In the late 1980’s, I created a clay mask from a mould of my face. The mask was fired, and I've kept it mostly hung on the wall. I don't look at it very often - a flat landscape devoid of expression. Never inspiring or uplifting, I'm beginning to wonder why I've kept it all these years other than for the sake of memorabilia and its uniqueness. I realize it's the way I've felt most of the time - dull to express myself even with a stable milieu of opportunities and constraints influencing me at any given moment. As a youngster, I lacked the experience of receiving affection and hugs from my parents with most of my adult life consisting of a load of worry and anxiety. I guess my life's expressionless mask needed to remain in survival mode lest I drown in a sea of emotion. Recently, I've become aware of the possibility that this mirror could reflect away from a depressing past because I am not my past. I ask is it possible to alter my social experience and how I react to it? How I addressed that question has made all the difference.
More than Déjà vu I wonder at the reason why I'm connecting with clay again only this time it is a quantity of red clay introduced by Angela Duntsch of Expressive Arts Therapy. I met Angela five years ago but never took her service seriously. I even expressed negativity until one day feeling a need to deal with the disruptive effects of my mask's failure to cover my inner tension, the stress of school, and the need to release my fears I contacted Angela. What I soon discovered was a welcoming, creative, active and safe therapeutic environment.
Red Clay's appearance originates from particles of iron oxide eroded from granite boulders by wind erosion landing on the surface of lakes over millions of years forming their clay bottoms. Clay particles are one thousand times smaller than sand particles making the medium very responsive to finger manipulation. Clay bodies are extracted from Canadian and American locations to be refined and sold in packages to folks like Angela.
My project seems to be asking for more of this medium, but I feel an urge to be frugal. Knowingly Angela asks, "Do you need more clay"? She supports her inquiry with the wire she holds ready to cut through the dense material protected in the plastic bag. I eagerly take the soft pieces she offers becoming more and more drawn into my connection with the sculpture - a reclining pose of me without genitals. Imagining a state of gender neutrality, I reflect on someone’s journey between gender identification.
If there is urgency, it stems from the fear of removing the mask and exposing feelings of vulnerability, impotence, worthlessness. I look at it as if my identification and obsession with form and its mental constructs could be a door opening to a formless dimension. I'm happy to say my mask is falling away and I feel more comfortable with myself. ©
Eckhart Tolle."Reality is Beyond Thought." You Tube. np., March 8, 2016. Web. September 24, 2017.