Title of Series: Tightly Wound
Dimensions: 1’ x 1’
Materials: Birch wood, pencil, nails, thread
This internship I walked alongside people in traumatized states, as I worked with those who have experienced domestic violence. This artwork is a visual representation of my understanding of my client’s experiences, and creates the basis of a metaphor in understanding the work we did together. The thread is so taut that it makes it nearly impossible for the figures to move. If they attempt to, they pull on over 100 other interconnected pain points (nails). If they don’t move, there is a ubiquitous underlining tension. If even one thread is bumped, all others are affected.
My therapeutic work was to first compassionately acknowledge where these clients were at; it was to see the mass of layered strings without judgement or fear of the depth of their pain. Next, for most, was to loosen how tightly their emotional strings were strung inside of them, or in other words, sooth the parasympathetic nervous system. For many, art therapy then became a place to look closely at each string, or to identify, make sense of— and when appropriate— to safely feel their feelings. Once the strings were loosened enough that they had more freedom to move, some engaged in exploring and rebuilding their identity.
While the product has more layers of meaning than are even explored in this statement, the process of creating this was intuitive and kinesthetic. Nailing released tension, and winding the string was soothing. I experienced secondary traumatic stress during my internship, meaning I experienced the symptoms of PTSD because of my attuned exposure to PTSD in others. Much of this term was spent learning how to calm my own body, and then use my experience to inform my work with clients. The kinesthetic process found in this art was a final bookend to that semester long process.