Over the last few months, I’ve really been exploring what really lights me up in my work. While helping teachers bring the joy of personal art connection to their students has been wonderful, I also know that I want to teach again and be in conversations about art rather than just helping others facilitate them.
To that end, I’m offering a new program on November 8 that’s not just for teachers, it’s for anybody. As a precursor to this, I did an interview with a friend and colleague of mine, Lisa Carpenter, on her podcast called Full Frontal Living. I’ve known her for several years and after the interview, I realized that I really wanted to share this conversation with you too.
So in this episode, Lisa interviews me about making personal connections with art as a tool for self care and healing. I also share a bit about the upcoming program, Art Connection Circle, and walk her through an interpretation exercise of Miquel Barceló’s art, Sopa d’Europa.
4:44 – I discuss my deeply emotional connection with art
8:28 – Art’s ability to allow you feel safe in your feelings
10:11 – How to start thinking about art as a way to practice self-care
13:25 – The tendency of different forms of art to meet you wherever you are in your life
18:08 – Why even the works of art that bore or repel you are worth exploring
22:24 – Approaching self-care and art in a different way
27:50 – Lisa makes a personal connection with art live on the podcast
38:51 – What’s different for Lisa after connecting with Miquel’s artwork
41:43 – Where the real meaning behind any work of art can be found
45:15 – How art can serve as a safety net for hard conversations
- Sopa d’Europa by Miquel Barceló
- Art Connection Circle
- Full Frontal Living podcast
- 82 Questions About Art
Be a Podcast Guest: Submit a Voice Memo of Your Art Story (Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your story.)
Cindy Ingram: Hello, and welcome to the Art Class Curator Podcast. I am Cindy Ingram, your host and the founder of Art Class Curator and The Curated Connections Library. We’re here to talk about teaching art with purpose and inspiration from the daily delight of creativity to the messy mishaps that come with being a teacher. Whether you’re driving home from school or cleaning up your classroom for the 15th time today, take a second, take a deep breath, relax those shoulders, and let’s get started.
Hello everybody, welcome back to the Art Class Curator Podcast. And I have something I’m super excited to share with you today. Over the last many months, I have been really exploring what really brings me joy in the work that I do. And you’ll learn in a few weeks on the podcast about this experience we had over the summer at a summer workshop that we offer at our class curator. That episode will be coming out in a few weeks. I don’t know which exact date it is, but we had a really magical, powerful experience with the group of teachers that came on the second day. And after that, and along with all this work I’ve been doing throughout the last few years, I’ve really realized that I am super passionate about spending time with people, with works of art. And helping teachers, bring them to their students is wonderful and valuable, but I also really want to be the teacher again, you know, be in those conversations about the art, rather than helping you facilitate them. So, I have a brand new program that I’m going to be offering, and it’s not just for teachers, it is for anybody.
And so, in this episode, I am actually doing an interview with Lisa Carpenter for her podcast called Full Frontal Living. Now, Lisa Carpenter is a friend of mine, she is also my former coach, we’re also colleagues, business colleagues. I’ve known her for several years and we have a really special, special relationship. And this conversation with her for her podcast, after it was over, I realized I really wanted to share this conversation with you as well. So, you will hear her interviewing me and you’ll hear her talk about the things that she likes to talk about. Her podcast is a lot about self-care and helping you manage your work-life balance and getting out of the doing and into the being. It’s a really– she’s a wonderful coach and a wonderful human being. And so, I encourage you to listen to her podcast if what she talks about today resonates with you.
So this is an episode from her podcast reposted on my podcast. I’m the guest on the podcast. And I even walk her through an art interpretation exercise in the episode as well and also share a little bit about these new art connection circles, which we’re going to start soon on November 8th. So if you’re interested in that, you can get more information at the end of the episode, you can also visit artclasscurator.com/circle, and get more information about this upcoming program. But I’m super thrilled about this interview and she’s super thrilled about this direction that we are going in, and I can’t wait to have these powerful personal conversations about art with you if you join us. All right, thanks so much to Lisa, and here is our interview.
Lisa Carpenter: Hey, hey, listeners, thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Full Frontal Living podcast. And I have a really special guest on with me today. I was super excited to bring her on the podcast, and we’re talking about something that I haven’t really ever dived into, but if you’ve been listening for a while, you know I talk a lot about how to care for yourself, we talk a lot about emotional fluency, what it means to feel your feelings. And this lady, Cindy Ingram, who is a former client of mine, she’s also become a good friend, she’s a colleague, we have quite an interesting history together as I’ve gotten to know her. She is going to walk us through, today, art as a way to connect with our emotions because this came up in a conversation between her and me a while ago.
