Iris Reeva Swain
23.10.29 to 21.3.20
Iris Reeva Swain.
Or if you don’t feel like resting,
dance, dance, dance, with
and with the feeling that all is well.
You will not be forgotten.
You are in us; all around us.
You are an everlasting flame
in the universe
with love, art and soul
Net of Connectedness
will you hang in there with me while I tell you nodes of story? Even I don’t know how the nodes connect; but connect they do and some of them are sparkly.
It rains soft, sweet rain.
Not scary harsh uproot-the-tree crash-the-power-pole flood-the-town rain, but soft, sweet rain. Not scary harsh laceratingly dry fire-cooker pyrocumulus air, but soft, sweet rain. Not choking smoke to fill your lungs, eyes and heart with poison. Just soft, sweet rain.
I attend Carla van Laar’s Art Therapy First Aid training, designed to resource Arts Therapists to assist in bushfire recovery.
We make a mandala to honour losses and griefs.
We bring healing, nurturing wishes to the mandala.
We explore the five core elements of Psychological First Aid:
Safety, Calm, Connectedness, Self (or Group) Efficacy, Hope
And we conduct our explorations in collaborative, creative ways.
We work in small groups as if we are offering creative expressive stations at a community recovery and support event. My group of three is assigned Connectedness.
We organically, spontaneously, swiftly find ourselves creating a net.
We use thread, twine, wool, buttons, sparkly-bobbles. Our process is experiential, in-the-moment, relational, embodied, hands-on, alive, collaborative.
Indra’s net comes to mind. Indra’s net weaves itself from Hindu and Buddhist tradition into a bejewelled symbol of the interconnected universe.
Participants from other creative first aid stations join us.
We welcome them.
We sit, knot, tie, crochet, plait, yarn, remember, laugh, cry, exclaim,
make new and old connections.
The net that forms amongst us, between us, threads to, from and around time and place and across the universe.
We speak of the world in a grain of sand,
of micro and macro worlds.
One woman talks of braiding her young daughter’s hair being an intimate, bonding experience. Another recalls her European grandmother who taught her to crochet. Someone teaches me to finger-knit. Someone else makes a little nest of eggs to attach to the net. I hold the end of strands of wool while someone makes a multi-coloured plait. I speak of my friend in Alaska braiding pink seaweed.
Stories come forth. Help is at hand.
It’s a simple act,
this sitting together and making, even while we are expressing complexity.
We collaborate. We say yes to suggestions. Together, we make art with no rules; no right or wrong. Simply divine play with a purpose.
I am reminded of Art Heart Action – my initiative to bring together Arts Therapists to offer a recovery event to people affected by the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires. We too had a range of creative expressive stations for people to experience at their own pace, in their own way. Those fires were devastating for so many. We didn’t quite know how exponentially awful it would become in the Australia-wide furnace grounds of this recent summer.
I wish soft, sweet rain of care and love to all those fire-scourged folk all around. And animals, the poor animals. And plants. The trees that are able to regenerate and the trees that aren’t.
I think of the What is Collaboration? event coming up in April that I’m part of co-creating. It’s hosted by Anthropocene Transition Network. It is to include a Warm Data Lab and a reflective, life-affirming response from my Out of the Box Playback troupe.
All these ideas, stories, threads, people, possibilities – interwoven.
Meanwhile, at this very moment, my colleague and Leaf-by-Leaf team member Clemency Doyle, is running an Art and Wellbeing program for the fire-impacted communities of Eurobodalla shire.
Meanwhile, I daily attempt to bring soft, sweet rain to the fires of distress that rage in the mind and heart of my primary care recipient.
Annie Kia writes in ‘Linkmore’, her allegory about the town of Lismore,
But all the long while, amongst the hard stuff and the good, a tissue grew between them, a warp of purpose, a weft of connection. It grew between them, invisible, threaded through the districts, woven everywhere, looped between their houses and their families……
And even now, on full moon nights, up on the hill behind the hospital, if you looked with a sidewise kind of look, you could see the silvery threads, the warp and weft, the tissue of connectedness still there threaded through Linkmore, shimmering.
….. The warp of purpose, and weft of connectivity.
Because the tissue that prevents harm will heal us from catastrophe.
Please feel free to respond to any of this Soft, Sweet Rain post.
Write in the comments box below if you wish. Let’s stay connected.
with love, art and soul
If you can see a red-brown feather, it’s Climate Heart Art by Sally Swain.
