PORTFOLIO > Art Therapy Graduate Student Work, SAIC 2021

How have you cultivated empathy in the past?
I have cultivated empathy in the past through my own art making practice. While it may seem paradoxical that intimate personal art making would cultivate empathy towards others, I find this the case. In sustaining a deeply connected art practice that enlivens and invigorates me, I have the stamina to be with others in empathetic presence. My art making is the squats and sit ups that I need to do for the marathon of attention and empathy that has been required of me as a mother and a professional artist. As Brene Brown puts it- we need to set aside our "stuff" to be able to focus on the other. The way I set my "stuff" aside is through making it into a creative expression.

I recently made this silk screened angel pillow that was originally part of a series I called "Imperfect angels". This series started during the first COVID lock down as home site specific artist installations all across the city and suburbs of Chicago curated by Courtney Lederer and entitled "Art In Place". As a response to the isolation and loss of art access during lock down, artist were encouraged to make site specific art installations that could be viewed from the street by passers by. This was not my first experience in making site specific work or art for the sake of community healing, but the particular mass shock of COVID it was a particularly potent image. It stays with me as a symbol of hope and healing that I believe is a symbol for the presences that is with us when we are practicing empathy. Making art for others in a time of need helped me feel a purpose within my own anxiety and isolation.

What are some practical ways to counter oppression as an art therapist?
I believe awareness, empathy and courage are needed to counter oppression as an art therapist. My artistic practice is the most practical way for me to counter internalized oppression which I believe we must unpack before we work with others in order to reduce harm. In my practice I use self reflexive exercises such as self portrait work, journaling, ancestry and research as a means to better understand my life experiences and where internalized oppression operates within my psyche. Just like with empathy, the way to counter oppression starts first with me unpacking it via my creative practice.

silk screen on canvas