You probably have never thought about this, but art is such a great way to connect with your emotions. And especially during the pandemic, I know for me art has become really powerful, but not necessarily your traditional what we think of as art. So we’ll talk a little bit about that. But Cindy, can you go ahead and introduce yourself to everybody? Let them know who you are, what you do, your background, because it’s so– there’s such an interesting story about where you were and versus where you are now.
Cindy: Yes. Hello, I’m so excited to be here, and always fun to talk to you. So, yes, my name is Cindy Ingram and I am a former art teacher and a former museum educator. So, when I was in school growing up, I always wanted to be a Disney animator. I was obsessed with Disney movies. But I lived in a small town and we didn’t have like art museums or, you know, art to explore, so my only way of really connecting with art was in my art classes, and then also, watching these Disney movies. And I realized pretty early on in my life that there was something about me that had a really intense emotional connection with works of art, theater, movies, visual art, music, like they always just deeply moved me.
And I saw Lion King at the movie theater 12 times when I was in the eighth grade.
Cindy: I would cry every single time. So that was like my first real art connection, was The Lion King. And I realized too throughout my career, I went to Europe when I was in high school when a teacher led us on a trip around Europe, and that’s when I got to see real art for the first time. I saw that people worked there, and I saw that there are people that get to spend their lives looking at art, talking about art, being in the presence of art. And I was hooked from then on, I decided to get my degree in art history and really have just followed the magic of art ever since.
And it wasn’t until I was trying to get my Ph.D. in art history, I was doing my applications and I was doing my GRE and filling it all the Ed, make writing all the essays, and then I went to an art museum and had this interaction with there a work of art. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like I was punched in the stomach. I was crying. I was mesmerized by this painting. I couldn’t walk away. I just stood there for probably an hour or two hours. My husband saw the whole exhibit and then came all the way back around. And I’m still there in front of this painting. And what I realized at that moment was that I don’t ever want to lose this sort of magical, emotional connection I had with art, and I worried if I got my Ph.D. in art history, that it would be…
I would learn too much and it would lose the magic that it had. At that moment too, I realized that I want everyone else to experience this magic too. And that’s when I decided to completely shift gears and do education instead of art history because I really wanted everybody to have this sort of powerful experience that I am capable of having. And so I started to teach about works of art in creative ways. And then I eventually started my business, Art Class Curator, where I help art teachers connect works of art into their classroom with their students. Because a lot of our teachers don’t know how to do that. They mostly know how to make art, and the ‘looking at art’ is not something they’re really taught all that much.
I’ve been helping teachers for the last few years. And as I’ve been doing that, I’ve just been diving deeper, deeper into realizing that my emotional connection toward works of art is my magic, that is something that has always been– something that has driven me, and it’s always been something that I have loved. I didn’t until the last few years realize that what I’m doing when I’m looking at works of art is self-development. What I’m doing is working on myself. I’m not learning about art, I’m learning about myself through my interactions with art.
Ever since I really had that connection, that click, it’s really been so fun to explore and to help other people explore their own connection with art too.
Lisa: It’s so profound, because, you know, one of the things that we worked on when we were working together, which you really coming back home to feeling safe, feeling your feelings, like with most of my clients, right? They’d rather be up in their heads and think their way through stuff. So it’s really fascinating that all along, you’ve been a very deep feeler and an empath. And art was always that connection where you felt safe to feel your feelings, but out in the world, you didn’t. And for so many of us, right? Like, when I have clients who say, “Well, I’m not a crier.” I’m not of this or I’m not at that. If I can say, “Well, have you ever listened to a song and cried, or have you ever looked up at a beautiful sunrise or sunset and cried?”
Almost every single one of them has that kind of experience. But we don’t necessarily tie it to the fact that oh, art is one of the things that allows me to safely feel my feelings. And I know, you know, over the pandemic and I’ve– you know, I’ve had Joan Murray on the podcast before because she did that beautiful painting of me, and that literally shifted something in my body when I saw it. It’s still a very powerful thing that I ground myself with. And over the pandemic, I was joking with you about how much time I’ve spent watching art, but not necessarily in the traditional sense, but most people don’t know is like, I’m a total, like, I died over watching creatives create. So whether it’s body painting, tattoo artists, metal sculptures, glassblowing, we talked about it, like, if there’s a reality show where people are making shit, I am all over baking.
Oh my God, the amount of like baking cake creating things I’ve watched, because to me, that is people expressing their art in such amazing and phenomenal ways. And I’m always moved by it. I mean, if it’s like a cake, that’s a monster. I’m still moved by it because it really art has this ability to profoundly shift us. So you’ve been working with teachers for a long time and now, you’re starting to realize that you have a gift that needs to reach even more people in terms of talking about how they can use art as self-care and as self-development like you said. So can you talk a little bit more about what that can look like for people? How they can start thinking about art as play and self-care?
