My work seems like it’s all about revealing…something: remains, lacunae, vestiges, scars, memories, clues, and the subliminal. In addition to being an artist, I am also a practicing licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist.
In both practices, revealing (revelation?) is a complex undertaking: it must be measured, paced carefully, and with time taken to stop along the way to explore that which has been revealed.
Too much revealed too quickly and the result can be frightening or anxiety-producing; too little, and the pace can feel plodding, boring, and can bring about feelings of discouragement and impatience.
Sometimes what has been revealed is frightening or unpleasant and attempts are made to edit or recover the protective layer. This may produce desirable results in art; in therapy, not so much.
If the revealed does not integrate well into the larger picture, but appears to take on a life of its own and is viewed as “precious,” or maybe something to be regarded at another time, the balance can be thrown off, and it must be discarded—in the case of therapy, perhaps temporarily; in art, that move is usually painful and can be experienced as a loss, at least, initially.
This has been a nice little exercise for me, talking about revealing. Revealing plays a vital role in both my art and my clinical work, as a tool, a process, and a result. And this little piece also is a bit revealing…about me, which brings me to the final point I’d like to make. In both the art and the clinical work, I sometimes struggle with how much of me to reveal. Both are intensely personal and intimate endeavors. In the therapeutic relationship, there are practice guidelines about self-disclosure of the therapist. The therapist revealing too much or the wrong things about the self can be seen as a boundary transgression and/or damaging to the therapeutic process and relationship. In my art, the struggle for me is how much of myself to reveal…and what does that even look like? Could anyone really tell? Is my art about me? Or is it addressing larger, more universal themes and experiences? Maybe both, if I’m lucky.