November 11, 2013
Q&A WITH ARTIST AND POET LORENA FERNANDEZ
The Latina Book Club is proud to introduce artist and poet Lorena Fernandez. She has written two books on personal growth and healing through art. It’s a fascinating and creative process that uses the mind and the body, the spirit and the soul. I know you will enjoy “meeting” Lorena as much as I did. ---mcf
Making art can ease the suffering in emotional moments, and,
in the long run, it helps us to know ourselves and
make sense of our own life journey. –Lorena Fernandez
Q: In your book SPIRITUAL HEALING WITH ART, it is part art book, part memoir. In it we see you creating each painting at different stages of your life. Do you think this "lifetime painting" technique can work for everyone? How so?
A: Yes. I think that making art as we live our life allows us to get to know ourselves and to make sense of our own evolution. When we feel overwhelming emotions, activities like drawing and painting are helpful for at least two reasons: the first is that they help us reconnect with the present moment since we engage in an activity that involves the senses. As we draw or paint, we notice the lines and colors, the way the brush touches the paper, how the colors mix together, etc. This interaction with tangible things in the present moment helps calm our mind in a kind of moving meditation. That is because usually the source of emotional suffering is not something in the present moment, but memories from the past or fears about the future.
Second, it is helpful because that artwork really is a symbol of something we are going through. We might not understand all of what it means right away -- it might take months or years --but if we keep records of our work, by taking a picture and writing a short explanation, as time passes we begin to notice a coherence in our thinking and artistic self-expression, and we begin to understand something important about who we are. It is a way to know ourselves by observing our own creative output overtime. Personally I didn't know all the meaning of any of my paintings as I made them. Watching the video I made from that first book you will see that it was not possible to know what each painting meant at the time of making it, the meaning of each of your works gets revealed over time, so keeping records is important. Getting to know yourself is really a retrospective process, where we look at how we reacted to situations in the past. Click here to see the video.
In other words, making art can ease the suffering in emotional moments, and in the long run it helps us to know ourselves and make sense of our own life journey, which can helps us avoid repeating mistakes in the future. It's like paying attention to the evolution of any process.
Q: Your 2nd book, HOW TO EXIST, AN IMPRACTICAL GUIDE is a book of poetry. Which creative outlet -- painting or writing -- do you prefer? Or are both equally important?
A: To me both are important and often complementary. Usually I paint and then do free writing (writing anything that crosses my mind without paying attention to spelling or whether it makes sense) as I look at the painting. Often what comes out can be turned into a poem that has important meanings for me. I also journal nearly every day to take everything that bothers me out of my body and let go of it on the paper. That really acts as a release, which allows me to pay attention to what is actually happening in my life; to the people around me without the distraction of thoughts that have nothing to do with what is here and now physically present.
Q: What is Expressive Art Coaching and how does it help with decision making and personal growth? Is this type of coaching for everyone?
A: Expressive Arts coaching is a type of coaching that uses art materials and processes to help people who are feeling stuck in a problem. It has nothing to do with artistic skills or technique. It is all about self-expression and becoming aware of new perspectives. By using art materials to make representations of a situation, people can understand it better and see new possibilities. I think that all human beings come wired to use this type of symbolic representations. A three-year old child can already make a phone call on a banana, for example, or draw a triangle and a square and say "this one is you and this one is me." Making symbols to create scenarios that we want to understand better is a human capacity that we all share, so from that perspective I think everyone can use Expressive Arts coaching. Click here to see a short video on Expressive Arts.
Q: Do you think keeping a journal would be helpful in expressive art? Do you keep a journal? If so, how often do you write in it?
A: Yes, keeping a journal is very helpful in Expressive Art. When I was 11 years old living in Venezuela I read a Spanish translation of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Childhood was a difficult time in my life because my parents had divorce and many things were a bit chaotic, so her writing inspired me to start a diary. I thought it would help me, and it did. I still keep a journal that is very helpful to me in my daily life. I try to write every day, but I skip some times when life gets in the way. However, I always go back to it and releasing my worries on it always improves my outlook on life.
Q: What artists and writers have influenced you? Who are your favorites Latino authors?
A: I love poetry so I read many authors, especially Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and Julia de Burgos. I used to love the arts as a little girl, but when I went to Texas A&M University I stop all art related activities to focus on school. One day, almost by chance a friend invited me to a Frida Kahlo exhibition. I was moved to tears by several of her works. That day I stayed up all night drawing. My Master of Arts thesis was an exploration of the sociological content in the art of Frida Kahlo, particularly cultural identity, feminism and the struggle of the disable. I also loved Salvador Dali and Picasso.
Q: Can you give us some Spiritual Healing tips that our readers can do at home?
A: When people are interested in personal growth and in exploring the arts as an avenue for that I recommend that they get some oil pastels and a sketch book. Then at least once per week, they can dance for ten minutes to music that they love, then draw freely whatever crosses their mind for ten minutes, after that write freely for ten minutes. Just doing that for a few months will steer their life in good new directions. It is also helpful to have a safe social group, even of one other person, to talk about the works. Often people ask me how they can identify someone safe to share their work with.
There are three characteristics that people can discuss so they can offer them to each other: (1) The ability to look at the work and listen to what it means with respect. That means to refrain from offering advice. It means making a serious effort to understand the situation from the other's perspective. It means asking questions that will help to understand, and refrain from trying to control the other. (2) Empathize. That means to make a serious effort to understand by finding a similar situation in your own life and thinking how you felt then. Not to compete and show how you handle it better, but to understand the emotions of the other. (3) Be Trustworthy. That means people who show you what they feel and are honest to you. Not people who you have to guess what they are thinking, but the one who tells you what they are thinking. If you find people who also want to do this work, and are willing to try this behaviors while doing it, respect, empathy and trustworthiness, you could meet once a week or once a month to share and that would also steer all involved towards more positive, healthy, and satisfying actions and feelings in their daily life, which is really what we call Spiritual Healing.
Q: What is next for you? Are you working on a new book? A new painting series?
A: I am working on a new book called Art and Self-Creation that will be out sometime next year. The book includes some theories about Expressive Arts, many exercises and examples from clients and from myself. I will put the link to the publisher in my website as soon as the book is out for people interested in this work. I want to thank the Latina Book Club for this wonderful opportunity to share about my books and art with other Latinas in our community! ###
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lorena Fernandez is an artist and poet. Her first book, Spiritual Healing with Art / Curacion Espiritual con Arte, is also a You-Tube video, and explains how Lorena overcame a variety of life challenges through her art. Her second book, HOW TO EXIST, AN IMPRACTICDAL GUIDE/ COMO EXISTIR, GUIA IMPRACTICA, is more of a poetry book, in English and Spanish, with over 70 artworks. Lorena gives workshops and classes to different support groups and individuals around Houston, Texas. To learn more about Lorena Fernandez, visit her at www.lfcreative.com or follow her blog at http://blogs.chron.com/artbeat/ in which she shares information about local artists and the Houston art scene.