The Art of Healing

The Art of Healing

KARLA DICKENS

My work is a meditation.

The making of art gives me long periods of solitude and self actualisation.

Finding the zone beyond thought has given my life balance and peace.

Creating art connects me to my spirit, and its my job to nurture the spirit.

It’s about all the different parts of me and is the perfect diary of my life and experiences.

I love watching work grow out of an initial idea or experience. Over the years I have created works around my identity, sexuality, domestic violence, love, death and environment concerns. Creating art based on such serious and heart-felt issues, I try to engage a broader audience by using humour when possible, and very pretty materials including collage, stitching, beading and knitting. This process has been a great help in softening my heart and the way I view the hardness I have lived.

Even though I embrace the notions of identity deeply, I am also conscious of the universal human experience as I aim for inclusion.

A recent body of my work entitled “Loving Memory” has given me the strength and insight I have needed to keep walking with grace as I have dealt with death and grief from losing a number of significant loved ones.

As a child I was moved and always curious with the dead. I would talk to my dead grandmother when I prayed and when my pets died I would make crosses and hold services. The dead kept me company. I found great comfort from knowing that I wasn’t alone. It was this need for connection that brought about the image of the crow often depicted in my works side-by-side with the shadow.

As the shadows started to appear in my paintings I also realised that they represented my ancestors, or at other times my demons and struggles. A shadow can be a region of darkness where light is blocked. In some cultures a shadow is similar to a ghost, or a representation of god’s presence, almost like a halo.

For me I also see the shadow as an alternate reality whose dimension overlaps ours, a connection if you like. It is believed by some Aboriginal people that a spirit (our soul – our dreaming) dwells within each of us that is a constant of truth and goodness – untouched and undisturbed by trials, problems, and colonial history that scar our outer features.

My grandmother always watched the birds and the crows. I was taught that they were the old people coming to visit, and reminded that I always had company and a connection to the spirit world. This is why I still believe my ancestors are visiting when the crows appear, so in times of great pain I create work that calls in the spirits.

In some paintings the crow holds a female figure and her shadow, almost like a mother, will hold a child. At other times the crow hovers over her, protecting her in the landscape. In mythology, crows tend to be symbolic of the spiritual aspect of death, or transition of spirit into the afterlife.

“In the traditional society of the Aboriginal south-east, everything in the world is divided spiritually, socially and taxonomically into two halves (moieties) called Eagle Hawke and Crow! Crow has a higher meaning. Such an appearance of a crow would inform or foretell us of a close death. An extremely intelligent social being, crows gather at the death of one of their own, to chant and wail for the loss“.

[quote from ‘Conversations with a Crow’ by Djon Mundine about this series of work 2008.]

The heavy collage helps to build rich spaces and also, like my memories, the collage comes from different times, with the fabric found in op-shops, all have a previous life in stranger’s homes and hands. Unlike other collage works I have made in the past, the pieces are structured on top of the collge then painted on.

The crows give me strength to fly above my shadows as I walk this life searching for meaning and safety. With the warm response from these works I have been reassured once again that no matter what colour, what sexual presence, what age, how much money you have in the bank, whether your ready or not, death will touch us all.

Art has been my major source of healing for the past two decades. It continues to heal and ground me as an Aboriginal woman living in Australia. Through its power I have been given a voice. I now am able stand tall and proud in any community, with a strong voice and a firm knowing of who I am. I have no doubt that I am a blessed woman on this planet to have art in my life.