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Experiences of the Workshop

The themes in this section illustrate both the artist’s journey through the workshop and its impacts on them. This started with the development of trust and community that was central in the success of the workshop. Next, the workshop practices offered artists the opportunity to relax and develop heightened somatic and self-awareness, which resulted in significant realizations and change. Lastly, artist’s development of a personal symbol language described in their finished art works helped embed the changes they experienced.

Abbie, Art Works Describe and Cement Change

Abbie | Art Works Describe and Cement Change

Realizations, feelings of strength, pleasure and agency and the release of suppressed emotion that occurred in the process of art making were described and embedded in the final art works. These works then remained as reminders of what had occurred in the process art.

“I think my picture, my photos that I need all my symbols to do, I did end up liking the outcome of that, and the process of that as well, you know, the feelings that you know, empower me and give me, so that now, and now that when I’m out swimming, or going for a walk in the trees and things like that, I kind of acknowledge more how that means to me. “Yes, yeah, I think so. Having something physical to look at um, definitely reinforced how I feel”

Sailoo, Developing a personal symbol language

Turning personally meaningful images into symbols and working with them across a number of arts works offered a way to express emotion, embed feelings of strength and pleasure and tell new stories:

“Look, I had heaps of fun drawing my portrait. On the first I did like a few fairies and things like that. I see a large group of women who are very positive and you know and I consider a lot of the people that I met and spoken to as earth angels, they’re my earth angels. There were two images in my past, I'm not very good at drawing Ivy but Ivy is the name of my nana and ivy was very special in my heart. And whenever I see ivy, I love Ivy. In my painting it’s a fairy she's got her arms up, she's climbing and I want her climbing like Ivy. Life is a challenge and ivy is hard to climb. So that’s sort of how I’m putting that in there. The other thing that I really did like was today the women with the waves and the echoes…. It’s a symbolization of a lot of women together and we’re all moving in synchronicity and flowing in motion. This really touched me.”

Developing Trust and Community, and a feeling of Support

Betty | Trust Community. Sad Love Ease Happy

The sharing and depth of sharing at the beginning and end of each workshop session and in the private face book group supported the trust, sense of community and peer support was a central feature of the project’s success:

“I've swapped over some of my medication in the last couple of weeks so I've been up and down. Yeah, and which is why I posted yesterday. I think it was saying, you know, “is anyone else anxious because I'm finding I'm getting extremely anxious over the smallest things like making lunches for the kids. Doing this with you guys is really exciting for me and it's given me something to look forward to and I'm doing something for myself, which I really need to do. Yeah, after being a mum for 10 years, I think I’ve forgotten who I am. So this is good.”

Katherine, Realization Change

Katherine | Change Transformation. Self Portrait

Experiencing the Meditative Process Art method’s cycles of reflection, creation, realization and application led to new awareness and change:

“Yeah, I suppose that year, 1987, I kind think it’s interesting that’s the year I was diagnosed and it’s the same year the Grim Reaper campaign came out so it's always embedded in my mind and there’s lots of negative stuff. So I think doing the art work today on that image has been really helpful. I think doing the artwork can put a positive spin on it. Cause I tend to think that if you have emotional baggage that's left just suppressed, it always will come out somewhere sometime and if it can come out through the artwork in a positive way, well that's good. And you know, normally if I wasn't doing this with a group of wonderful sisters I probably wouldn't even address it because a lot of it is about loss and grief and what my life would have been like, could have been like.”

Elizabeth, Relaxation and Reflection

Elizabeth | Relaxation Mind Clearing

Taking time out and doing meditation and process art provided the necessary space to relax and reflect Both are important in the Meditative Process Art method as they help artists to become inwardly focused, a necessary step to support the realizations that follow:

“This was my eyes closed and my sentences were, “My energy was from within. I feel relaxed. My mind was relaxed and blank.” So that's that one. I was quite surprised I looked like that when I opened my eyes. Um, yeah know, good, I think, um, It was mind clearing and when there's so much going on in our lives and our emotions and you know, we’re busy all the time. It was just nice to take time out and just to do some reflection and have some sisterhood.”

Shontaiya, Reworking the past can be challenging and healing

Shontiya | Reworking the past. What’s Grim?

While it was challenging for many of the artists to rework imagery from the past many spoke of the benefits of this practice:

“Um, last week was a tough workshop but really it was good for me because a lot of the time I’m totally just not worrying about HIV. I’ve been through all the head fucks with it and I just now live my life as normal. But, anyway, so last week’s workshop showed me that I actually can get touched by it all still. It does still sort of hit the core every now and then, if we dig too deep. So it was good for me. So, that was the Grim Reaper I drew, and then turned him into a little happy beach goer, walking through the country really. But somebody in clothes, few flowers around, changed his staff into a tree. Yeah, took his power away! And I’ve never expressed myself through paintings and art and stuff before, so I found it really beneficial for my growth.”

Diane, Relaxation and heightened somatic awareness

Diane | Somatic Awareness. Not Perfect Just Me

The meditative and process art used in the workshop sessions resulted in the heighted somatic focus that supported artists to become internally focused. This is an important feature of the MPA method because both practices offer access to the memories, feelings and somatic responses that are ‘brought to the surface’ and manipulated to gain insight and autonomy:

“And on the back of I’ve written, ”Right now I am relaxed and right now I am calmer and have let go,” which is what I was doing with the paper. And I'm very aware of the sound of the pencil on the paper. And “right now I'm aware.” So that's what I wrote and yeah I actually quite like listening to the sound of the pencil on the paper...It kind of looks like two boobs, but they’re not boobs. Um. That’s when we were talking about how we felt in our body and in my stomach, I felt quite heavy but in my mind I felt quite light. So that was just with my stomach feeling heavy, not my boobies.”

Betty, Symbol making, embedding sense of strength and pleasure

Betty | Symbol making embedding feelings. Strength and Pleasure

Identifying, symbolizing and working with imagery of things that represent, or provide a sense of strength and pleasure, results in the integration of the felt sense of strength and pleasure:

“Yeah, and then I had a love heart symbol because of my love for the kids and the chickens and the coffee machine, and the water. As much, even though I can’t swim, it’s really nice to be in the water, playing with the boys. But yeah, even just sitting on the beach it’s like I’m watching and taking it in, and just breathing.” It feels nice, it feels like me. Like even when I’ve been going through things I look at it and I’m happy with what I’ve produced. You know, I get good feelings from...it’s your interpretation of, of yourself, or whatever it is. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look good because it’s yours.”

KC, Working with symbols changing the story gaining agency

KC | Working with Symbols Turning Stigma Upside Down

Reworking and symbolizing imagery by flipping or changing its meaning or adding a completely new meaning and doing that by working on top of the imagery can be empowering and provide agency:

“So I put the ribbon, the “V” (in HIV), I turned it upside down and made Victory. And I did HIV positive but I underlined “hi” it's like you can still talk to me. I’m friendly. Wear with Pride.” Turn stigma upside down. That's why I've done my V’s upside down and everything. Yeah I think get the message across with my portraits.. Turn stigma upside down. Inside of an upside down V, there’s a positive V for victory.”

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