In addition to being an artist, I also have a career as a Professional Clinical Counselor. I work primarily with children and adolescents who are survivors of emotional trauma, so I have known a number of children who have witnessed domestic violence. Recently, The Domestic Violence Project of Stark County held an art contest to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence. I feel very honored that my entry entitled “Rediscovery” was selected as the winner of that contest among several other beautiful works of art.
As a therapist, I have seen many children haunted by the pain of violence within their homes. These children seem to lose their innocence as they live in fear for their own and for their family’s safety. I am often surprised, however, to see these children draw and paint and let their spirits be free, showing that their souls are still filled with wonder, despite the trepidation that they may have about their lives.
Rediscovering and exploring that wonder is the most gratifying part of being a therapist. Expressing that kind of wonder through an artistic language is the most gratifying part of being an artist.
In “Rediscovery”, a child with somewhat pensive eyes stares out of the canvas, wondering what is ahead of him. A background of fire represents the violence that has been a part of his past. Breaking through the surface in the form of a dove is his spirit of wonder, finding a ribbon of hope, and sailing into a heart that represents healing and support. Supportive hands of caring people release the spirit into the unknown. The white picket fence represents the challenge of finding “normalcy” in what has been an abnormal world of fear for the child.
We do not know the resolution of the child’s dilemma of finding hope in the face of fear. We do, however, recognize that the child can recover and rediscover what is true to his spirit. It is our challenge to find ways to guide and support that truth into being.
I have made other artworks that incorporate my discoveries as a therapist into my artistic expressions in recent years. It is interesting how the two separate career paths of my life have begun to merge over time. As much as I enjoy painting pet portraits and other whimsical work, works such as this one are the ones that make me feel the most complete as an artist. I look forward to more to come.
An interesting side note: Other than a collaborative work that I did last year with students, this is the first time in my entire artistic career that I have painted a human face. Much more comfortable painting the visage of a cat or dog, it was something new for me to paint a person! The face was modeled from a digital photograph that I made last summer as a custom portrait of a child.
Life is an Adventure!