Virginia Swain’s Artist Statement
Before I start each piece, I ask my inner voice how can I let my soul speak? With expressive art, I claim my deepest images and visions as well as becoming aware of unconscious parts of myself, calming inner turmoil, sadness, and fear. Healing images then arise from my brush.
The imaging process and expressive art is helpful to see a solution to a challenge that the intellect cannot imagine. It is based on the work of my mentors, the late Dr. Elise and Kenneth Boulding and author Barbara V. Wheeler whose expressive art classes I have attended since 2003.
My image, shown at left, contains two visions that express the two most important images of my life. One is with Christ in 1985 handing me a mantle of roses (shown in the red dress I am wearing) and the other from a dream in 2001 when I was in New York City during the World Trade Center attacks. The dream image was of a Phoenix rising out of the ashes of ground zero on 9/11/01, as shown in the orange color of the background. Both visions are the titles of my memoirs, A Mantle of Roses: A Woman’s Journey Home to Peace and My Soul’s Journey: A Phoenix Arises from 9/11 (both published by Xlibris in 2004 and 2017). The latest book, I call Phoenix, chronicles how I brought all my resources from 30 years training Reconciliation Leaders at the United Nations to the United States at this critical moment of our history. To learn more, click here
Since 2003, my commitment has been to access my soul through imaging and expressive art. This expression allows me to experience life more deeply. I have learned how to use color/shape to let my feelings and deepest visions speak. I am a high feeler in a thinking world that disavows feelings. Expressive art allows me to grant unknown parts of myself, my unconscious, to be known. I have found that expressing feelings with expressive arts helps both my own journey as well as my clients put the more bothersome feelings to rest. Art calms my inner turmoil and feelings that will not go away. After I have acknowledged these feelings in my paintings, they dissipate and go away. Then I can put color to the paper in a new way that allows me to take my next action step.
I ask these questions before I start:
How do I let my soul speak?
- How do I release feelings that cannot be expressed in words?
- How do I capture the joy of my life?
- How do I tap into my “still small voice” or my “inner teacher”?
- How can I give feelings that bother me a voice and will not go away?
- How can I capture the anger, sadness, joy and sorrows and other feelings of my life?
I cannot control my emotions unless I recognize and express them. If I do not, they end up controlling me. Feelings are neither right nor wrong—they just are. If I express feelings appropriately and take responsibility for them, my best efforts to succeed will bear fruit, both personally and professionally. That process allows the anger, sadness, and fear to have less control over my life allowing my love and joy to be experienced more fully.
I have been able to use imaging and expressive art successfully in my professional life—either in my private practice as a therapist, coach, mediator, or as a consultant and trainer.
I then can integrate the image that represents peace, calmness, joy, happiness or any other feeling or state of mind to acknowledge. By acknowledging and making feelings important and conscious, they subside and give way to peace, joy, and calm. At this point, I can access an unconscious part of me that includes my deepest visions for peace.
This is a technique easily learned which can support participants to become calm when upset, anxious or angry. I have used expressive arts in stress management classes, in the mediation room and in my private practice with children, teens and adults. I provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment where an invitation to express feelings and images on paper is offered.
When Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilley appointed me to become a mediator at Burncoat Senior High in Worcester, MA, one of twenty-eight schools so funded, the students found the imaging process so helpful that they lined up at the door to my mediation room asking if they could paint their feelings. Students and clients have felt that art can enhance expression of feeling and concerns to help solve problems through verbal and non-verbal communication. Sometimes artists become clients when their creativity is blocked. Imaging unlocks the blocks and opens creativity.
Introducing Imaging to Envision Solutions to Global Challenges
I began introducing course participants to Reconciliation Leadership in my United Nations Reconciliation Leadership Program courses since 1999 when I first started teaching there. Reconciliation Leadership was conceived in an image and then developed and taught over 30 years at the United Nations. It is extremely helpful to find answers to global challenges through imaging. I can then collaborate with Spirit in a co-creative leadership, developed through the Reconciliation leadership program.
Reconciliation Leader use the imaging process in which the solution to a challenge is imagined, based on the work of Drs. Boulding. These leaders image the solution to a challenge, believing that if you cannot “see” a solution to a challenge in your mind’s eye, it will be impossible to resolve. Reconciliation Leaders receive their image in meditation, make a timeline backwards and an action plan to bring it into current reality. See Dr. Boulding’s last book: Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History for more. Below is a large group image that images a new world emerging from the global ravages of COVID19 they called “New Birth of Earth in Wellness, Light and Love”. Each participant made their own timeline and action plan to implement their image.
In one United Nations course I taught for the Reconciliation Leadership Certificate Program, I asked an expert to speak on Millennium Goal #1, “Halving Global Poverty” by the Year 2015. Then I gave the students a chance to respond with their images teaching them that unless we can access images as solutions to the world’s problems, we do not have any idea how to resolve them. One group of students imaged the end of global poverty and then made a timeline where the world has reversed its stance from sovereignty and self-interest to a world of global citizenship—”Me to We.” After they made their group image from their individual images, they then made a concrete action plan with first steps they would accomplish the day after they left the five-day course.
I overcame my fear when I exhibited my expressive art twice at the Worcester Sprinkler Factory Gallery (first at Various Artists, Various Media in May 2016 and then at a show on Masks) to introduce my artistic endeavors. Continuing in 2018, I took an Exhibitions Class at Worcester Art Museum and am in the student show as well as showing at the Arts Worcester “One” show on June 15. 2018.
As I became aware of a new image with me to bring all I had learned at the United Nations to American leadership, I began America’s Soul Online Community in 2017. I use expressive art after guided visualization when I ask participants to draw an image that reflects their soul gifts to offer to the Phoenix. I believe that one by one we can claim our own spiritual and moral essence and offer our soul gifts to the Phoenix. The Phoenix gave me a hopeful way to look at 9/11 and a Covid19 America and World.
America’s Soul Community helps groups understand a set of issues at their own pace while supporting people reach a state of mutual understanding and alignment.
A spiritual renaissance happens one soul at a time. America’s Soul Community is one way to begin. The Community is an online community building environment with zoom. It is also based on a new definition of politics and politician I defined and wrote in my master’s thesis from Lesley University in 1993.