Posts Tagged ‘R’

 

I am an advocate if art as metaphor. I tend to pay more attention to the experience of creating art and the experience of sitting with a piece over time than the actual content of the piece. I also lean toward the abstract, finding the ambiguity and possibilities in a piece to be an invitation to learn more about myself or the observer.
This piece got me thinking about the process of uncovering the past and trauma work.

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This piece began as a compilation from older collage. After months of staring at it, I decided it was time consider its possibilities. I was looking for something a little more peaceful with suggestions of water and land.

To do this I masked several strips to resemble trees on a shoreline or reflections in water. I decided it was easier to mask off the figures I wanted to appear in the foreground areas rather than attempt to create a background layer around vertical collage strips.

Masking is a process in which artists use tape or something similar to block of a part of a painting to protect an area from paint or bleeding. (Just as house painters do to protect trim).

After putting the tape in place I sloshed my paint over the bottom third of the collage in horizontal brush strokes. The painting looked messy but experience reminded me that once the masking was removed that would change.

Trauma and Unfinished Business

When undergoing stress or traumatic events coping can be like masking. In some cases, on a neurobiological level, the brain in a sense masks over an event as a form of protection. This neurological response can be a natural necessary mechanism that allows the individual some amount of protection for at time. It is effective in allowing someone in trouble or pain to survive and get through difficulty. As a result events may never be fully processed and can account for gaps in memory, loss of positive memories, feelings of being undone, or ill ease. Neurobiological responses to stress can become troublesome when the flight or fight responses become overactive. Troubles such as: addictions, depression, anxiety, phobias, rage, heart disease, PTSD and relationship problems are often associated with responses to stress.

The Art of the Unmasking, and Respect the Uncovering Process

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Timing is important when removing the masking (in this case masking tape) from the art piece:

Stripped to early and the paint would bleed and run.

Stripped to qu ickly or to late and the piece would be damaged.

My experience with this piece, being a collage, was even more tricky. It was built with layers and layers of stripped paper and I found it was extremely difficult to distinguish the masking from the collage strips. In some areas I had completely covered the masking tape with paint, so it was not only hard to find the tape but a messy process as well. In my hurry to see results I at times began picking at collage strips exposing raw canvas. More tools were necessary, using a knife, a wet sponge, feedback from family, and repairing and retouching the raw areas, I felt good about the results.

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Before uncovering the past when pain or trauma is involved the following concerns are common:

What is ready to be uncovered?

Where do I start?

Can I trust that I will find something valuable underneath?

What happens when I uncover something raw?

Will I lose who I am if I start the process?

Where does it stop will there be any of me left when the process is through?

Why uncover what is covered, what can I do about it?

Why open an old wound, it will just bleed everywhere?

How long will it take?

Why It Matters

The masking serves a purpose, for a time. Over time, painful memories, unfinished business (shame, guilt, un-forgiveness) or trauma left unprocessed become troublesome. Maintaining the protective layers, rather than processing what lies beneath can be related to:

lost sleep
worry
avoidance
fragmented relationships
Nightmares
avoidance of activities
detachment from others
restricted emotions
angry outbursts
difficulty concentrate
lack of enjoyment in activities
 

What Can I Do?

 
Remember masking serves a purpose, and it may still be a necessary element of coping.
Recognize that care must be taken to respect masking.
Get help, find safety, remember there is hope.
Find support, support groups, agencies, books, organizations, supportive people, professionals
 
National Hotlines

 
If you or someone you know would like to explore this area of healing, consider professional help.  Affordable effective treatment is available.  
 
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