Painting My Tatas. Beyond Breast Cancer.

Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer mixed media by Bernadette Rose Smith Stitched and stretched. That’s what I’ve titled this piece because that’s what breast cancer ushered in with every decision I had to make. Cut it. Stitch it. Now, stretch it beyond anything recognizable as you. Life flew apart like confetti without a party. Not unlike my private-moment, mixed media attempts at depicting this most bizarre journey. (And so shortly after losing Ray to cancer.) Countless bits and pieces, created with the best of intentions, were tossed in the trashcan next to me because they did not fit the picture as I had imagined. The writer-me has freely spoken about her journey with breast cancer. The artist-me had not taken her shot at it. Quite frankly, she couldn’t get the writer to shut up long enough for the artist to quietly seat herself in the studio and ask, “How do you heal through this with art – not words?” Stitched and Stretched Bare Beginnings Beyond Breast Cancer mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith Each piece of paper, every bit of texture and slap of paint speaks to what this journey feels like through my artist-heart. And – more so – the desperately quiet pieces that landed in the trash with only my tears to witness. But, you know, there is something tremendously freeing in all of this.
I am stretched and sTReTcHiNg to live poetically. Not apologetically.
Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer Mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith There is a hope-filled whimsy that rises in this piece. Breasts flowering into a garden, butterflies seeking a new life expression and a bouquet of thoughts say...
Go for it, honey. Whatever time you have left, sow your wildflower seeds. You don’t have to plant yourself in rows any more.
Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer Mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith Time spent creating this piece is just what the doctor ordered. And I hope it will brighten the path for other women walking though breast cancer – as well as those walking with them. I plan on thriving for a long time but if I don’t, everyone who loves me knows my legacy celebrates our God-given creative spirit. So claim my freedom as yours. Don’t plant in rows unless you want to. My next decision is just around the corner. To nipple. Or not to nipple? God says to do what delights me. The artist-me says no more cutting or stitching or knotting of the flesh. I am thinking “tattoo!” Yep. This gal is going to invite another artist to paint my tata with an image that will remind me of love and this new, unapologetic life unfolding. Hmmm. But what shall that image be? Stay tuned, Loves! Stitched and Stretched Beyond Breast Cancer Mixed Media by Bernadette Rose Smith PSST: Are you local? You'll find “Stitched and Stretched” at the Southern Heartland Art Gallery for their Artful Harvest Show (going on now) and in their Wearable Arts Gala on October 13 and 14 where hand-embellished, 11 x 14 fine art giclee prints will be available for $45. If you'd like to order a print (contiguous USA only) contact me for info. dOUbLe PSST: If you enjoyed this post, you might like Kiss My Breast Good-bye or Two Cents Worth from My Tatas to Yours. As always, I love to hear your thoughts, DEar HEaRTs. You matter to me! XO Bernadette Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook. And if you like this then LIKE this! Remember, SHaRiNG is CaRiNG. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same.

Art as Life: Tear a Page. Turn a Corner.

