The trees arrived two years ago. They showed up in my subconscious and delivered themselves through colorful pens onto paper. I had no clue what was happening, but I opened my doors and windows and let them all in. Until this moment, all of my art had been dark, grief-stricken, and full of trauma.
I had plunged into art about 15 years ago through an amazing art therapist who handed me old magazines, construction paper and a glue stick. I was in a deep depression facing the realities of the sexual abuse I had experienced as a child at home, a drugging and rape at 17, and a frat party date rape as a sophomore in college. I was an only child with an alcoholic mom (whom I loved more than words), a father who left, and an alcoholic stepfather who hurt me.
The art I created through art therapy and collage was a key to my painfully slow process of healing. Do we ever emerge from complex PTSD? I don't believe we do, but I've come incredibly far and I wouldn't be here without art and the power of my subconscious sharing its stories with me.
My collage work is shadowed, moody, and sexual in nature. It's filled with shame, hiding, and seeking. It's uncomfortable and disturbing for many who experience it, and my secrets aren't so hidden if you know where to look. I marvel at the finished pieces because they emerge fully without my having to think, or talk, or feel the deepest pain. Perhaps ironically, I find incredible beauty within the shadows. The darker, the better. The process is random, but not coincidental. Look closely and you'll often find dictionary words. A torn page from a dictionary, then haphazard rips, tears, and shreds until only a few words remain in my hand. Then, one is used. Every time I do this, I'm in awe of the final tears. Hmmm. Tears. Tears. Same spelling—one you're crying, the other you're destroying. Both happened. But collage gives me a way to rip up my past and recreate it so I can walk through the pain in stages my psyche can handle. My subconscious revealing the stories of my history through art.
And the trees. They arrived at a time when my professional spirit as a television producer was at its lowest. I worked for an oppressive, white-male-dominated, non-creative corporate culture that didn't take well to me speaking up and out -- the classic truth to power combined with being a woman is most often lethal. But telling this survivor to be silent will only raise the sound of my voice. I was called "emotional" and was ultimately fired without cause. Leaving was one of the happiest days of my professional career.
Toward the end of this proverbial shit-show, I started doodling on my desk calendar when I needed to take a break and breath through the madness surrounding me from above and below. That's when the trees emerged. Through squiggles and colors and seeming nothingness, they rooted and grew into their own unique shapes and sizes. Then they began naming themselves and telling me their stories. Little did I know, these specific trees would lead me to a complete career change and would become the most profound personal healing journey I have taken to date.
The trees' names and stories arrive in all forms at all times of day and night. I dream them, I feel them, they speak to and through me. They are full of whimsy, spirit, growth, and hope. They are truth-tellers. They are emotional. They feel deeply. They weep for sheer joy as well as abject sadness. They have real feelings and they never apologize for them.
The mood and intensity of my collage art stands in stark contrast to the vibrance, sunlight, and hope my trees bring into my world. Together they are a sunshower, rain and sun coexisting and healing my soul branch by branch, leaf by leaf, tear by tear.
I am now the founder and host of “The Creative Tree” on Clubhouse, an inclusive safe space for creatives of all kinds to talk about the healing power of trees, art, and storytelling.
Please join us.
To see more of my collage work, please visit @tmazart on Instagram
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