Thursday, March 9, 2017

Is Laundry Art?


"Folding laundry is my outlet."

This is a quote from a recent conversation with a family member. This same family member has been known to produce some beautiful woodwork. In the context of this statement, it seemed that this person would rather fold laundry and do dishes than identify as an artist.

This begs the question, can folding laundry and doing dishes be forms of creative (and healing) expression?

I don't have a quick answer. All I know is it made me laugh when this thought was brought forward and I deemed it worthy of writing about.

I self-identify as an artist. I pot, I sculpt, I paint and write. I reflect and intuit what I can from my work. I FEEL as I am creating and I get feedback from the work that creates more feeling. Noticing, being present and aware. This is the work of creation as a part of healing. It is purposeful. It is meditative. It is digging deeply.

When I am working creatively I have a process. Firstly, creating a sacred space for myself. This involves, lighting, music or silence, temperature, time and space. Sometimes, I consciously bring an issue with me because I know what it is I am grappling with. At other times, I only know I am restless, uneasy, anxious, angry, upset, or conversely ecstatic and joyous! But always the intention is to express, listen, honor, and heal or move forward.

As I work, I get into a zone. Thoughts and feelings flow, and if it is a particularly good day I can hold awareness for my emotions and myself. I can honor without judgement. I can observe, hold space for, and release or move forward. It is a circular process. Often the work becomes symbolic, an octopus searching for home and self; a mermaid reaching for the surface; a gnarly tree with roots splitting off in two or three distinct directions. Using colors, shapes and symbols; rolling, bending, and molding clay... this is my healing work.

So can folding laundry be one's creative outlet?

You tell me.
For me, folding laundry is the last thing on my priority list. And I do mean last. It stacks up in baskets and piles. When I finally do get to it, I may put on music, open the curtains, and try to be joyful while doing it. I may consciously cultivate gratitude that we have clean clothes. OR I may just toss each persons stuff into baskets and leave it in their room! It could go either way really!? Perhaps, this is my deeply symbolic expression of disliking chores. OR maybe folding laundry, for me is not an artistic expression. I've practiced mindfulness, and I'm sure there are people out there who would argue that folding laundry is a beautiful and meditative activity. I can hear them now:

BE the laundry.
BE in the moment with the laundry.
BE present with the laundry.
BE present with your feelings while folding the laundry....

... now I'm smiling because my inner voice says "ditch the laundry, go do something fun."
Further evidence to my theory that I am a 36 year old child. I am a giant child. I am not in denial about my feelings about chores, or who I am. When I hear people say things like "I love folding laundry!" my inner child is horrified. It screams "liar!" and my inner voice wants to ask them what their 9 year old self would say to them if they heard them say "I love folding the laundry!".

This is where my work comes in. I am blessed to be working mostly with youths. They don't tend to be full of denial or weighted with a sense of responsibility. They tend to be present and spontaneous. Their creative spirit hopefully has not yet been been squelched (by the demands of laundry); but even if it has or they are self conscious, they tend to get into the swing of things before long. Creating, expressing, honoring, and healing.

At other times, I get to work with adults, or the parents of the kids I'm working with. It is brilliant to see their process.
Sometimes, the adult begins with doodling, other times they just observe their child, not yet ready to participate themselves. Sometimes, I give them a lump of clay and invite them to try the wheel, or to sculpt something. Sometimes, I suggest a topic and other times I just wait to see what unfolds.
Sometimes, the nervousness or anxiety is palpable, after all art is universal.

It requires us to take hold of some part of our inner self and put it "out there." "Out there" where we can be witnessed, honored, or even judged. This can create in us feelings of vulnerability. We can feel exposed, or even triggered. This feels risky, uncomfortable.

I believe is where "folding laundry is my outlet" comes in. It's much safer. Much more acceptable. Practical. Comfortable. Useful. Quite literally, it is the preparation and care for an item that hides our "unmentionables".

If ART is what puts us "out there" for all the world to see; then I would venture to say doing laundry is the opposite. It's literally, processing the items used to hide ourselves or used to present ourselves as we wish the world to see us; and perhaps, as we wish to see ourselves.

On this matter then, of whether laundry can be an artistic and healing outlet, I guess MY answer is no. I would beg to wonder what a person is afraid of if they are relying on a chore to be their outlet. I would invite a person to try even small forms of artistic expression; to take time to remember what activities really fired them up in their youth. Did they play an instrument? enjoy acting? sewing? woodworking? finger painting? collecting items from nature to create with? beading? weaving? collaging? photography? storytelling? I would invite them to do that activity with wonder, openness, curiosity. Observe what happens inside. Ask their 9 year old self how they feel about it, and then really listen to the answer.

But this is my truth, and I am an artist, so what do I know?

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