Cindy: Yeah. So, I’m going to tell you an example of this to help illustrate it. That you talked about how, you know, me, feeling my feelings, art was a safe place to do that. I’m obsessed with the musical Hamilton. Superfan Hamilton has seen it like four times. I’m about to see it again in a few months. I’m just totally in love with it. I think it’s one of the best artworks ever made. But I have a hard time with watching the news and seeing, like, really sad news stories. As an empath, it’s just it really wears me down. And then finally, there was at one point in my– I was pregnant. And I used to listen to NPR every day on the way to and from work.
And finally, I couldn’t do that anymore because I would just sit there and cry about every single news story. And every time I’ve seen Hamilton, there’s been something that resonated about something in my life. Like the first time I saw it, there was in my life– my business was– I couldn’t seem to figure it out. I knew I had this great thing. I knew that it was going to be successful, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with it, and I was feeling kind of stuck with it. So the first time I saw Hamilton, I really resonated with Aaron Birst’s character, you know, he spends the whole time just waiting and everybody’s passing him up, everybody else is getting opportunities that he’s not getting and he’s not seeing.
And so, every time he was on stage like I would just cry and I was just like, I could really feel connected to him in that way. And so, then, the next time I saw it, I saw it in Houston, and a week before, I saw it in Houston, there was a school shooting within an hour of Houston. And it was, you know, multiple students died in the school shooting, and those get me the hardest, you know, with like most parents and teachers so you get– I was a teacher in my kids, and it’s just the worst thing imaginable. But I never allowed myself to really truly think about it because I will just go into the toes of despair, you know?
But, in Hamilton, you know, his son dies by gunfire, and so I’m sitting there watching his mom mourn the son, and knowing, an hour away, that that is happening in real life, that kid’s died by gunfire and their parents are crying over them, you know? But it allowed me to process those feelings and allowed me to feel them. And I started crying and I was still crying like an hour after the show was over. Like that happens kind of midway through and I was still crying. But it gave me a safe space to process my feelings, to feel them, and to really allow myself to go there when– you know, it feels really scary to just cry about something that feels so hopeless. And so, it really helps me then.
And then, I saw Hamilton again, and that was a really happy time of my life and the whole time, like, all of the Skyler Sisters songs I was, you know, it was like were celebratory songs. So it’s like every art meets you wherever you are in your life. Whatever you’re going with, whatever you’re dealing with, art can help you process it. You can use like you would use spiritual texts, like a Bible or any other spiritual texts. You go and read it and you look for advice in your current life and you look to kind of reframe what you’re going through. You can do the exact same thing through engaging with art as you can with books and spiritual texts, and things like that.
Lisa: So profound, what you said, art meets you wherever you are in your life. Because again, many people may not know like I was very much, like all my clients, like I didn’t even let people hug me and I know you get this.
Cindy: Yeah. [crosstalk]
Lisa: I didn’t let people hug me because I didn’t want to feel whatever I was feeling, and it was a journey for me to get out of my head and learn how to feel my emotions. And even still to this day, I have to watch that I don’t default into doing activities or trying to think my way through and just allow myself to feel. So, I actually have– and I’ve talked about this before, I have a crying playlist. I have a playlist of songs that I put on when I know that I need to cry. And I can look back through. So music has always been probably the most profound piece of art that I’ve always used in my life and nature. You know, I can think about pink, but specifically, like Adele. Adele has those moments for me, like, I remember certain songs, putting them on, and writing stuff and having such a hard time. You know, her new single just came out which is called Easy On Me, and this has been such a challenging year for so many of us, two years. You know, I’ve been having a lot of things come up, and that song came on the other day, and it just like washed right over me and just took me under. And I needed it. Like, I needed to feel that because I needed that music to really allow me to completely emote. And when we kind of like, you know, we loosen the radiator cap, so to speak, we let enough out to give ourselves a little bit of relief, but then we’re still pushing down that emotion. Eventually, it’s going to create illness in our body or it comes down to bad behavior. So, I just think that most people don’t think about how they can use different forms of art, whether it’s music, pictures. You even hear about artists all the time. Like, so many artists will say “My art saved me. I found art because I need-” you know, “This thing happened in my life and I needed a place where I could pour my energy into.” I just don’t think most people are thinking about art this way, and I think so many people have, you know, Brené Brown calls them like, what is it? Art? Art wounds?
