I am working towards a MA in Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lewis &Clark College (Graduating June 2024). I am Romanian-American and call both Romania and the US, home. I believe artmaking is a language that belongs to all of us regardless of our experience. The artmaking process can offer new perspectives by allowing us to tap into ourselves, in places where words might fail to reach. I am an explorer who loves to play and reflect with art media and natural materials. I believe all people and communities have potential for growth and healing and that therapy offers a brave and safe space to connect to our strengths, explore meaning and move towards living authentically.
I grew up in Romania, experiencing the end of the communist regime and the transition to a new society. Lewis & Clark was my “home” for my undergraduate years and now again for my formation as an art therapist. I have also lived and learned in France and Thailand. These places as well as many people I met on my journey will always have a place in my heart. I have a community of heart and I am always looking to understand what community means in our society. Recognizing all life is interconnected, I strive for a collaborative approach with my clients and in a way that is trauma-informed at the individual, community and societal level.
I am married to a fellow “nomad” and we are raising our two boys and two cats (furry girls) in Portland, Oregon.
Artmaking and I have been having many coversations lately. Our graduating class was invited to create a body of work that explores an aspect of our experience as student art therapists (emerging art therapists). I chose to explore my identity using familiar media as well as media I had not used much. I made prints and I used charcoal, pencil, acrylic, model magic, chalk pastels, egg tempera, and watercolor. I looked at myself in the mirror, I zoomed in on photos, and I let my body lead me to what I needed to do. First, I felt that the term “identity” was narrow and static. Like the tiny ID card you present that is suppose to say who you are. I moved to explore the experiences that shape and keep shaping me. I leaned into the new and the old. At the same time that I was exploring different parts of myself, I was doing my first semester of internship with a psychiatric inpatient unit at a hospital. I chose the place because I was afraid of it. I wanted to comfront this fear and stretch myself. I could not have chosen a better place. Not only did I get over my fear (very fast) but I discovered a population that challenges me to become a better human and hopefully a better therapist. It also provided me with much inspiration and direction for this project. What can I offer…how can I add a human dimension? My human dimension. How do I “see” them? Do I get stuck in the narrowness of diagnosis or the benefit of skill building? How do I support them in being themselves? How do I witness and mirror their whole-ness, in these moments when they are stuck in one dimension of who they are? Are they stuck? Are they mourning the loss…is it permanent? What is the intention I set when working with these clients and how does the intention impact my connecting to them and providing support? What kind of therapist am I naturally growing into? I used to think that when I don’t know what to do, I should just go learn more. Now I know that when it comes to human be-ing and human connection, there is another equally important way - lean into not knowing, stay open to the process or the experience unfolding, stay present and reflect.
I also decided that an exploration of self and my experiences was what I needed, in order to understand the space I take, the space I need and the space that connects me to all others. I laughed at the thought of walking into a room full of my portraits. I found that after setting aside regular time for artmaking, my wanting to display some of the work changed. Through artmaking, I found a balance between seeing myself and being seen. I found also many more questions that can guide my becoming a therapist. When witnessing much pain and suffering some people feel anger. I feel overwhelmed. I looked to knowledge for an answer. Through artmaking I discovered that under my overwhelm there is grief, and under the grief there is love. This love can find a channel in the presence I am offering my clients and it is the human dimension that wisdom needs to thrive.
I created more pieces of art but I chose to curate what I am sharing.
Ongoing Journey (acrylic mostly, with 3D elements made of paper, foil and tape)
I started working on this project my first year of Art Therapy studies as an exploration of identity. I never came close to completing it. I reengaged with it and almost completely transformed it (perhaps a proof of my own transformation over the course of the graduat program.) I needed a second canvas, I changed all the colors. I had a lighter approach to it than my first year. I was able to embrace and celebrate so much of my past, values and beliefs. It made me more aware of the necessity of reflecting wholeness to my clients.
Cat Village - Made in collaboration with my 11 year old son, Teo. (Model magic, acrylic, fabric and foam board, snow fabric)
Cat village emerged from a drawing tradition I have with my children. We decided to make a 3D version using model magic. I often found myself working on it after my internship, as a way to relax. I decided to include this project in my class art work as an example of exploration of my motherhood experience, and the value I see in community. It also gave me an opportunity to reflect on the experience of many of the clients I see in the hospital, who lack a supportive community and sometimes even the support of family. I wondered if this “perfectly happy” cat village was reflecting an obstacle to understanding my clients whose lives are full of difficult experiences?
In making the village I understood my need for self care, harmony, and for balance. I also see the reflection of my playful, optimistic nature and the ability to find connections to the larger picture of life. It is from such a place of balance that I am able to better support others, not by offering them “my recipe” but by offering them my presence and my awareness of differences.
Self Portraits (pencil, charcoal)
I have always enjoyed the raw quality of charcoal. Charcoal requires patience to push and pull but I find its rawness forgiving and soothing. I offered charcoal to my clients and they found it insight-giving but also triggering. They needed to balance it with color which they noticed that they appreciated because of using black only first. For me charcoal emphasized practice - practice of mindfulness but also and invitation to dialogue. I used the pencil drawing to make prints. There is a magical dialogue that unfolds when you look yourself in the eyes. Wearing glasses added its own challenge to the process - inviting reflection on my limitations and blindspots.