Inspiritus at Lourdes Mixed Media Art by Bernadette Rose Smith Ever find yourself heading in a particular direction only to hit so many speed bumps, detours, or cul-de-sacs along the way that you start to question whether you should proceed? Maybe you can recall more than one “where is that road again” trip. Perhaps you are in the middle of one right now. Or, maybe there is one right around the corner waiting for you. (You do know you are not reading this by chance, right?) Well, get comfy. While you ponder that, I will tell you a short story about Inspiritus. Why? Because, whatever your journey, it is a story that points to a moment we share – that moment when we hear the whispers and feel the breath of the Divine moving through us. Inspiritus Mixed Media Art by Bernadette Rose Smith Inspiritus Breath Mixed Media Art by Bernadette Rose Smith I was not in the neighborhood for inspiritus. I was aiming for a project that I hoped would address a livelihood concern. Inspiritus – the altered book pictured throughout this post – was a spirited calling on the carpet. It started with a phrase that kept popping up in my journal and my thoughts. Like a song verse you can’t shake. “The words are the leaves. The deeds are the fruits.” A polite way for the Divine to say, “Talk is cheap. Show me.” Inspiritus Altered Book Cover by Bernadette Rose Smith It was generously reinforced with one dead end after another in my livelihood venture. I have acquired enough wisdom to know when to stop and listen. (You know, that point where you start seeing stars from hitting that brick wall one too many times?) That’s when this poetic collaboration hopped onto a page in my journal one morning, starting with the verse:
So much happens before a leaf is born and from your pages a word is torn...
Inspiritus Altered Book Love by Bernadette Rose Smith “What a delightful thump on the head,” I thought. And with that invitation came the rest.
root upon root. ring upon ring. matters hidden until, in spring, from root to trunk to limb to branch a leaf is born, adorned to dance in sun and breeze and cloud and storm until its partner bud is born. coaxed to blossom. blossom to fruit. how will you harvest what came to root?
Inspiritus Altered Book by Bernadette Rose Smith My life flashed before my eyes. Okay, maybe not that dramatic but pretty dang close. Lets just say, in the following weeks, the writer-me burned through a lot of pages on the topic of compromises, adaptations, justifications, rescues, distractions, and all manner of negotiation devices used to make peace with myself when confronted with the needs and concerns of others always coming first. Whether for lack of courage or just plain fatigue, my frail manipulative attempts to wrestle a corner of time to follow my passions and use the divine seeds given me met with delay upon delay, year after year. From brunette to my now “platinum blond.” Inspiritus Altered Book Contemplation by Bernadette Rose Smith Somewhere in all that writing reverie, the artist-me stepped up. She’d had it. “Enough already! I got this. Let me show you without all the words. The big annual art show is coming up in 7 weeks. You love altered books so make one. Give this poem a home and then send it on its journey. All of your adult life you have set me aside for more concerns than I can count. I am tired of living in the shadows cast by others and your livelihood-concerned, placating-all-others self. There is no one looking over your shoulder but you now. So what’s your excuse? When will there ever be the perfect time? How will I ever trust you? Talk is cheap. Show me you love me. Lets plant some seeds.” Inspiritus Altered Book Seeds by Bernadette Rose Smith Inspiritus Altered Book Mixed Media Seed Spread by Bernadette Rose Smith Well just ouch me! Enough of my story. Now I am going to ask you to think about yours and invite you to answer some questions. Inspiritus Altered Book Mixed Media Matchbook Drawers by Bernadette Rose Smith Leaves eventually give way to harvest a new experience. What seeds are you planting in their compost? Are they ones you came in with? Or ones others have handed to you along the way? The thing about the seeds accepted from others is that, at first, they seem easy because they come with instructions. But look carefully. Those seeds are often attached to strings and expectations that lead to resentments and guilt if not planted to the satisfaction of the original seed bearer. They can land you in tending a field that will not sustain you or the seed bearer. (Funny about that, eh?) Inspiritus Altered Book Mixed Media Ladder Spread by Bernadette Rose Smith The thing about the seeds we come in with is that they don’t often come with instructions. We have to do a little investigating to find the proper climate, soil, nutrients, as well as healthy partner crops with which to plant them. We have to be aware. Watch the weather patterns. Be attentive to pests and weeds. But the seeds we came in with will sustain us and place us in fields that will also sustain others. Inspiritus Altered Book Mixed Media Harvest Spread by Bernadette Rose Smith What’s in your seed pouch? Do you know? Have you checked lately? Now is the time to dig deep. When your seed-planting time on this earth is done and you are standing in front of the Master Farmer, will your pouch be empty? Or still full? Inspiritus Mixed Media Altered Book Hidden Matters by Bernadette Rose Smith The blogger-me says, “Thanks for the visit and share any seed thoughts you wish to cast for others to harvest!" The writer-me says, “Let my words be the leaves that your deeds may bear fruit.” The artist-me says, “Look at the pictures. They will nourish your soul.” Musings from the Messy Room Subscribe Photo If you like this post, then please LIKE and SHARE because together we PLANT a better world! And be sure to SUBSCRIBE to my Messy Room for more musings and inspirations to come!  

