Marney Schorr
Teaching Artist & Art Therapist

Art House Blog

Welcome to Marney's Art House Blog -  a gathering place to share creative process, art & ideas; honor humanity; and better serve communities through the arts.

Please join my blog and share your thoughts with the comment button to the side of each entry. Thanks for stopping by! 

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Lessons from the Cape

Posted by Marney Schorr on June 16, 2016 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (3)

This winter I had the good sense to plan a June trip to Cape Cod. Something inside told me I needed the ocean. The great wide expanse of blue and sky and sun on crashing waves. It's where I went to connect with my maker.


           


I had been overwhelmed with the world lately. And its not because there is any more of it on my shoulders than other times. It's simply because I drifted from God. God cures stress. Because those things that are ailing us, they are not ours to carry. 


I found myself at a fellow artist's home in Brewster. Lorah runs a space for women creatives to retreat from the world and plug back into nature and spirit. (Check out her amazing place - http://oestarahouse.com/ ).


                 


We were surrounded by the smell of blooming gardenia and ocean air, bearing witness to pollinating bees and baby caterpillars. And soulful morning conversation with organic fruit and eggs and fresh herbs from her tranquil gardens. Nature called beyond the stone firepit and the backyard gates to the wild.


                 


I took my easel and paints to the sea shore.


                  


The wind was rushing but the sun warmed my heart. I dipped my brushes in ocean water and put down the colors I saw. The amazing layers of the Cape. Sea, sand, waves, water, clouds, sun, sky - each tier another dimension of color and serenity drawing closer to the horizon.


                        


When I was done, I draped gold paint over areas of the canvas. This time it wasn't what I saw, it was what I felt. Glittering gold magic inviting me to re-open the mysticism of summer youth. I was free and dreaming. I had the childhood sense of being invincible. And yet I remained present and still.


                               


Creativity, serenity, nature and stillness. These are avenues to self-love. I often worry I am selfish if I allow them for too long. But this is the conditioning of my past. We do the best we can with what we have. And we need to love ourselves to keep doing good work in the world, to keep going, to keep providing, to sustain.


This was my message from my maker. Love others, but also love yourself.


                   


The next day I booked a seat on a whale watching cruise out of Barnstable Harbor. Four glorious hours deep into the bay where the whales feed. Sun and breeze, blue and green pools of earth, sea gulls lulling around. The majesty of a humpback whale, so large in its presence, so graceful in its curves, so feminine in the arch of its tail.


                   


On the way back from the depths of Stellwagen Bank, the deck cleared and became quiet. The passengers were now soothed and sleepy. I was able to stand alone at the back rail, amidst the lowering sun and foaming white on prussian blue,  my senses wholly immersed in the moving water and the motor of the boat.


               

I was at complete peace with everything and everyone and especially with myself.


                 


How long can I hold onto this moment? If only I could take it with me, home, back to the routine and structure of my full life. Why must I travel to be this close to heaven? Is it only 'out there' that I can find this perfect state of being?


No. It is inside us waiting to be opened.


It's just too easy to let the details of life unravel spiritual discipline. My resistance is directly proportional to my suffering. Joy lies hiding behind that first prayer. Humility and self-love are partners, not polarities. Treat yourself well and just listen.


                              


And so I went to the water in search of renewal. And I found I am not so broken afterall. Just human.

Feeling Slapped in the Face

Posted by Marney Schorr on May 24, 2016 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

There are going to be times when people hurt us. There are going to be times when we feel slapped in the face, even by those closest to us. And we will have to contend with our emotional responses.


Yesterday was one of those days.



The slap felt so hard, it sent me into an emotional spiral. That place where the emotion gets so intense it spins the whole world. It's easy to forget what is real. Doors flood open - the ones we call triggers. There is great pain in those rooms from long ago. We don't always know where it comes from, but it waits for these moments. It invites old behaviors, often ones that are self-destructive, the ones we have overcome in our journey to wellness. Like a bunch of ghosts sitting around laughing, we feel defeated, rejected, alone.


There may be time - even hours ahead - of sobbing under the covers. There comes emotional shock to contend with, that frenzy where you can't remember how you got from 0 to 100, but you are there NOW.  You feel like a child who cannot control herself no matter how hard you try. It gets very scary. And you can't think straight because your emotional centers have taken over any reasoned cognition.


What is the way out? Where are the Exit signs in this perverse theatre of the emotions?




Self-Talk


First, I remember I have been through this before. The outcome can be different if I apply the tools I have gained over the years. I don't have to resort to behaviors that don't work. The old stuff will only serve to escalate the situation.


