Friday, April 13, 2007

Nonviolent Communication as it relates to Art-Making

This week I went to a very interesting workshop with Marshall Rosenburg, the creator of "Nonviolent Communication." Nonviolent Communication is a method of mindful communication, aimed at reducing anger, guilt, blame, and judgment. It's quite interesting.
Many thought-provoking points were made, but a few things caught my attention in relationship to art and art-making.

Nonviolent Communication places emphasis on hearing the needs and feelings behind a person's word - rather than focusing on the words. For example, if someone says "You rotten jerk!" - rather than hearing an insult or personal affront, you focus on hearing that the person is feeling angry. Interesting quote: "When you are hearing the needs and feelings of someone else, you won't hear anything about yourself."

All of this reminds me of art making, and of Geoffrey's comment of Steven Larose's blog recently - that he has the quote "It's not a face" written above his portrait painting area. Of course, the subject matter of art work is a source of potential power and emphasis - but the feelings and needs held in one's heart while making the work will shine through regardless of the subject matter. Personally, I think this is especially true with painting and drawing. This explains why a Jasper Johns painting of numbers can still be evocative. Or why a Van Gogh painting of a field can be tortuous.


Another interesting quote from the workshop "People often know what they want to say, but have no idea what they want in return." NVC encourages people to follow up statements of feelings/needs with specific requests. For example, "I feel frustrated when you leave your dishes on the table. Would you please take your dish to the sink?" (compared with "You always leave your dishes out!"). That's a banal example, but it's an interesting point in relation to art-making.

It's so important to know not only what you want to say with your art, but what sort of response you want to get. Who is our target audience, and how do we want them to respond to our work? What action do we want to request of them? What are we trying to say, to whom, and why?

One last thing: More than once, Mr. Rosenburg said something along the lines of "Speak your truth in a way that people receive it as a gift." Isn't that a nice dictum for making art?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Change Is Possible!

I really really believe in the capacity for change. It seems like there are a lot of cultural messages like "people don't change" or "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" and just a general malaise about the capacit for people to evolve and change.

But then again, I feel like I've changed so much (thank goodness!) - and I've also been given the beautiful opportunity of watching others change and evolve. This is a particularly inspiring and rewarding part of teaching yoga - observing the growth of people in my classes.

Last week I was at class with my teacher, and we were working on a pose that has always been very hard (read: impossible) and scary for me. I see other people do it, and I can't even imagine it in my body - it really seems unimaginable. But, of course, I try anyway. And then there it was - this week it was notably lighter, more comfortable, available. Still not quite there, but suddenly visible on the horizon.

I popped up and exclaimed "Wow! Change IS possible!"

I LOVE this about yoga. It is a practice that helps you observe the possibilty for change. It gives you the chance to see tangible results of change. And, of course, it literally helps you change. The poses are just an outward result of what's changing internally. And then, when I have an experience like this - it reminds me that all people in the world are capable of change. They won't necessarily change, but they certainly could. It's such a feeling of relief, possibility, humanity.
Incidentally, that's a picture of a shedded snake skin. In case you were wondering.