Once I turn the page on the calendar to January 1st, my body and mind want to purge and organize EVERYTHING in my home. It feels like a compulsion and I can't NOT do it.
This January was no exception, except for the fact that this time around I wanted to also purge, rearrange and tidy my little pink art studio.
The sheer amount of stuff I can cram into that little 6' x 9' space is unbelievable.
Since the theme for the spring vernal equinox recovery gals art exchange was metamorphosis, I felt like the act of working on and in my studio was a worthy pursuit that jelled with this theme, too. Usually, when I perform this beginning of the year ritual, something speaks to me and I usually end of finding my creative groove. I dove in with a purposeful need to convert the space and transform it. An evolution was likely to occur, within the space and within me. This is what creating art does to me and does for me. It helps me shed the old and make space for the new. It answers my call to create.
I ended up unearthing a lot of half-completed projects and ideas that didn't quite work out, like this one below.
This grayscale was an assignment about color values for my painting class last spring semester.
I had attempted to paint a hot pink layer over the top of the grayscale for last year's recovery gals art exchange (Spring 2017)! It turned out way too mauve-y, so I abandoned it. The theme for last Spring's exchange was emerge. I wanted the pink cloud to emerge from the canvas, but all it looked like to me was a flashback to my mom's living room circa 1984 emerging and that was not the look I was going for. Nope. Not at all.
Instead of pushing on with that mauve nightmare of a canvas, I moved on to another one and eventually landed on a Rothko-wannabe inspired by his 1950 painting, White Center. I ended up painting two canvases at the same time and gave one to Caitlin, my art exchange partner for the emerge-themed exchange, who lives in Germany.
So here was this leftover canvas of an attempt gone wrong. When I picked it up again, I immediately saw the potential to reimagine it and give it new life. The symbolism in the failed attempt, the connection to last spring's art exchange, and the fact that my new art partner knows my former art partner made it all click for me. All of it was just waiting to be transformed, mutated into something that only could come from having the gift of time, some experience and me evolving as an artist.
I couldn't see this potential before and I think sobriety is a lot like this. I hit a lot of walls in early sobriety and struggled so damned much. I gave up a lot of things that I just knew wouldn't work for me, only to return to them with a new perspective, a new way of receiving and interpreting those offerings today. It's only been through the work I've done diligently and over time that I can reap the benefits of those small knowings or offerings. What I once said no to or not for me are some of the very things that light me up in my current phase of development when it comes to my recovery from alcohol The trick (I think) is to remain open and willing to fail and then try again.
The initial painting started off with the title "pink cloud emerging" and it's only now, with a little hindsight, that I can fondly look at it and think, yes, that's where you were when you quit drinking. All mauve-y and weird. All uncomfortable and slightly broken. All black morphing into pinky-mauve morphing into white. Still rigid in my unfolding, but trying to unfurl nonetheless.
I took the panel canvas to school with me and used it to clean my brushes on while I was painting two other paintings for another body of new work called The Geographic. So the entire painting for this project is just residual paint from my brush strokes from that project. The new project has been an emotional endeavor, but work I welcome and appreciate for the shifting it's doing in my thinking about who I used to be when I was drinking and actually who I am right now. There has been small incremental growth along the way over the years since I quit drinking and cataloging it through making art has been a beautiful, gut-wrenching process. I wouldn't have it any other way. I love how this painting was born from those paintings, too.
It seems that (without my fully knowing) that I started a process of changing my ways of being alive in this world.
In the early days of my sobriety, I was in a tight cocoon.
Adding layers upon layers of silk casing to protect me while I grew into this new me.
The layers created with books, meetings, spiritual teachers, sober friends, therapy, online communities and my deepest knowings.
As I grew through the chrysalis phase, I emerged a new me.
I had a new perspective of the world.
I had a reorganization of my thought patterns.
I had changed.
And yet, I was still me.
I had simply evolved.
I had undergone a metamorphosis and unfurled as another version of me, my higher self.
I carefully wrapped the painting in a cocoon of glassine and used hot pink washi tape that used to belong to my best friend, Kacy, who left this earth last February. She was ever-present while I was making this piece for the exchange. My grief is transforming, too, and I wanted to shed a bit of the pain by sharing something of hers with someone I'd never met, therefore, spreading her love all the way to another continent.
The painting told me when it was done and I loved the way the brush strokes changed the way the initial painting felt to me. Upon looking at it now, I loved it. I didn't have to start off with a blank canvas to make it beautiful. All I had to do was accept the underpainting in all it's mauve-y-ness and add more depth and movement and color to it. I changed it without having to throw out what was underneath.
I feel that way about my story now, too.
I'm embracing and honoring the Tammi that I was before I got sober. I'm embracing my faults and old stories of who do you think you are? and trying to rise up and show myself who I really am and what I'm really made of.
I used gold mica in the final layers to symbolize how precious life is. My paintbrush gliding over the entirety of the painting, letting it settle in certain spots and wiping it back from others. When I felt like it glowed, I knew it was done.
Definition of metamorphosis
metamorphosis: noun [ C/U ]
US /ˌmet̬·əˈmɔr·fə·sɪs/ pluralmetamorphoses /ˌmet̬·əˈmɔr·fəˌsiz/
A metamorphosis has occurred in my sobriety. A constant, ever-changing, incremental widening and deepening of my soul; a change in my character and actions.
Layers upon layers of the old me morphing with layers and layers of the new me to create a new normal. The mauve-y hues of my past were my foundation and stood ready to accept the newer hot pinks and vivid greens that my sobriety afforded me and they spilled across the canvas of my life. The final gold touches were just waiting to be consciously applied and allowed to sink in now that I was finally becoming the person I always wanted to be. A rebirth, if you will.
A true metamorphosis.