I worked on several iterations of the Tremaine Experience, which centered around the experiences of the playwright/actor who grew up in the Cabrini Greens projects of Chicago. I took several thousand photos of street art, appreciating the layering of the artwork, regardless of whether or not it was approved by someone, is a language in and of itself. I imagined that any graffiti we would use would have been painted over several times, layered over itself again and again. Using the source images I found in memorial photos, construction sites, and communities I pieced together a sketch that incorporated many of the elements of the play and of graffiti artists of the time. I used imagery of hooks, chains, eels which are alluded to throughout the play in it’s discussion of oppression and community through a variety of lenses. I used the imagery of a flowers and of water which was frequently mentioned in the script. I imagined the floor of the ‘community’ center the play takes place in is frequently under construction. It’s patched up and full of holes. Since we could not paint the floor of the stage as per rules, we painted boards used for construction instead and laid them out.
While I do some large scale mural work this was one of the first occasions where I did all the sketching, layout, painting, and finish work on my own. I can honestly say it was an amazing experience, but playing the part of several artists required thinking through and taking multiple types of artwork and techniques on a single layout. I use this technique in Art Therapy when I ask participants to focus on a particular feeling or experience and work from that mindset. By creating with a single material from a variety of emotional positions, participants can sometimes see how their behavior changes with their emotional positioning. This is not an act of surveillance, they do not disclose what that feeling is to me unless they wish to. Our actions, the care and focus we have for tasks is inevitably changed by what we experience while we are doing them. By exploring how emotional impacts effect artwork, we take a small step toward concretizing the knowledge that emotional condition can have an impact on things physically. This is a CBT routed idea: cognitive awareness of emotional impacts on behavior can increase the wellness and health of those who use these techniques.