Monday, September 8, 2014

Creating House Collage as Art Therapy for the Soul

On one hand we find ourselves relying upon reduced power bodies due to aging. Then we also find ourselves similarly under attack in our sense of place and home. We can suddenly find ourselves in a home of healing or expiring instead of in our usual zone of comfort. Thus our home suddenly is a hospital room, or worse. What to do, what to do...

I spent three weeks in a hospital with colon cancer in December of 2006. It very much became my home, the kind of limbo I had been threatened with since my earliest days as a Catholic school girl. No matter how small or humble your home, no matter how snowbound or sweltering, it will look magnificent if you are allowed to leave that hospital "home". Is there a therapeutic way of dealing with this process is what occurs to an artist in this situation.

In working my way through this fallow period of my art, I have discovered an excellent way of expressing our sense of place and home. I recently began paging through an art book I bought some years ago: In This House by Angela Cartwright and Sarah Fishburn. Its artistic versatility is seemingly endless. What these two artists-authors did was collage house facades. They use a basic pattern of a house front and then put whatever they want in that collage. In this book, other artists also participate because they wanted to take the collaboration aspect to the nth degree. The pictures are beautiful in the book and in full color.


The authors also did a book on In This Garden which is an identical project but the pieces are in the shape of a garden. I am not a gardener so doubt I would be as inspired by doing a garden shape but I know some people who identify strongly with what they grow.The authors each have websites which show extensive pictures of both the houses and gardens: Angela Cartwright website and Sarah Fishburn website  They have also authored other books and have launched an arts based magazine which can be bought at their websites as a digital download.


If I were to apply my hospital stay to this art project, I think I'd want to juxtapose my house facades between two places, hospital home and regular home. If I was feeling very gutsy, maybe I'd add a third one in, chemo home. I have not done my house collage yet but I think I may. I personally like the house shape with the chimney better than the one without the chimney. You can also join the houses by the sides which is what you see on the cover page of the book and also in the above image.

One does not need to be talented in art to do one of these. A non artist's house may end up being less arty looking but it may more than make up for it by being an intensely personal work. The basic pattern of the house is given in the book plus instructions on collaging. If you can use any adhesive or glue you are in business. So you cut out your house shape and then adhere images to your house shape. You can use entirely pictures you take with your phone, for example. If you don't want to make more than one house, you can always just make the one and then have that one framed.


I am particularly drawn to the blue house in the above series. I like the people on it plus I like the ethereal look of it. My interpretation of it (which may be completely wrong) is moving off into a heavenly sphere.  Note the heavenly top to the house in this connection. This is sparking a whole bunch of new ideas about alternating houses on different planes of reality and making one's house pieces of those planes. My friend and neighbor Rebecca is very into metaphysics so I could see her doing one house facade of that and another with a kitchen and food as so much of her life is tied to teaching vegan cooking.

Actually one could do all the shifting phases of one's life. Some of you might have children and grandchildren to feature heavily yet at the same time might want to include deaths of loved ones or dissolving of relationships. One's career or avocation might figure heavily into some houses. Two people I know are heavily into everything to do with horses, one in Arizona and one here in Ohio. I would be very surprised not to see at least one horse face on their projects. Maybe they would even prefer to use the shape of a stable instead of a house.


These houses could also be done by a group of friends in a modern day equivalent of a sewing or quilting bee but with a much speedier result. For those of us into fabric, there is no reason this couldn't be made of fabric. If you want to reduce your photos to fabric and use those instead, there is a company online which will do exactly that: Spoonflower. Thus, for example, I could take my paper dolls (see right column of this blog), have them turned into fabric and then sew or velcro them to my house shape. My house shape could also have been cut from much sturdier upholstery fabric, to which I could later add a backing.

It is this versatility which I find tremendously engaging about this art idea.  I am in a gestation state of creativity so this is what I do when in that state. I page through things, think about them, get some ideas. Maybe I will try it. Maybe I won't. But while I am on this fallow plane, this is how I work my way through it to enter, once again I hope, a more creative plane.

Not that I am entirely without some creative moxie. I spent a good part of yesterday writing a Mock Trial for Teachers Pay Teachers. This assumed that Lee Harvey Oswald lived and was put on trial for the murder of JFK. You should have seen me trolling the internet looking for affidavits from witnesses in 1963, their pictures, bullets, the murder weapon, autopsy and its results, alternative theories and evidence (aka reasonable doubt). There is so much material online for this topic that I had no trouble finding any of it. If you wanted to become a JFK conspiracy theorist, the online world is overflowing with compadres for you and the evidence abounds for both sides of the argument. Then the two creative ideas melded! Why not put the images from the JFK murder into the JFK head as an alternative to putting images into a house? My results are to your left.

It could be that my creative use of this house idea begins and ends with this JFK head. However, that is further than I got with the embroidery idea a few weeks ago. I had my supplies all lined up for embroidery. I looked at the embroidery books again the next day. Suddenly, the images did nothing for me. I had completely lost interest. So onto the next book. This is what happens in the dry spell. You think you've found the way out and splat! But playing around with these new ideas is better than moping about it and the only way I have ever discovered out of it.

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