Saturday, April 08, 2006

An Interactive Art Exhibit

The following is a pictoral traversing through a series of boxes that I created in 2004. It is a personal journey and the journey of the adoptee. Each art piece in this exhibit is created to be interactive. It is a tactile active experience for the viewer. This exhibit is a traveling art show and is available for sponsorship in your community upon request.

“The Universe is made up of stories, not atoms.”
-Muriel Rukeyser

Through story and archetype descriptions I explain and understand my creative process. Carl Jung defined an archetype as the experience of a race which is present in the unconscious of the individual. Caroline Myss wrote extensively on archetypes in her book entitled Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential. These ideas have supported me in understanding my experiences in a larger context. Archetypes represent the fundamental learning experiences which are meant to guide us in our lives. They connect personal experiences to the universal experiences, thus connecting us to humanity.

The intention I set upon embarking on this art journey was to move out of the boxed story of my life in order to create a different perspective to direct and inform my past and future life and self. Stories are who we are but we create our experience of them within ourselves. This premise as the creator of my story lead me to build a way to a new identity.

The following pages describe my art and process. It is my story, but it is also the story of the adoptee. This was my realization after the art piece was completed. The work of the archetype had indeed performed an alchemy of sorts. I realized that my personal story connected perfectly with the universal story and stages of the adoptee on their healing journey. It is with the desire to connect with other adoptees and to ignite a passion for continued journeying towards healing that I exhibit this work.

Box One

Box One
As a ward of the state of Michigan my first five years of life were fraught with survival issues. Through abuse and neglect I came to know my first years in the world. This box tells of these years. The antique fabric which makes up this dolls dress has the words "I want my mommy" written repeatedly upon it. This is the primal wound spoken aloud. This is the deepest pain come forth. The calling to the mother who abandoned her child.

Archetype: Orphan
This is a fairly common character in fairytales. Often orphans develop a sense of independence early on in life. Those who survive are often celebrated for having won a battle with dark forces; forces that represent the fear of surviving alone in the world or being abandoned. The Child Orphan knows deep down that healing the wounds from the past requires evaluating childhood memories (Myss, 2001).

Box Two

Box Two
In 1964 I was adopted along with my biological brother. We were "chosen" from a group of orphans at the Children’s Aid Society while playing in the Orphanage’s romper room. It was here that perspective parents viewed the children from behind a large glass window. This model is of the home that I came to live in with my adopted family.

Archetype: Wounded Child
The Wounded Child holds the memories of abuse, neglect, and other traumas that were endured during childhood. These wounds often become the reason for adult suffering. The Wounded Child needs and deserves recognition as having had a substantial influence on who they are as adults. The painful experiences in our childhood have the potential to awaken a deep sense of compassion in us and can crack open a path to forgiveness (Myss, 2001).

Box Three

Box Three
When I was 22 I married a widower with three children. I fell in love with all of them and thus began my journey as a stepmother and ultimately the path that lead to my birth mother. Dealing with mother issues as both a daughter and mother have been my most deeply felt challenges.

Archetype: Mother
Connections to the Mother Archetype are not to be measured only by whether or not a woman is the biological mother. The Mother Archetype is seen to be the protector and keeper of life; from children to the earth herself. The mother is the life giver and the nurturer. The Mother Archetype is not absent her shadows and some women have to face the fact that her children see through the shadow aspects of the Mother Archetype. The struggle of accepting the humanness in motherhood and letting go of wanting to always be perfect mother is most challenging. The true grace in motherhood is the embracing of both the good and the bad mother in each of us and ultimately teaching ourselves and those we love to accept themselves in all of their wonderfully flawed beauty (Myss, 2001).

Box Four

Box Four
In 1982 I began searching for my biological family. I found my sister and maternal grandfather in 1987 and my birth parents in 1991. I was first to be separated from my parents, then my sister, and then my brother. My brother and I would eventually be reunited and adopted together. After 27 years of separation from my original family and roots I began the process of complete reclamation of self. During the search process I would come to search through court records, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other documents in order to find any tidbit of information that would lead me to the next step closer to my original birth family. Many of the tasks on this journey were illegal. I was not daunted by the law and continued my search regardless. I refused to be denied my right to know my heritage and my roots. These are my birthright.

Archetype: Pioneer
The Pioneer Archetype describes the individual who is "called to discover and explore new lands" (Myss, 2001). The Pioneer initiates new ideas in all kinds of areas. They have a passion for doing and creating what hasn’t been done in the past.

Box Five

___Box Five

The work place is where I have learned about my abilities as a doer in the world. Some of the professional hats I have worn are that of the teacher, costume designer, director, actor, artist, program developer, and program director. The work place is where I have taken risks and stood up for and tested my deepest beliefs. It is also where I have found the reflection of my adult self in the world, complete with sunlight and shadow.

Archetype: The Artist
The Artist Archetype is animated by passion and the energy needed to express and manifest this passion into physical form. The signature of the Artist Archetype is not measured by what an individual does, but how intense the motivation is in the manifesting of the extraordinary. The Artist Archetype is motivated by the need to express one’s self so much so that one’s well being is wrapped up in this energy (Myss, 2001).

Box Six

Box Six
This is a box of my family. We create a circle through clasped hearts, hands, and intertwined DNA. Finally at the age of 46 I am wholeheartedly embracing my family. This includes my biological family, adopted family, stepfamily, and my circle of friends who I proudly call sisters and brothers. I am indeed one of the chain links in my family line that is at once electric and at the same time perfectly blended into human beings who claim connection to each other.

Archetype: The Warrior
The Warrior Archetype is connected to the female psyche. The Warrior Achetype represents those who have been defenders of their families through the liberation, loyalty, and protection of family. The Warrior Archetype has the ability to fight for one’s rights and has great strength to endure and to face obstacles (Myss, 2001).

Out of the Box

Out of the Box

This is a canvas of the me that is the future potential. It is the me that I am dreaming and doing into being. This is my alchemy: to unfold the story out of me that is my life, to let go of the lead, and by seeing it in its wholeness transform it into something entirely different. This is me with a new vantage point having spit up the stories and digested them with compassion, acceptance, and hope. For we are ultimately gold, each of us, and it is only in the journey of discovering this for ourselves that we recognize that we were gold all along.
(This painting is a recreation of Maxfield Parish’s Stars 1926.)

Gwendolyn C. Natusch

Gwendolyn C. Natusch, M.Ed.

Gwendolyn Natusch has been a special needs teacher for many years and attained her master’s degree in education in 2004. Her career has embraced the arts as a costume designer, acting instructor, playwright, and theatre production director. She is an adoptee and currently active in the areas of research and education on issues that challenge triad members. Currently she teaches art workshops for both children and adults. Gwendolyn will earn her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work in May of 2007.
For Information on Exhibiting this Art Work Contact:
Autobiography Art Exhibit
PO Box 713
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
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