Visual Storytelling: She Pitched Her Tie and Put on Pearls

Mixed Media Art, She Pitched Her Tie and Put on Pearls by Bernadette Rose Smith A string of pearls with the affirming message, “Today is the day to find courage within,” lightly dance around the tail of a man’s tie like the wave of the Chinese symbol for yin and yang. The oyster with its soft, sensitive body, not unlike a woman’s, creates a pearl when challenged by the irritation and discomfort of a grain of sand or grit. Wisdom that comes from life experience is hard won in the same way pearls are created. “Pearls of wisdom” dance around a woman’s throat from where she gives voice to hard won opalescent experiences of sacred passion, desire, being, creativity and so much more.   What happens when a woman wears a tie or puts on pearls? As women – single, married, divorced – how do we maintain balance with bringing home the bacon and frying it? My desire with Ties and Pearls was to create a piece that spoke to the invisible partnering of the male and female in each of us, and how that manifests in our relationships in a visually appealing way. The archetypal power struggle that happens when masculine and feminine energies within us are out of balance (Jung referred to it as the anima and animus) is the inspiration for this art that mused its way into my studio with this passage from that book I am tearing up.   "I see where my husband became my life, rather than came to be in my life. Somehow I deluded myself into thinking that I was strong enough not to lose myself in him. That I would know if I crossed the line. How did I get so far over it? How? I spent too many years carrying on like a man. My own distorted spin on the women’s liberation bra burning era I grew up in.... As a woman, safety in a man’s world required liberation from myself. What a paradox! The inner male I took on for strength was the one leading me astray. The very behavior I despised in a man who could not honor, recognize, or value a woman was the very behavior I supported when my male side shadowed my female side...When I let “him” lead, I am chasing my shadow, going nowhere fast. Did I lose myself in what I felt driven to, or find myself? I don’t regret for a minute letting the woman in me take the lead ... I don’t regret the time I’ve taken to get to know her, to learn to trust her. She has the map to my psyche. The wisdom and strength I need to hold true to my soul’s calling. And through all of this she is showing me how to give of myself without giving up myself. Better for my inner male to provide the fuel and momentum under her direction and inspiration. That way they both arrive at a place they actually want to be. A much healthier arrangement!” Excerpt from Bernadette’s Pages: An Intimate Crossroad   This was a big classroom for me. My need to find balance and create a safe space for expression as a woman wearing pearls found its way into many journal entries through the course of that 9-month period of separation-on-the-brink-of-divorce ... and beyond. While musing over this art, my desire was to create a light visual for a heavy topic. From a distance, I wanted this to be simple and graphic. (Yang/Masculine) Up close, I wanted the layers to reveal themselves slowly, to entice the viewer into more intimate discoveries. (Yin/Feminine) In the struggle to find a balance, puzzle-pieced together text creates a man’s stark white dress shirt squared off against the inviting curve of a woman’s red bra. Background, created by text collage, represents the boundless body of a woman and the content of her experience. She Pitched Her Tie and Put on Pearls by Bernadette Rose Smith So many rich layers of metaphors spoke to me while playing with this. Here are just a few, captured with images and captions to springboard you into entertaining your own thoughts about this subject. Mixed Media Art, She Pitched Her Tie and Put on Pearls by Bernadette Rose Smith, Close Up of Pearls   The straight angular tie is cast off and almost phallic. (Something I didn’t notice until later.) It is the only piece of the art where text was not the substrate used to make its form. Gold thread and striped text whisper to challenges in breaking free of choking restraints A string of pearls, with their affirming message, lightly dance around tail of a man’s tie. Balanced, at last, like the wave of the Chinese symbol for yin and yang. Mixed Media Art, She Pitched Her Tie and Put on Pearls by Bernadette Rose Smith, Tie and Dancing Pearls Chinese characters for peace and joy (alternate corners) provide a foundation for moving forward when the male and female at last dance in harmony. Every woman has her story in relationship to ties and pearls. (Gentlemen, I invite you to consider your side of the fence with this because you have a relationship with ties and pearls as well.) I would love to hear about them! Are they working? Not working? In for revisions? And, if you are a creative-type, how do feel you about using your chosen craft as a way to see an aspect of yourself or life differently – or perhaps more lightly?  

#5 from the series “Tear Up that Book and Make Art.” Prints available in the Messy Room Art Gallery (Under Construction) If you are interested in a print, Contact me.

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Down and Dirty: Recovering a Sense of Possibility While Under the Influence of Gravity.

Visual journal, mixed-media page inspired by the poem Feet of Clay posted on the blog, Bernadette's Musings from the Messy Room.

Feet of Clay While her dance on earth bid her stay, she came to love her feet of clay. Though they crumbled and caved in life’s tidal wave of unknowing, she learned to reshape them and fire them with the glowing golden embers within her heart, the place that remembered where she got her start on wings of angels delivered to birth, royalty not subject to the mirth of fault-finders with cast iron feet bound to the earth, impenetrable and too deep to leap for the stars and catch fireflies in jars on hot summer nights when naked feet find delight in the dance that bid her stay while she came to love her feet of clay.

Bernadette Rose Smith

  Feet of clay is an expression we use that points to character flaws found in our humanness. You know. Those times when we are so good we must be found bad. Or so bad we are good enough to raise the eyebrows of those mirthful faultfinders around us. (Inner critics included.) Lets face it. Whether a Hollywood starlet caught in a nose-picking event by paparazzi or the King of Babylon exposed in a dream by prophet Daniel or somewhere in between like the rest of us, having feet of clay ranks low on the bucket list of “I wants” or things to be celebrated. We try to rise above them with store bought miracle grow wings that promise to elevate our consciousness. Or we hop on brooms with “swoop and sweep” features that offer to deflect or hide our questionable character. Or we travel the earthbound distraction route, clicking the heels of our sparkly ruby slippers on the latest offering of a freshly painted yellow brick road in a search for more brains, more heart and more courage ... to what? Escape them? Well, how ‘bout we embrace them?