Reaching Out


Calling a friend helps. Not to fix the problem, but to remember who I am and how I am valued in this world. I matter. I can take care of myself today. This will pass.



The Five Senses


Grounding with the five senses is necessary. Where am I in this moment? My kitchen? My bed? What do I see around me? What is available to me to soothe my senses? A candle? A pet? A blanket? A hot shower? Chamomile tea? A meal? Activiating my senses can shift my brain center into getting grounded again. At the very least, I am parenting my emotions with good self-care.



Grounding Mats


In Art Therapy, we make 'grounding mats', outlines of footprints with soothing images around them. Collage, paint, markers, whatever is handy. Stop and trace your feet. This is where you stand in the here and now. A place to center and take hold. A place to say 'I'm okay." Even a place to begin to pray.



Containers

 

What if I were to welcome my feelings and create a safe space for them? Where can I put them? In words? In a picture? In a scribble drawing at the kitchen table? Can I find a way to discharge the emotion and create a container for it?

 

In Art Therapy, we build containers for our emotions. It can be a jar, a box, a tupperware that we can paint positive images on. Or try a simple mandala - trace a circle on a piece of paper. Color your feelings inside the circle. They will be contained there. We acknowledge and witness them, but we can also step away and get unstuck.



Radical Acceptance


What if I were to just accept that these are my emotions? What if I am capable of experiencing them? What if I allowed my emotions to have a seat beside me? Or maybe fluff a pillow for my sadness to lie down beside me for just a little while. I can say to myself, I accept my emotions. There is room for all of me. I need not panic. They are afterall, just feelings. I can welcome emotions and be safe. It is the actions I take that matter.



Mindfulness and Compassion

 

Breathing helps tremendously and takes some effort. But it works. Counting breaths. Awareness of space and time. Coming back to the senses again and again. Naming the feeling you are experiencing, and imagining this feeling is a small child under your care. A chance for you to have self-compassion.

 



If some of this sounds just right to you, you may want to learn more in my class Self-Soothing with Art & DBT. (See my workshops on the menu).


And know I am on the journey with you.

Marney



We Are Never Alone Where There is Art

Posted by Marney Schorr on February 29, 2016 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (1)

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I am so grateful to have an art studio in the Berkshires. I have found my spot here in Pittsfield to be more of a home than I could have imagined. Just showing up and responding to inquiries from the community - this somehow has transformed what I do. I think I may have to add Community Arts Organizer to my resume now. I simply sit and make art with people and share ideas, and it changes lives. How did I get so lucky?  It feels like I get to wave a magic wand, and a colorful one at that.


I see people struggling, suffering, just trying to get by all the time. And art fills their souls. Even for just an hour, I see it makes a difference. People go from feeling victimized to having a unique sense of control. Art reinforces meaning and enrichment in their lives. A glimmer of spirit returns. Something to build upon. A good start.


There has been some debate lately about what art therapists do and other kinds of visionaries that offer similar support. I am tired of the bureacracy of the professional art therapy organizations lacking inclusiveness. So much division, so much fear.


I am disappointed when the powers that be miss the mark about the general picture. Art helps people and you can't put limitations on it. You can try to tell people what they cannot do with art. But its like trying to license what people eat. Creativity is that basic of a human need. Reptilian brains drawing on cave walls.


I appreciate the so many talented art therapists that get through rigorous Masters programs and adhere to professional ethics. We need them. But we should call for a wider frame and a collaboration with all types of creatives in our practice. It's a wonderful, growing field but has become overly rigid and some are turned off to it. These voices matter too.


I would say this rigidity has only served to incite a humanistic artist revolution. Artists don't like being told what to do. And so they are out there, doing good work, helping people instead of isolated at home, seeking fame and greed. I am proud of this change. Can we please find a way to honor it rather than being afraid?


We are never alone where this is art. And there is room for everyone.


This post is dedicated to the following non-art therapists who are rocking our community: Nathan Hanford and the great work he is doing at Soldier On;  Ghazi Khami and Leo Mazzeo at The Whitney for building bridges to local groups through the arts, Megan Whilden at OLLI for her open-minded creative vision; Ellen Merritt for using art to combat societal ills at the Christian Center, Jamie Badore for the healing energy he puts into our art world, Mary McGuiness for widening boundaries and getting us all on board; and to the people at the Pittsfield Cultural Council for making new ideas possible.


