Judith Ribbens Art Blog
It is February, 2010, and I'm snowbound for a day or so in the middle of a small blizzard. Not a ba-a-ad blizzard, just one of those winter storms where, if I drive, I'll lose any sense of serenity I have. Ice under the snow, you know.
This is the time of year I go deep, so to speak, meaning, I look at my life and what I'm doing and seek a deeper spirituality, a deeper Meaning.
This has been my practice for many years now, enforced back in 1981 by the need to look at how I lived in response to the family I came from, and what was happening to the family I had created. It's been a long, slow, process, painful at times, other times quite freeing. I've been "peeling the onion" of numerous layers and still haven't quite gotten to the core. Will I ever? I don't know. Still I have this intense impetus to keep on.
And where do the creative arts come in? They are my exploration, my meditation, my spiritual home, my connection with spirits, my language to myself, my messages from those spirits, my guidance, my path to Deep Source.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to study Expressive Arts Therapies and to have been able to practice these with many clients over the past 25 years. I have also been incredibly fortunate to have been accepted into a family of Lakota people whose inclusion in their ceremonies has taken me into powerful spiritual realms. It isn't possible here to adequately describe all I've learned, but I'd like to share the accompanying collage, done in the late 80s, and write a bit about how it came to be and what it came to mean in my life.
I began creating this out of a sense that I wanted to work in a different way, a way that was more spontaneous, that gave me more creative choices as I worked (or played) through the picture. The first choice was about the paper. My artist friend, Karen, had shared some very rough paper she'd been given and I felt it needed some special theme and method. I decided I couldn't just use watercolor. It begged for more. I chose a theme of openings, although I didn't know what, at the time was opening. Believe me, if I had known, I probably wouldn't have done it.
I had some spray bottles, and used them to create thin paints using both watercolor and acrylic paints. The "openings" were stencils I cut of arches, several kinds. In addition, I had found, at a rummage sale, some Indonesian wood blocks used in batik and loved the idea of including them. Then there were some bits and pieces of paper, left over from other projects, in varying colors.
Now, when I create using this method, I have since realized it leaves the work open to the influence of spirits. Yes, real spirits!! They're real, beings from other dimensions. If you haven't experienced this, I don't know how to explain, but it happens to me every time I use this method.
So I began. Spray the openings in blues and greens. Then what? The angled arch, the inverted V, to create an upper frame. Now what? Darken one arch--deep blue. Lighten another with sprayed pinks. It needs more pink/red on the other side. Next, play with the shapes. I was thinking of Joan Miro's shapes, or Calder's playful forms. Move them around, where do they fit? The sensation they are all floating. Brush in some deeper colors here and there. I have some strange images from a travel magazine. They float into the work. Is that a tree near the bottom on the right? It's vegetation of some kind! It needs some gold. I use the wood blocks to add decorations to the arches and pillars. I stand back and...and...there are figures!! Upper center turquoise. Lower right shadow. Lower left another shadow. And the black "box". Why that?? It seems out of place. Strange shapes at the bottom, lying down.
It was a stunning insight at the time. I was opening up my whole life. Letting go of the rigid church practices I had been reared to believe. Opening to a whole new way of being, a new belief system. Not without fear and guilt!! What if I go to hell?? I didn't know where I would end up or even what I really wanted to believe. I was literally opening up a Pandora's Box in my life. And that's what the picture is about. It's also about the help and blessing I was receiving from the spirit guardians, the wolf, the eagle, and others. It's about how beautiful the creative life can be. And how disturbing! About coming back to balance. About tolerating the chaos of creativity before it all comes together. About living with imperfection and oddity, seeking the beauty of both. It's about loving the place I'm at and anticipating the excitement of the next creative work/play.
I invite you all to play this way. Who knows? You might meet a few spirits who emerge in your work with messages to you.