Month: May 2012

Neuroplasticity and art

Neuroplasticity is a newer idea emerging into pop culture. At its simplest level, it means that our brains are actually much more mailable than we ever thought possible, allowing us to stretch to the limits to learn new things and accommodate for deficits. This topic has been written about extensively, even for lay people not well versed in neuroscience. How can this apply to art and how can this apply to you? In many ways, this paradigm shift in thinking puts us front in center of having a lot of control over our lives. In the past, we could blame our genes and other factors for limitations. As new studies emerge, it is clear that we really can tap into parts of ourselves to expand our creativity and learn new things. It turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

For today’s art project, we will just spend some time wrapping our head around this idea if it is a new one for you. The following link is of a TED talk on this topic if you want a more in-depth understanding of this fascinating topic: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/michael_merzenich_on_the_elastic_brain.html

For an art project to accompany this idea, please find some paper, and write down some things you didn’t think you could do ( things within reason, please avoid things like getting super hero powers etc) such as learning a new language, to speak in a public venue, master a new hobby or skill, write a book etc…Write down your fear or the first thing that comes to mind which might prevent you from following through with some of these plans. With this newfound knowledge of neuroplasticity, do these excuses for not trying something new still make sense? Can you pick one thing off of this list to try? Can you try this new thing for 30 days?

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Artist Trading Card Wall for your Home

 Artist Trading Card. This is simply a 2.5×3.5 inch card (similar to the size of a playing card), decorated anyway you please. Artist Trading Cards are a phenomenon that has swept the world over the past decade, originating in Europe. The only rule connected to them is that they are not meant to be bought or sold, only traded or given away. The charm and widespread interest in ATC’s are due to their diminutive size which is small enough not elicit any anxiety over one’s creative abilities. Artist Trading Cards can be executed using virtually any medium including: pencil, paint, collage, thread, fabric, stencils, words, photos, etc. Please find some card stock weight paper or heavier, cut it down to 2.5 to 3.5 inches and let your creative spirit soar. Feeling creative? Make a few and give one to someone special in your life.

We like them so much, we have turned a wall in our bathroom into a small gallery. We set up a station with a little rolling cart to give guests who are using our facilities an opportunity to be creative. The cart includes: 2.5×3.5 cards, magazine pictures, magazine words, stickers, markers, glue stick, goggly eyes, and scrapbook removable dots to hang them up. This has made our bathroom a gathering place of sorts.

Post Mother’s Day USA

Like or not, we are all connected to Mother’s Day here in the USA. Unlike other days invented and endlessly marketed by our culture, this one lives on a stratosphere of its own. For reader’s living outside of the US, this blog entry might be relevant for you as well. Most likely motherhood conjures up some sort of emotions, depending on where you are on the spectrum as: a daughter, son, mother, grandmother, foster parent, step parent, soon to be parent, unable to become a parent, etc.

For today’s art project, we will explore our connection to motherhood through a letter writing exercise. Please find some paper and a pen. Write a letter to yourself and describe the most complicated emotion connected to Mother’s Day and the topic of motherhood. Give yourself some advice on how to tackle the emotions you connected to it. Now turn the letter over and start over, with another letter to yourself but date it ten years from now. Explore those same emotions, but imagine that time has aided in giving you wisdom connected to handling these emotions. What kind of advice can you give yourself? Can you think of ways to self soothe yourself if these emotions are intense or a source of baggage?

Yesterday’s art exercise:

Are you a victim or a survivor. This is a loaded question might require quite a bit of time and energy to answer. The goal is to become a survivor and the best way to start is to think of yourself a survivor. Survivors tend to have a quality of resilience. One way to think about this is to ask yourself, Do you own your emotions or do they own you?

 

TEDx

Are you familiar with TED and the TEDx phenomenon? If you have not discovered this remarkable website please check out http://www.TED.com. I am including this information about the wonders of TED and their concept of “Ideas Worth Spreading” to promote this incredible source of information and my own TEDx event. I have secured the license to host a TEDx event in my city. This event will take place on 10/17/12 at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas. The theme of the event is “Game Changers” and speakers include: an Art Therapist, Theoretical Physicist, a Plant Geneticist and several other game changers in their respective fields.

This event will be live streamed through my website, http://www.tedxoverlandpark.com, and more information can be found on the soon to be released IPhone App called TEDxOverlandPark. Thanks!

Victim or Survivor?

We all have baggage. Depending on our age and life experiences, some of us have more baggage than others. Our baggage might come from of some type of trauma, bad adults from our childhood, or even a recent bad work experience. Resilience is a buzz word getting thrown around these days, but the essence of being a resilient person boils down to how we categorize ourselves in relation to our baggage. Are you a survivor or a victim of these things that happened to you? We cannot change these things. We really can’t even change the people who did them to us or are doing them to us….We can only change ourselves and our attitude.

Please find some paper and draw or write about an experience in which you feel like you were victimized. This art exercise has the potential to be powerful and downright scary if you are exploring some serious trauma. If this is the case, please find someone you trust or feel safe with to explore these experiences with or even bring your art to a mental health professional. The simple explanation of the power of art making with brain science is that trauma is stored as images in the right hemisphere of our brains. When we try to explain our trauma to someone, this proves to be a challenge, because we are attempting to couple language (a left brian activity) with these images. By drawing the image onto paper, even in metaphor, we are suddenly giving ourselves something with which to have that dialogue. Art therapy has proven to be a very powerful tool for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been a powerful tool for alleviating symptoms connected to PTSD. In very simple terms,  by taking the images out of this right hemisphere and onto paper, we can take time to analyze it and re-file the memory into our brain in a safer region, one that stores memories, making the experiences more distant and less sensory oriented.

If you are a victim, the road to becoming a survivor might involve a tremendous amount of work on your part, but is well worth the effort. If this post strikes a chord with you, please seek help from a trusted person to guide you through this process. Another way to approach this exercise is to ask yourself if you control your feelings or if they control you?

Yesterday’s Art Exercise:

Were you able to assign a person to each negative voice in your head? Sadly many of them might belong to teachers or adults from your past. Were you able to trace the roots of the voice owners’ own negativity? Realizing that these voices are not really in your head, but real people form your past or present is a great way to separate yourself from them and replace them with positive thoughts and voices of your own.

Overcoming Negative Voices

Can you hear the negative voices in your head? The ones telling you that you can’t do it, whatever it may be. Most likely these voices are not auditory hallucinations, but negative people from your past or present. For today’s project, we will explore the source of these voices. Please find some paper and draw a simple stick figure of yourself. Think of an idea you have and write this in a balloon caption near the stick figure.This idea should not be one that compromises your safety, well being, or bank account, but one that involves stepping out of your norm and taking a risk for a positive outcome. Now write all of the negative comments that might prevent you from executing this idea.

We are note done yet! Now look very closely at the negative comments and think who might be saying them. Sadly, the negative voices most likely belong to the people closest to you including: parents, spouses, teachers, siblings etc. Write their name down next to them, and think very hard WHY these people feel so comfortable dishing out  these negative comments. Most likely this was how they were treated with their own ideas by their own parents, spouses, teachers, siblings etc. Instead of being angry at them, or sidelined by their comments, can you forge ahead with your own idea once you grasp the origin of their negativity? Can you add some positive comments of encouragement on your paper, ones that come from you believing in yourself?

Yesterday’s activity:

Did you think of any whimsical actions to add to your day? In many ways, the above art directive is connected to this one. The fear of making a mistake or getting some negative feedback are often the two things holding us back from fully expressing our range of emotions and ideas.