Winter, Paper, Scissors

Posted by Marney Schorr on March 26, 2015 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (1)

Empty winter. Long dreary days. Hour by hour little comes. Days go by. I have felt alone. Preparing for something outside the dread of stillness. It has been hard to get comfortable with myself. Hard to get comfortable with these stone like mounds of snow. Walls, really, blocking me. Blocking connection, blocking good times shared with friends.


I have always embraced the winter, but this one felt cruel. I have loved and lost. I have been dormant in my own cold prison. I have not wanted to come out to play.


My paint brushes are hard from under use. They wait for me like long distant friends. Are you ok? They ask, Why have you not been around?


I don't know how to answer.


Except to say, amongst the grey a spirit lingers. It is a quiet time at the doorstep of rebirth. I will be home again in this skin. I have been playing with paper. Simple square sheets and the feeling of cool scissor blades making sharp curves. Shapes and placement, colors and opposition. Ways to be artful as the slowness ends and life rebuilds itself. Mother Nature will be waking from her sleep, thankfully for us all.


I will paint again. And it will be glorious. Hang in there, oh waiters of Spring. Let the floor of the earth become green again with growth. Warm our faces with sunlight and our hearts with the sound of opening.



New Girl on the Block

Posted by Marney Schorr on August 26, 2014 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (4)

Transitions are overwhelming for us. Moving. Back to school. Weather changing, patches of leaves turning color here and there. September rises quickly. The radio and the news are not so easy to listen to. And maybe Facebook becomes a respite from what's going on in the world.


Can we allow ourselves to be bombarded with good news and positive posts to lift our tired spirits? Yeah, we can let it be okay.


When I get overwhelmed, I stop and make calls. Friends - where are you? Right here they say. We are feeling it too. They multi-task and talk. Or sit down and take a break from it all with me - even from hundreds of miles away.


A dear friend of mine called me back to say, Welcome being overwhelmed. What? I thought at first, are you kidding me? No, he said. Embrace the abundance. So I stopped in my tracks, and put aside the litany of to-do items in my current period of transition.


I listened. I paused. I saw it.


My life is utterly colorful today. The 'too much going on' is exactly what I asked for. Choices. Domestic comforts. Opportunities. Yes, I will celebrate being overwhelmed!


And so my mood and my thoughts somehow - just shifted. I became quiet inside again. I could hear myself. I could see my surroundings. And I must say, being the New Girl on the Block, is pretty cool. I'm fortunate to say, good things are happening.


In the midst of it all, I get to paint. These new ladies are about to meet the world. Me too!





















There's No Place Like Pittsfield

Posted by Marney Schorr on August 2, 2014 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (2)



It was a contented evening last night at First Friday's Artswalk in my new studio at NU Arts. I am thankful for the visitors and support and especially for the people who have taken an interest without agenda - just pure wonder and curiosity. WOW. That just fills my soul and centers me in conversation with others as I meet and greet the world looking out my Pittsfield window.




I found myself deeply engaged in such raw, real and spirited talk - about materials, people and ideas that make the world a better place. I met women who served people with special needs. I met songwriters and promoters, theatre goers, new artists, old artists, builders, sculptors, fashion trendsetters, organic farmers and just regular cool folk perusing the streets of Pittsfield on a breezy summer night.



Yeah, let's hear it for Pittsfield.


I had a feeling of peace at about the time I saw the pink taking over the sky on Union St. That fluid serene cotton candy pink against crysanethemum purples and amesthyst blues. Jagged horizontal clouds and a city to love. That's right. Let's hear it for Pittsfield. She's become my good friend who offers me a feeling of peace and belonging.



And most days I find that sense of peace and belonging hard to come by. It's easy enough when everything is going right and the weather is just so. But when it's time to show up and show your work, talk about who you are and what you do and why...that can be anxiety-provoking for the most healthy artists in the world in any place, anywhere




Am I good enough? Us artists cannot help but ask. Well the answer to that is a resounding yes. Good enough. A good enough painter, a good enough friend, lover, sister, daughter, employee. A good enough human.




When I closed up shop last night, I could hear Jeff smiling over me from his old shop across the street. Our old Wild Sage isn't too far away. He would have been proud of me. And I miss him. He saw me and heard me and pushed me. And he was right. I was good enough all along. Thanks Jeff, I know why you stayed. And I'm gonna say it - one more time - as I click the heels of my old ratty blue sandals - There's no place like Pittsfield.


Fire and Rain

Posted by Marney Schorr on July 23, 2014 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (4)





Not fun when you spill coffee on your digital camera. But I managed to shoot this one before the demise of my equipment. I am not a techie or a smartphone kinda girl. I am missing my camera but it doesn't stop me from taking mental snapshots. We all know those peak moments that we want to freeze for a lifetime. Being witness to the moments of development of  my fraternal twin toddler nephews are some peak ones in my 40 years on earth.