Lisa: What we don’t believe that we’re smart enough to look at art. Because even when you said, like, standing in the gallery and seeing all these works of art, and I’m like, “There’s such a stigma around or only hoity-toity people.”
Cindy: Oh, yeah.
Lisa: What is a hoity-toity person, right? Like, who am I to go in and look at a piece of art? So how do you walk people into understanding that art is for everyone, especially when we’re talking about, you know, real, like works of art paintings on the wall?
Cindy: Yeah, that mindset is so prevalent. It’s something that museum educators and museum staff have been working to fight for a really long time. When I was teaching college, I would assign my students a museum visit. But before I did that, I would do an activity that was like a museum personification, I’m like, “Well, if the art museum was a person, what would they be like?” And so, they’d have to write an essay. And their answers were always like, really well-dressed, really cultured, really rich, drives a fancy car, drinks fancy wines, things that are better than– you know, it was that sort of vibe. And so that’s how I got to talk to them about like, why do you think that? What’s true about that?
Who’s making you think that way? And kind of break down those sort of stereotypes of what a museum is. I think a lot of people feel like, you know, art capital, a fine is something that is outside of you. It’s something that is, you need something to be able to enjoy it. You’re not good enough. You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not deep enough to connect with it. Or you find it– and so, you’re just automatically shut off to it. And then, also, there’s a lot of boring art in the world, to be honest. There was like a picture of cows and you’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t get this.” I think a lot of people think if they don’t understand a particular type of art, they don’t like a particular type of art, that there are automatic– there’s nothing wrong with them. There’s not something wrong with the arts. It’s something that is-
Lisa: I just wrote that down. If I’m looking at something and I’m like, “How is this worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?” Like, am I missing something? Am I stupid here? Like, what is going on? Because I’m not getting how this is better than what Jake has done when he was eight, right? It’s kind of like this disconnect around, okay, how can I just appreciate it for what it is?
Cindy: Yeah, and you don’t have to like all of it. You know, I’ve dedicated my life, I’m 40 years old, I’ve spent most of my 40 years looking at and learning about art. There’s lots of art I don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with the art and there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s just it doesn’t resonate with me, and that’s totally fine.
Lisa: That’s true with music too, right? Because for the most part, I like many genres, and then there’s some that I’m like, “Hmm.” I can’t get there. I just can’t get there. And even, you know, recently, we had an opportunity to do the immersive Van Gogh, it was here in Vancouver. So Jake was a little bit bored with all the reading stuff and I had to read it all, right? Because I was so fascinated with his history and his background. I really love the stories behind people. I think that that’s really what captivates me with art too, is I want to know more about the artist and the life and the story and what they were struggling with and all those things.
But, I mean, when we walked in there, it literally took my breath away. And there were many of his paintings that I’m like, “Nah, I’m not digging this one in the field with the farmer.” And then there are other ones where I’m just like, “Ohh, I just want to lie down here. I just want to lie down and let this wash all over me.” So I think that that’s really important too is that you don’t have to like everything but are you willing to be open and curious and explore and even ask yourself, like what about it that I don’t like? Because there are so many things that we can learn about ourselves just in that. So instead of just saying, “Well, I don’t like it.” Well, what don’t you like about it? Just with curiosity, not with judgment. You know, it’s the same thing when we meet people. I don’t like them. Well, why? Like, what is it about them? Because it’s telling you something about yourself, maybe about your values or some of your beliefs.
Cindy: Yeah, that’s what I was going to point out as the– yeah, it’s going to tell you something about your values if there’s something in there that’s rubbing you the wrong way. Like, there’s this one artwork that I came across, it’s in Minneapolis, I think it. The artist is Dorothea Tanning, but I don’t remember the name of the painting, but it’s yellow, and it’s like really cloudy. And there’s like, there’s fingers in there, but you can’t really make them out. And I instantly saw that and like recoil, like my body had this like, this roll, like disgust, like anxiety. And I was like, “Well, I can’t look at that one.” But I kept kind of going back to it because I was like, “I wanted to explore why.” Why am I feeling that way? And so, I ultimately figured out it was that lack of clarity, it was that lack like the fogginess. There was no certainty in there and you couldn’t tell anything that was going on and it was just, it was really just uncomfortable to be in that space. But it allowed me to think more about like, “Well, what other places am I uncomfortable when it’s like that? When it’s that cloudy and foggy?”
