When I was in art school in the late 1980’s, I studied “high art” – art valued more as a statement, than as an object of beauty. During class critiques, the emphasis was on the concept (rather than the aesthetic) value of the work. No one would give a hoot about whether your painting skills were developed. They only wanted to know, “but what does it mean?” And it had to be BIG! The bigger the painting, the bigger the statement. In the years that followed graduation, I tried to be a good little artist and make large-scale, conceptual art. Some paintings were successful, some not so much. Truth be told, I have made a lot of bad art in my life. But that’s okay. Life is all about learning lessons. Today I make small art. I finally learned that I do best when I treat my creative endeavors more as conversations rather than as dissertations. But, apparently, I didn’t stray too far from the idea of conceptual art.
Today, I create very small works of art with the intention that they will serve to help someone – whether it is to feel better, to get stronger, to heal, to move through grief, to increase self-esteem, or to simply brighten their living space - because an external bright space, might open the door to an internal bright space.
There is science to back up my claims that positive thoughts and imagery can improve lives, at least in a general way. I know this because on my 50th birthday, in 2012, I graduated with a master’s degree in art therapy. Art therapy is a mental health profession that can be compared to counseling – except clients use visual expressions along with the verbal. The journey to complete the degree took five long years of rigorous study in a part-time program. It meant the juggling of parenting, a part-time job, endless research papers, and some serious soul work. I was surprised by the latter. When I started down this path, I had no idea how spiritual the art process was. Here I was, studying the psychology of art-making, and lo and behold, I was led to my very core – my Self. Extreme learning to be sure! Indeed, images are the language of the subconscious. After all, we dream in pictures, don’t we?
Now, although I call myself an art therapist (something I can do because I hold the advanced degree), I really don’t practice like a traditional art therapist. Although I still do art workshops and have a few private clients, I am more of a sensitive art teacher than any type of therapist. But the training informs my art. I make art to help people, to encourage them to live authentically with a positive frame of mind.
My artwork uses the sublime combination of images and language to communicate positive messages of truth, love, peace, joy, and beauty - just to name a few. As an art therapist, I can tell you that we must surround ourselves each day with people and things that make us happy. We MUST keep our thoughts positive! It is vital for optimal mental, emotional, spiritual - even physical - health.
I am a strong proponent of creativity. I believe all people are meant to be creative – each of us in our own unique way. Creativity is as important as fresh air and vegetables for our overall health. Sure, we can get by in life without any of these, but then we are not really living up to our full potential.
I believe there are only two kinds of action in the universe. There is creative action, and there is destructive action. Anything other than one of these two is just inaction. Bob Dylan told us, “If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.” Right on, brother! One literal definition of the word creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships to create meaningful change or new concepts, forms, or methods. Indeed. Creativity enhances life. Don’t we all desire an enhanced life?
I make art that inspires positivity, creativity, and peace.
Terri Gregory in 2017 with one of her public art projects.