Sometimes the peak moments are simple -  a sense of peace and contentment in my art studio at NU Arts. The studio is really coming along. And it's less messy than I imagined!


Well, that's just because I'm out sand.Yes, SAND.


Sand for me is like fire or rain, an element of the earth and a necessary ingredient in the paint cocktails I goop on canvas and slide over with one of my shiny metallic palette knives. Oh, how I love a palette knife. Here is how it looks when I start.



Materials ready.




And when I start going wild.



I seem to have a need for sand somewhere mid to late process in painting. I seek to include the earth. I wish to make more of my own materials I suppose. I enjoy the challenge and quite franky, love getting junk all over my hands (and sometimes feet, arms, legs, toes, etc).





But then there is also the smooooth and silken feeling of sand running through my fingertips. Growing up on Long Island with hundreds of beaches everywhere, sand was easy to come by. And playing with sand was the most natural thing a young girl could do.




So why don't we let the kids play in the sand more often? Forget the hand sanitizer and the fears for a few minutes. And just feel nature.


A new mental snapshot: Sandtray Therapy at Studio 19. Who is up for some fun and imagination?




Sandtray therapy. What's that about? You ask. It's alot more than just playing and swooshing because being in the sand taps into our childlike selves, and the psyche of freedom. Where the unconscious is safe to emerge. Symbols. Sand. Drawing, making rivers and mounds, placing figurines. Just chillin with where you are.


But to be prudent, here is a fancier definition:

(from: http/www.sandplay.org/intro_to_sandplay_therapy.htm)


Dora Kalff, Jungian therapist, developed sandplay therapy in Switzerland in the 1950s and '60s based on her studies at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, in Tibetan Buddhism, and with Margaret Lowenfeld, in England.


Summary:  The student is given the possibility, by means of figures and the arrangement of the sand in the area bounded by the sandbox, to set up a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three-dimensional form and a pictorial world comparable to the dream experience. Through a series of images that take shape in this way, the process of individuation described by C. G. Jung is stimulated and brought to fruition.


Join me soon! Come check out the sand box and let yourself wonder away...NU Arts, Studio 19.


Lifelines

Posted by Marney Schorr on July 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

This morning I am getting ready to eat french toast. The cinnamon and butter waft from my friend's stove in the next room over. I am in my pajamas on the couch beside a 90 lb pitbull giving me his cutest puppy dog eyes and pushing his way heavier against my legs. After a few restless nights, I am at peace. I am feeling abundance. I have called in a lifeline.




While I am generally an independent problem solver, when I need - I tend to need deeply. I fear those closest to me will get tired and be overburdened by my darker depressive side. When I express these concerns, they feel better because it shows consideration and they know I appreciate them.


It reminds me that it is okay to share more than just my toys in the sandbox.




We all have support and we are afraid to use it. People need each other but to what extent do we give ourselves and each other permission to need? The cause of our suffering is secondary to the affirmation that it is our nature, an ingredient of the human condition. The other ingredient is love. And there are so many forms love takes.





Gratitude is a form of love, appreciating the universe in beautiful or even sad moments. This has been happening for me lately on long drives, many of them this week.


What I experience are storm clouds and melon pink sunsets; white morning fog, summer haze, followed by late day clarity. Deep azure blue followed by moody grey purples as the night rolls in and the highways before me look wet.


Day before last, Mom asked if I'd been turning to God. How do you answer that? Not really I said. I had forgotten the Source. Within a few hours, there it was - streams of sunlight like lasers beaming through gaps in the mountainous countryside. It blocked the road ahead. And that was exactly what I needed. To stop looking ahead and be grateful in the moment.


I just felt the light, the life, another kind of life line.




Today I want to thank my lifelines. My family and friends, the sweet clients I am getting to know, the cool creatives of NU Arts and the artists of the Berkshires I meet everywhere. My new studio and the hot pink rose plant that awaits me in the 10 foot window. And the city I left behind in search of a more rural life knowing like Dorothy in Oz, I can always return.






If there is a ripple effect, those lines are being drawn over and over, outwardly to you...here's one...right...there.


 

Wrong Planet Syndrome!

Posted by Marney Schorr on July 17, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I am reading Peter Vermeulen's 'Autistic Thinking - This is the Title' which is giving me a plain insight that I have craved working with youngsters with autism.


I feel compelled to share about it all this evening.


I am not on the autistic spectrum and yet I relate in many respects. I genuinely get confused by the game of language I hear every day. I just don't get people alot of times.


