"Tree of Sorrows" - watercolor, ink on aquabord, 12" x 9"
On the seventeenth day, I decided to tackle something which has been on my heart for awhile.
Last night I had the pleasure of attending Shabbat services to hear my friend sing...and in honor of MLK weekend, a fiery Baptist preacher was in the pulpit. An amazing experience, and a little surreal. His sermon was based on the subject of Exodus and "Black Lives Matter." Whoa.
I found my self contemplating discrimination, civil rights, stereotypes and tolerance, but not in the way the pastor intended. Instead of races and religions running through my mind, it was mental illness. Stay with me on this one.
My family is mixed race, mixed religion and mixed sexual orientation. We've tackled all kinds of unfairness and intolerance. And some things in the world ARE getting better in these areas. Really and truly. But there is one topic still too much in the closet for us, and that is equality, tolerance and understanding for the mentally ill. Yep, we've got that in our family, too.
Depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, addiction...these words often make people turn away, pull back, flinch or ignore. Maybe because they don't understand. Or perhaps they have misinformation. So I decided to bring one little piece of mental illness into my art today.
This piece is inspired by the results of an art therapy session with an eight-year-old boy. He was suffering from neglect, abuse, trauma and PTSD like he was a war veteran. But children do not have the words or metacognition to verbalize inner trauma like adults do. This is were art therapy comes in. With paper and crayons, the boy created a tree. The tree had no roots in the ground and it was filled with bones. And the tree was on fire. As the therapy session progressed, it was made clear the boy was trying to describe how he felt inside - abandoned, angry, homeless, and filled with other people's emotions and problems. As result of this one drawing, the therapist was able to address the boy's concerns over time and in a way he understood, eventually creating a warm, safe environment and a dialogue which lead to significant improvement and healing.
Creating and looking at this piece made me a little uncomfortable, like it might make you, my reader and viewer. But I truly believe putting mental illness and its stigma in the light will help us all reach a level of compassion necessary to bring healing and support.
And isn't it lovely, lovely, lovely to know that art lets people who have no words communicate with the world?
This piece is available. Currently unframed. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Walls and her imaJENation