I buy a cushion from Vinnies.
It’s feathery, velvety, russet, very fake. Turns out that it moults – not an endearing feature. Still, I rather love it. Fragments of dyed red-brown fluff stick to the cream couch. They make themselves right at home, camouflaged, on the patterned rug, while those feathers that remain attached to the cushion riffle in the machine-made breeze of ceiling fan-plus-air-purifier in the confined indoor world of this smokey Sydney summer.
I like the riffling.
It’s a substitute
for the old-fashioned,
pre-scorched-summer activity of
going for a walk in the actual air,
enjoying leaves on trees
rustling in the breeze.
Beyond my little lounge room? Beyond Sydney’s inner west?
It’s been the summer of No-Return.
Fires fires, devastating fires have eaten trees, flowers, fungi, lizards, koalas, echidnas, wombats, kangaroos, birds, dogs, cats, people, paper, iron, brick, mortar, memories, homes, townships, livelihoods, lives. Once you’ve seen a photo of five burned platypus corpses on a rock, you can’t un-see it.
And that’s just me – a delicate, milksop city-slicker artist and art therapist who hasn’t had to stare a fire-nado in its deathly face.
Russet feathers float off the cushion. They jemmy their way into creases and crevices. For some unknown reason, I start to collect them.
I pile feathers into a miniature plastic garbage bin,
these small fluffy pieces of escaped bird, artificially coloured
in a strange new hot-house blend
of human-induced environment
and nature as we knew it.
November 12th 2019 was the first-ever declared Catastrophic fire danger day in Sydney. Hell – they only just invented a category stronger than Very High, Severe and Extreme and we got to apply it, in the Big (ahem) Smoke, even before summer properly started.
I feel the need to soothe myself and others.
I try to paint only blues and greens; calm and watery colours.
Soothe, soothe, breathe, soothe.
For weeks, I can’t bring myself to wear any of my many red or orange clothes. My movement impro group dances for rain.
The climate cushion keeps moulting. The fires keep burning.
I am obliged to name my grief, fear, rage.
I am compelled
to dedicate my creative practice
to alleviating the suffering
of living beings
impacted by fire
and other climate crises.
I consciously begin making Climate Heart Art. Turns out I’d been doing it unconsciously for a while, with odd, hybrid survival creatures appearing. I coin the term ‘inter-elemental’ for my frogs of the air and fish of the earth.
The feathers find their way into my art.
This is the art of emergence, of listening for respite and the possibility of new life.
The russet feathers.
Each feather, though oh-so fluffy and innocent, looks like fire. Each feather placed in a painting conjures the ever-present hot, demonically dry fire-scape that manufactures mass extinctions and catastrophic trauma.
Climate emergency? We’re in it. No matter how small the painting or the lounge room; no matter what fear you try to shut out; what peace you try to seal in, the feathers of fire are here, inside the frame.
Have I pushed you away, dear reader, with the pulse of negativity; the pelt of despair? Where is that Sally joyfulness? Oh, it’s there. Lightness too, lives in the life of the feather, the watercolour, the chance to express and to support others ongoingly in their authentic expression.
And how are you going in this time?
I am facilitating an Art and Soul Climate Circle on 22nd February in Sydney. Kindness, respect, connection, realness.
I am delighted to offer you a safe space to be, to breathe, to gather and create from your art’s heart.
Would you like to come along?
Here are some links for your emotional/creative support, knowledge and validation:
with love, Art and Soul
What helped you rest and recharge in 2019?
What sustained you, even through difficult times?
What elements of sustenance would you like to carry with you into 2020?
I created a participatory community installation.
Here’s the blurb that went on the wall next to the artwork.
was conceived, created and coordinated by Sally Swain
with the Older Women’s Network and
Newtown Wellness Centre community.
Fallen branches were gradually gathered from Kangaroo Valley, Nielsen Park, Annandale and Forest Lodge.
They were assembled into the FoRest sculpture during the 2019 bushfire emergency, when swathes of forest – plants and animals –
were lost around Australia.
Participants were invited to consider what helps bring them rest or sustenance, then to express this on leaf shapes
to attach to the branches.
to sustain ourselves,
each other and the earth.
So….what got YOU through?
