japanese instruments envelope Japanese lanterns, womanly silhouettes and floating deteriorating kimonos.  Obake Yashiki or Ghost House, is a dwelling place of spirits that continue to haunt us. They cannot find their peaceful resting place due to tragic occurrences during their lifetimes. The exhibition calls attention to women around the world whose lives have been taken due to earthly disasters and violent human interaction. We honor the spirits who are trapped between life and death in hopes they may find peace and resolution.

This was the statement for Obake Yashiki (Ghost House), A multi-media installation by Amar Chaudhary, Priscilla Otani, and Judy Shintani at Arc Gallery in San Francisco.

At our closing we were graced with the awesome Butoh dancers, Hiroko and koichi Tamano, who brought Butoh performance to the United States in the ’70s.  They performed with their student troupe Earth Child. Their amazing interpretation of our installation created a whole new way of experiencing the space. Time stood still as they took command of the gallery and we all watch, mesmerized.

I have to say it was a dream come true for me to see my kimonos dancing with the Butoh performers and to have the kimono flowers and leaves thrown in the air, releasing them from their altars. I had to smile when I saw people picking up the pieces as souvenirs.

A gift, a perfect gift.

Bees have buzzed into my life. They are in my mind, my art, my sunflowers, and now I have a piece of their creation in my studio. Sweet fresh honey is dripping and sticky on my art table.

Women friends have brought the bee in my life. Esther would only have beeswax candles in her house. I could see why – they have a wonderful scent and a beautiful glow. Now I too have these in my studio.

Susan Friedman taught me how to coat paintings and sculpture in beeswax, using the encaustic process. It is one of the most lovely smelling mediums to work with, and so fun to dip, pour and paint with the translucent hot wax.

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This week Linda Hettle introduced me to Skye Taylor – the creator of  the Temple Hive. I attended my first hive opening with these wonderful women. It was an extraordinary experience to be in the presence of the sacred buzzing beings. Skye prepared the smoker with sumac, pine needles, while Linda held a rhythm on a drum with the 6 sided hexagon shape drawn on it. Skye pulled out the top bars to reveal beautiful honeycomb. Five of us surrounded the hive and felt completely safe without protective suits.

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At the end of the hive inspection, Skye gifted me with some honeycomb. The smell of wax and honey made out of pollen, permeates my studio. The light and shadows play with the translucent perfect hexagon structure – a mini bee temple. I have no words to fully describe how much I am enjoying it.

Honoring ancestors through art

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What a beautiful offering we created on Sunday! Nine wonderful women came together to focus on an ancestor of their choice in a workshop I facilitated at JFKU, Berkeley. The class was in conjunction with the “Distillations, Meditations on the Japanese American Experience” exhibition that is at JFKU till September 18.

Everyone came in the classroom in a bit of a whirlwind – the traffic, the heat, time, just navigating life to make it there! Yet by the time the participants finished the workshop, I felt the shift that focus, creativity, and sharing can make.

We started with a tour of the Distillations exhibition, focusing on those pieces that were about ancestors. The work in the gallery is done by four Sansei Japanese American women: Reiko Fujii, Lucien Kubo, Shizue Seigel, and myself, Judy Shintani.

The workshop participants shared a bit about their intentions for the art making day. I really value the group that comes together to share the space. It was wonderful bunch of artists of different ages, ethnic backgrounds and art experience.

I led a visualization meditation to help them access some details and clarification for their process and they spent some time journaling to capture what came out of the meditation.

Then I gave a short demonstration on painting backgrounds with acrylic paints and using the glue gun. We were using bases of pizza rounds to create the ancestor mandalas, bringing in the sacred aspects of the circle – wholeness and unity.

Artists spent the next 2.5 hours working on their pieces, integrating photos, fabric, sewing, string, paint, pastels, organic materials, writing, buttons, and paper.

At the end we all shared our works that honored grandfathers, uncles, mothers, grandmothers, home, parents, sisters. I appreciated the stories and the art making, the sharing of love, tears, commonality.

A big thank you to all the participants, JFKU for providing the space and publicity, Jen for putting up great directional signs, Jane for helping me set-up and sharing her wonderful materials, and Shelley for helping me clean up.

Beauty and healing with art mandalas in India

The 16 women, all students of art therapy, have been quietly helping ease the pain of cancer patients, differently-abled children in schools, substance-abuse victims, and the homeless and mentally-challenged women of The Banyan. And they do it all with nothing more than pots of paint, and handfuls of clay. Read more by clicking here.

Elder earth art mandalas in Half Moon Bay

I recently taught an Earth Art class at the Coastsiders Senior Center on Half Moon Bay. We had a brief talk about Andy Goldsworthy and mandala symbolisn. The elders had bunches of material to work: stones, flower petals, leaves, sticks, and more. Most of the materials were gathered during a walk and some donated by a flower shop in town.

We had an “instant art show” at the Senior luncheon for the enjoyment of the diners.