Monday, October 09, 2006

Creativity and Pain...

COLUMN OF FIRE 33"w x 63"l (c)2005 Pat Dolan

This thread on our QuiltArt mailing list has encouraged me to reflect on my own experiences with regard to both creativity and pain. For much of my life, I focused on creating beautiful watercolor paintings – often nostalgic in subject matter and very realistic - full of antiques, lace doilies, quilts, kittens, flowers, birds and other things I love. Throughout that period of time, I was attempting to disguise my true feelings behind the beautiful pictures I painted and I often used my time in the studio to escape my own feelings. It’s interesting now to look back on some of that work and recognize how the sorrow, pain, and frustration in my life at different times and see how it still shows through in my work despite all my efforts to hide those “negative” feelings.

Since changing my medium from watercolors (painted so realistically it was almost like painting by numbers – which is precisely why I quit doing them!) to fiberart, I’ve discovered an immense freedom in my own authenticity. I have no desire to disguise, camouflage or otherwise change whatever it is that I am experiencing – rather I want to express it concretely outside my body/mind/spirit, thus free myself of its weight and influence.

Many have written indicating how creating helps them escape pain while many others have shared the impossibility of creating during times of pain, stress, etc. I have experienced both phenomenon – and believe there is a difference in the type of pain I can create with and the type of pain that prevents me from creating. I am genetically predisposed to chronic depression. I have noticed that severe depression literally robs me of my ability to see, feel and create. Severe physical pain also is a strong deterrent from the actual act of making art, although I may be able to research, journal, design, and read about many things relating to that which I hope to create.

GRAY TEARS 16"w x 32"l (c)2004 Pat Dolan
Done in the midst of chronic depression...

FROM TEARS TO DANCING 14"w x 30"l (c)2004 Pat Dolan
Done as I was coming out of the darkest part of the depression...

Moderate depression generally keeps me from creating, as well. I remain disinterested in life, unplugged from experiencing, and out of touch with reality – although not so bad as to be unable to function. Anger, however, has often been a rich fuel for creativity, no matter the source. Thus when I am surfacing from depression (which some psychologists have termed ‘anger turned inwards’) and allowing myself to feel the anger that was submerged beneath it, I am highly creative, spontaneous, and prolific. My compositions are strong as are the colors I use. As it happens, when I’m unable to sleep, if I go into the studio and let myself go with the fabrics, amazing things happen.

"Column of Fire," pictured above and detail view below, was designed in a couple of hours in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. I was filled with anger, although I knew of no cause for the anger. But the emotions needed to be expressed. Black and red fabrics were blindly chosen, followed by the colorul 'snakeskin' pattern. Fire is a symbol of both life and anger, among many other things. Sometimes life almost requires anger - as defined by someone once as 'the norman human response to injustice.' Who among us has not experienced injustice, let alone witnessed injustice? It is a common theme of life, as we know it, is it not?


Whenever I do begin to create, it’s as though I step outside time/space and into a special place above/beyond circumstances. Many refer to it as the “zone.” It’s very much like what happens when I meditate – I’m beyond physical reality with all its encumbrances and living in what seems to me is a bit of an “eternal now.” And there are times in my life when I am as unable to meditate and/or pray just as there are times I am unable to create in any art medium, save writing in my personal journal. In fact, sometimes even journaling withers up to nothing. Those are the times when I must be gentle with myself and allow nature and life to take their course. To all things there is a season, and the dry seasons do eventually pass…


Caroline said...

These are beautiful pieces

Sarah said...

Stunning pieces.

Micki said...

Great pieces Pat.

I find that I must really be "in the mood" in order to create. It's hard to work on anything, even if it is "the best idea yet" if you're not really up to it.

Deborah said...

Words are my art; words help sustain life, at times. Not the words that I blthely dispense to the public; the words inside, the words of my poetry, the words of my anger, my tears, my joy, when it can be found.
Pat, your art moves me, words flow from the art even when there are no words. "From Tears to Dancing" and "Column of Fire," sit with me now, particularly.
Creativity is sporadic; very emotion, spiritually, and physically driven, for me. It would be nice if creativity existed as a separate, independent energy.
Does it, sometimes? For me, once and a while...creativity becomes the spiritual.

Vicki said...

Beautiful pieces - all of them! Thank you for sharing these and the stories behind them.