What might continue to sustain you?
with love, art and soul
PS In the vein
of Sally Swain
Art and Soul Space
will not race
At least until June, I intend to shift posting from fortnightly to the first Friday of each month. Reluctantly, I say au revoir until Friday 7th February. I look forward to hanging out with you again then.
If you wish to stay in the Arty Soulful loop, there’s always
the Art and Soul e-newsletter (just contact me to subscribe) or
Sally Swain Art on Facebook.
I love working with carers. And carers of carers.
I love working with creativity, self-care, nourishment and sustenance.
So I sprang into the opportunity to offer an arty self-care presentation
as part of their ‘Revitalising the Carer Conversation’ forum.
Carers. I empathise. I am one.
There are a gazillion of us, quietly (or noisily) behind the scenes, holding it all together, not necessarily identifying ourselves as carers. We provide the stitching you don’t see. Many of us barely keep ourselves stitched together.
Some carers don’t let themselves remove focus from their caree for even a day. Or a few minutes.
Caring can be Wearing. The popular representation goes like this: ‘Caring is rewarding and can sometimes be challenging’. Shhh. Between you, me and the crumbly gatepost, try this: ‘Caring is challenging and can sometimes be rewarding’.
Here are some almost-stats. I know. Unusual for me to offer something numeric.
Carers provide many billions of dollars worth of unpaid labour in Australia.
Carers are the single most unhealthy segment of the population. I find this extraordinary. Really? Apparently so.
If I wore a hat, I’d take it off to those full-time live-in carers of a disabled son or daughter or a dementing spouse or an adult child living with psychosis. These folk live round the clock with their whole entire world revolving around the cared-for person.
I could go on.
Creativity at Your Fingertips
I facilitated the carers and carers-of-carers to engage in Sacred Scribble, play with colour and
It is no joke,
the Sydney smoke –
an evil cloud,
a rainless cloak.
We grasp for breath,
we rasp and croak.
Our eyeballs sting.
Our spirits choke.
We cannot sleep,
if we woke,
our fiery climate
Please go over to my Sally Swain Art Facebook page…
in the next few days I hope to put up artwork for sale to raise money for the Rural Fire Service – an organisation filled with completely amazing volunteer firefighters.
Also, stay tuned for Art and Soul opportunities
to give voice to feelings around the climate crisis; to be with creativity in community.
with love, art and soul
Who knew these little winged beings would emerge?
I admit I’m rather fond of them.
Creature Conversations was created over four separate chats with fabulous art therapists. I found it an intriguing way to approach art-making – keeping one piece going over several different exchanges.
with the Dotties – an art therapist peer support group I am blessed to have in my life.
Laying down tissue,
the watercolour run,
move across the mini-landscape
It turns out a respected, experienced art therapist is seeking me out for supervision. I am honoured.
background colours appear.
I spread out.
with my lovely colleague about Leaf-by-Leaf project possibilities. We spark. We are dually inspired.
I look at the picture so far.
I see blobs and shapes
that could be little critters.
I draw them forth with texta.
First, a butterfly.
Then a winged cat.
This is truly fun.
in which a colleague generously listens to what’s been happening in my world. She helps me reconnect with the ground of being.
Earth swirls appear.
Yes – the whole thing is watery,
I have a sense of earth and sky.
ever make art
while on the phone?
Oh yeah – I am not great at figuring out how to link up my social media stuff, but I recently joined Instagram. I’m artandsoul.sally . Creature Conversations appears Instagramatically.
with love, art and soul
go to your Happy Place.
Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.
Get out of the house, your worrybrain, your care duties and connect with nature.
Once there, you don’t know what you might do.
Turns out, Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady lurks in a small soft corner of your soul. Out she comes! No shame, that one. No self-consciousness. She will direct you.
Ruby specialises in galaxies.
Watercolour shapes and galaxies.
Delicate pastel watercolour shapes with fluid interiors and defined edges…
Niece Ruby is thirteen. She’s found her artist medium and content. For now.
The labour of love,
the neural pathway-powering concentration,
the exquisite immersion in detail.
The calm, the absorption, the creativity, the flow.
Not for her the formulaic, dehydrated art education on offer in many early high school classes.
For her, the uniqueness of it.
The specific layering of materials.
Watercolour brilliants, an aquabrush, a facial tissue, some glue, a white pen.
It doesn’t take much space to be a slender thirteen year old expanding ever-outwards into interplanetary dream play.
Her mum adds a teacup, an earth, a teapot. Ruby decorates it.
I come in,