Article Appears in The Wayfarer Vol 3 Iss 4 | Winter 2014 | Visit our Shop to Order»
by Feature Artist Jena Leake
I am artist in the studio
painting the canvas of my life
who is holding the brush?
As a wayfaring artist, I live this personal zen koan through daily practices in painting, writing, movement, and mindfulness meditation. These creative disciplines are my path to cultivating a whole he(art)ed life, one which is infused with curiosity, imagination, passion, art-making, and contemplation. In a world bombarded with images from media and mainstream culture, I am interested in traveling into interior landscapes of soul where authentic images are born from deep listening to pure streams of awareness that lie below the surface of an often hurried modern life. I call this my art/life practice, with the intentional forward slash reflecting my on-going apprenticeship to the ways in which art-making supports life-making.
In my work as an expressive arts therapist and educator, I guide individuals and groups in exploring their lives through contemplative arts practices integrating visual art-making, writing and somatic movement meditations. I seek to reawaken our innate capacity as humans to artify our lives, drawing on the premise that art is indigenous to all peoples, as reflected in the distinct ways cultures throughout the world have used ritual, music, dance, visual image making, and other aesthetic enactments in celebration and response to the human condition. This reimagining of life through art invites intimate encounters with one’s personal experiences in the moment by moment unfolding of a life-making that is always in a state of becoming.
Being an artist in this context is not relegated to a privileged few who receive external recognition from society, but instead to anyone brave enough to paint, write, sing, dance, or create their way through the inevitable sufferings, joys and challenges of human existence. This is art for life’s sake, an invitation to give expression and form to wounds with no language, grief that cannot be contained, silenced parts of self which long to be seen, pleasure beneath pain. Imagine artifying your doldrums, questions you are living, something you wish to celebrate, a moment of bliss or clarity. Art-making in this bold way challenges us to (art)iculate our lives from the deepest part of our beings as we embody our unique way of belonging to the world.
My paintings highlighted in this issue mirror an inward pilgrimage to discover images, resources and body wisdom to sustain me in navigating the precarity of cultivating an unconventional existence not dictated by the overculture, but by my soul’s longing for artful, genuine participation in the world. Each piece reflects my artistic process of standing in front of a blank canvas with no idea of what will be created, only the trust that something will arrive if I begin with a brushstroke of color, an imprint of my hand dipped in paint, a breath of release or my dancing body letting go of thinking as I surrender to my imaginative capacity. As I shape my art, my art shapes me.
Painting Below: Falling Awake © Jena Leakeby