Don’t wait for clay feet to kick you in the pants on your way out!

Visual journal, mixed-media close up of art inspired by Feet Of Clay poem in Bernadette's Musings from the Messy Room. The first two lines of Feet of Clay haunted me for days – like a mantra by Dr. Seuss – encouraging me to follow the impulses to its completion and start the visual journal page seen here. All during a creativity challenge I agreed to host for The Mused Community – a group on Facebook of which I am a grateful member. This particular challenge wove together chapter 5 from The Artist’s Way – Recovering a Sense of Possibility – and the earth energy medicine found in the dragonfly’s dance from its originating form as dragon. Lively discussion topics about virtue traps, not limiting God and finding the source of the stories we tell pointed to an evolving sense of possibility and recovery for embracing our feet of clay. For years, I tried to rise above mine. My sense of possibility anchored in a belief that I could learn how to be happy and feel safe here only by sustaining flight; lighting down occasionally to share the sights I’d seen from above. (Muses and creatives tend to do this but lack of oxygen in higher realms can make us fuzzy in remembering how to plant our visions here.) Visual journal, mixed-media page completed for Feet Of Clay poem posted on Bernadette's Musings from the Messy Room blog.

After multiple attempts and crashes, here is my basic guide to arriving – and thriving with clay feet.

1. Be the first in line to embrace your mess. (Love yourself.) 2. Get there before the mirth slayers. (Be not afraid.) 3. Perfection is found in imperfection. (So relax.) 4. Strength is found in vulnerability. (So relax some more.) 5. If you claim your feet of clay you won’t miss a leap to live – really live as you. Not someone else’s idea of you. (Be authentic.) 6. Whether you are stomping in the mud or re-firing in the glow of your heart, the edits and rewrites are yours. (So play.)  
No one can awaken from a dream the world is dreaming for him. – A Course in Miracles (text, P. 541)

Visual journal, mixed-media page of art inspired by the Feet Of Clay poem on Bernadette's Musings from the Messy Room blog

Don’t be a stand-in in someone else’s dream. While this dance on earth bids you stay, learn to love your feet of clay. It starts with you. That’s all I’ll say.

Claim your feet of clay here!

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The Crayon: Our First Magic Wand

A crayon was our first magic wand
“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the 'creative bug' is just a wee voice telling you, 'I'd like my crayons back, please.” – Hugh MacLeod
Admit it. Don't you sometimes wish you could have your first box of crayons back? And all the innocent creativity that came with them? I don’t know about you, but it was love at first sniff for me. Then, it was the magic of choice with a world of color at my fingertips. For the first time in my young life I could choose a color. Blend a color. Shade. Highlight. Even outline a color with another color. My own little kingdom of color invited in newsprint paper, coloring books, tracing paper, connect the dots and my first mural that spanned the length of Aunt Rosemary's hallway. I am told her attempt to correct the self-appointed 4 year old muralist failed when she finished with,  “Now, are ever going to do that again young lady?” and I replied,  “I will if you want me to.” (Am thinking I must have sniffed a whole box of crayons that day as I don’t remember the “color like no one is watching” incident.) My adults must have recognized that I had a creative spirit that could no longer be contained in a box of 24 as I was entrusted with THE BIG BOX. You know the one. 64 crayons complete with the built-in sharpener. Now, not only could I choose more colors but I could also choose the thickness of my lines! And, if that wasn’t enough to be excited about, it was in this box that I discovered a magical color called periwinkle. When you placed it next to blue it looked purple and when you placed it next to purple it looked blue. That is when the power of choice and observation invited me to open the door to consider other paradoxical and equally enchanting dimensional possibilities that life had to offer. As adults in a techno-society that now underestimates the power packed inside something as sweetly simple as a box of crayons, LETS NOT FORGET! The next time you see a child pick up a crayon consider what you are witness to. All the sensory gears that set into motion with that very personal magical moment of choice. (It might just be their first.) Who knows, you might just want to join them to tap into some of that "in the now" innocence for yourself. We are never too old to play with crayons. Me, I still have my box of 64 ... and yes, I still sniff. What was your favorite magic wand as a child? Is it still? PSST: Were you a "sniffer," too? If you like this post then LIKE it and SHARE it! Together we grow!