I have written before that I have doodled spirals since I was little; in school, while on the phone, when I was bored…I loved to doodle. There is something very calming in drawing a spiral.
But my real connection to the shape and my more conscience connection happened in art school.
It was in one of my art education classes on teaching art to people with special needs. The course was a combination of academic text reading and writing papers, and art therapy exercises we did on ourselves. Then we would practice what we learned in working with others. I loved that class! The teacher was very insightful, and I learned a lot about myself in that class, which has helped me as a teacher and artist. I remember that in one of her classes, the teacher talked about the spiral mandala. This was the first time I had ever heard of a Mandala. I don’t remember if she taught us of the different religions that use the Mandala; I just remember her talking about the difference in drawing a spiral starting from the outside to center or from the center out. If you start at the center, working your way out in spiral motion, you are spreading your strength out into the world; where as if the spiral is drawn from the outside toward the center, you are collecting your strength inwards. I loved that! All of a sudden this shape I had been drawing since I was little had meaning. This wasn’t only a shape; it continues endlessly and repeats itself. The importance is in its strength.
After that, the spirals started to appear in my art work. At first, it was in exercises in that class. We had to draw an instinctive drawing of our family and I drew myself holding all my children in my arms, my arms spiraling around them, holding them close. In another class, we had to draw a peaceful moment. All I could think of was that moment in the morning when I first got up, before everyone else in the house. I always set my alarm 15 minutes early, so I could have a cup of coffee in peace and quiet before I started my day. I loved those 15 minutes! It was, in those days, the only time I had to myself. So I painted my coffee cup from above, the way I see it every morning.
And again the spirals... Now remember, this was an exercise and not a fully developed painting, but an idea, a concept, a connection was starting to come together in my art and in my head.
At first the spirals were chaos, a whirlwind of emotion going through my mind that never shuts off….but then…in the cup of coffee…in those 15 minutes every morning. Gazing into my mug of sanity, I saw my spiral. I saw my calm, my serenity.
I am sure it had everything to do with what was going on in my life at that time.
This was the same year my daughter was born and my mom was battling breast cancer.
And now this shape, that I instinctively have always drawn, was starting to develop a very deep meaning to me. It was not only a doodle. It was giving me strength and eventually it helped me put myself back into the world where I could. The direction of my spiral changed as my life did. I became more aware of this shape, shaping my life.I started to use this shape more concisely in my art. The first time was when I sat down to paint my belly cast from when I was pregnant with my daughter.
I casted my belly at the end of my pregnancy and the plan was to paint it after she was born. After we had met her.
I have written before of the influence on my art during this time, but this really was the beginning. This class that I had taken, and the connection I was starting to develop with this shape, would shape my art and my emotions. It started here in this work of art. It isn’t my most beautiful piece, but it is one of my most meaningful. I put all my emotions from the pregnancy and after into this sculpture. The spiral is here. It was starting to speak to me and make sense. I could express my feeling of the pregnancy through the colors. For some reason, throughout that whole pregnancy, I was in pink/purple mode! Now you have to understand, I am NOT a pink/purple girl. I am a more green/brown girl, so these colors that were in my head, and had come through in my paintings during the pregnancy, had to be on the cast. And the spiral- It started at my bellybutton, where I had been giving her life and moved out from there.
Her name and birth date are in the center moving out with the spiral, going out into the world. And my hands are on the top - resting on my belly like all mothers do during pregnancy; feeling the movements of their unborn child, talking to and connecting with this child even before he or she is born. While we still hold them inside and protect them.
We give our children life, and bring them into this scary world. We are the beginning of THEIR spiral. Our job (as I see it) is to give them the tools to continue on their spiral path through life. At first we protect them, we are their everything; but slowly they develop into themselves, into their own spiral. Still gaining strength from us but learning to move out into the world.
You can see how the spiral started to influence my art and thinking. I started to see everything this way. And when I started to learn more about the spiral in literature, science and religion it made even more sense to me. But let’s leave that for another blog……..