Francesca Happe writes that people with autism spectrum disorders often describe their experience of life as being like on an alien planet. He even calls it Wrong Planet Syndrome! He says:


[non-autistic folk] "often talk about the difficulty people with autism have in understanding the intricacies and nuances of the social world, and the mistakes that are made. But it is clear that the failure of understanding can go both ways. We have no idea what it is to see the world through the eyes of autism...we offend the logic of the autistic mind, we confuse with indirect and non-literal langage, we exasperate with our unpredictability."


Whew! That's enough of a language game to confuse anyone whether we nod our heads and pretend we understand or not.


Most of my friends are 'different'. And let's face it. They are more original than those 'normal' people I find boring. Yes I too, prefer Wrong Planet Syndrome.


I have arged that society is threatened by such originality but would be better to open the door to it. If society changed, special needs would be special gifts.


I was moved today by a young man who shined like a wildflower on an ordinary summer day. He got me smiling, laughing and being amazed at his simple organization of the creative endeavor I planned.


I whipped out my format camera and he took to it instantly. We took photos of the outdoors and printed them and then mounted them on large oak tag.


Then came the watercolor paints. He spontaneously chose two colors and started painting, unprompted, like a famous virtuoso. Gentle! I proclaimed. Afterall, only I can ruin my brushes. 


We shared a passion for color and paint. My spirit soared.


So we took it back to the computer. Words on a screen took the form of dialogue which took the form of a poem. Colors and photos of summertime - translated into language. His language.


It all happened so fast I took a backseat in my art therapist role and sat watching as an inspired spectator.


And so here is the simple, organized, literal, rhythmic and poetic words my auti friend shared with his personal art:


Blue garden and red garden


Outside at hang out

Run walk jump skip

Lay down on the hammock

Swimming in the pool

I would say fire pit

What would you say?

I say rocks

Paint a picture.



Art In the Kitchen

Posted by Marney Schorr on July 11, 2014 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (1)

Years ago I taught my six year old niece that artists are not afraid to 'get their hands dirty'. She went on to tell all her friends and really enjoyed digging into paints. Some play teacher, some play doctor. She played 'artist'.


I would help her put her long thick brown hair in a bun and double tie the strings on her smock. That was all she needed to get started, well that, pink paint and some sparkles. She loved running over to me when she had completed a picture, her little hands covered in sand and paint and glue and glitter.  It's hard to believe she turns 11 this week. How proud we both are to be able to work in my Pittsfield studio, getting our hands dirty and letting loose.


But not everyone is down with making a mess. And while I had always assumed the bigger the mess, the happier the artist, I am wrong. Being an artist comes from an individual expression of aesthetic. For some it is neat squares, mechanical pencil drawings, videos and cameras, short films, or a dance routine. For others, clay from the bottom of a pond.


This week I began some art therapy with a new client - a sweet and warm blue-eyed teen who happens to be on the autism spectrum. I intended to teach him something about art, and instead he taught me.


Like my niece this young man is generally optimistic and easy to be around. And like my niece, he also loves to cook. I left my paints in their bins and tried something else. Instead of playing artist, we played 'Chef'.


I spent some time creating a three part art therapy plan based on integrated play principles I learned from a great source called Peer Play and the Autism Spectrum: The Art of Guiding Children's Socialization and Imagination.

http/www.amazon.com/Peer-Play-Autism-Spectrum-Socialization/


We expanded his love of cooking into an entire restaurant experience. I adapted each step into a plan, where we could model a restaurant experience, take pictures, design a menu, go to the supermarket and dine out at a local eatery. I started with three skill-based categories. Here are some examples:


Play Domain: Symbolic Representation

Type of play:  Sensory, Functional & Pretend Play

Goal-based Activities: Cut out pictures of food from magazines; Look at foods in a cookbook or magazine; Sound out names for a Restaurant; Identify 3 favorite foods; Construct a recipe; Make a shopping list; Choose a restaurant name that is personal; Choose a design/symbol for a menu or take a pic for a menu.

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Play Domain: Social Dimension

Type of Play:  Orienting, On-looking, Parallel Play, Common Focus/Goals

Goal-based Activities: Observing other shoppers in the supermarket; Shopping alongside others in the supermarket; Getting on line to buy groceries; Checking out at store

 

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Fried chicken with broccoli salad, the big blue burger with fries and of course, chocolate ice cream sandwiches for dessert. All being cooked for a delicious artful dining experience with family and friends.

Art can be messy or it can be neat. And it can taste good too!

If you'd like some more info on this, please e-mail me!


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