Lisa: Yeah, all the different insights, I mean, I have a client right now who– she composes music, which I think is just like a [inaudible] because I can feel the finished piece, right? I can hear the finished piece, and I’m like, “How do you even–” like “How do you layer in? How do you know what instruments to put in? Like, it’s such an art.” But she came in, and she described all of my other clients by different instruments. Right? Like, seeing people as, if they were an instrument, this is what they would be. And I just thought, “Wow, that’s a beautiful way to describe people.” Also, through an art form, right? And she uses her art to heal people and tell stories, through music. There are just so many amazing ways out there to really use art to heal, and I think that that is such an important place where we’re at is, you know. So many people think that self-care is about going and doing something, right? I got to go do this. I got to do that. I got to go get my nails done or whatever.
And self-care, for me, is really, you know, that’s a way of being. How can I appreciate my day? What questions can I ask myself? What do I need to explore? And art is such a simple way to pause like it. So somebody doesn’t like journaling. Well, there’s nothing stopping them from looking up a piece of art or listening to a piece of music. And then just saying like, “Okay, well, what’s here for me today? Can I learn from this at this moment?” And this is really kind of what you’re starting to dive into with this new project that you’ve decided to put together. So do you want to talk a little bit about that? Because I’m super excited about this, and this is why I wanted you on the podcast because I believe that many of my listeners will be really curious about how they can approach art in a different way, and in a healing way.
Because I really believe that after everything everybody’s been through, I think most people don’t recognize how much– I’m going to use this word, it might sound a little dramatic, but how much trauma we’ve all walked through? Because it has been trauma. It’s been a lot of sadness, grief, anger, fresh, like you name it. We’ve gone through the whole emotional gamut this year, but most people aren’t really expressing those emotions because they don’t know how. So that’s why I was really excited about this idea that you’d put together. So, talk a little bit about what it is, how it’s going to be able to help people, and how you’re going to have so much fun. You’re going to have so much fun doing it.
Cindy: So excited. Yes. Okay. So, you know, I’ve been serving teachers for the last 7 years with my business and I’ve been helping them help their students connect with works of art. I’ve been feeling really disconnected from that because, to me, those conversations that, like, when I was teaching, there was nothing better in this world than standing in front of a work of art with a group of students, no matter the age, adults, kids, any age, and just talking about it. And I miss that so much. I’m teaching other teachers how to do that, but I– that fuels my soul so much having those conversations. So I have decided to create a program for anybody, not teachers, just anybody who wants to explore their connection with works of art and do so with a group of people who also are interested in doing that. So I’m creating what’s called an Art Connection Circle, and I’m kind of feeling it almost like a book club, kind of, where we’re coming together with the goal of exploring works of art.
And, you know, I will lead through the process, I will teach the people in the program some strategies for connecting with art, some strategies for interpreting, some practices that will help you kind of dive deeper into the meaning of the artwork. So it’s kind of some hand-holding, but also, a lot of freedom to really explore what you bring. And what’s so magical about this experience is you bring one painting to a group of people, and everybody is going to have a different experience with it. So, being in a group where we’re all talking about it together, you learn from the other people, you hear what their insights are, and you relate that to yours, because everybody’s problems and issues are so similar, just tweaked in different ways. And so, like, hearing everybody’s insights on a work of art is just so incredibly meaningful and powerful. So I want this to be a really kind of intimate group of people, we meet and we discuss art and we talk about our feelings, and really dive into that connection. Not just to learn about art and how to look at art, but to learn about yourself through your interaction with art.
Lisa: And this isn’t like, just so we’re clear, people, this isn’t like thousands of people. This is going to be…
Cindy: Oh, no.
Lisa:.. intimate a group, you put together a Google doc, there’s nothing fancy here. You know, Cindy and I were talking about how, you know, especially right now in our businesses, just wanting to do things that feel inspiring to us, that really bring us closer to that sense of joy. And as entrepreneurs, we can so often get caught in the doing and the point B and where are we going, that sometimes we forget to just do things that just really fill our souls. So that’s why I was excited about you doing this and I just think it’s going to be so fun for you and the women. Is it open to men too or just women?
Cindy: Oh, that’s a good question. [laughing] [crosstalk] I almost put women in there.
Lisa: [inaudible] do things in perfect ways.
Cindy: Yeah. I was like, a fat woman in there, it took it out, and with– I was like, I don’t know… because somebody has-
Lisa: I have to wait for the right guy.
Cindy: Yeah, I think it would because I envision it being mostly women. I really do. All women. Because I feel like that safe space, there’s something really special that happens to them when it’s all women.
Lisa: Yeah. However, there are some men who really hold space for that too, right? So we have to be careful not to. I’ve definitely learned that in my work that there are some men that really are open to that as well. And sometimes, I don’t think we give men enough spaces to show up and be vulnerable into. But, again, she ende the day, like, you have to decide what fits the group better and people can reach out to you. So, you had asked me. So we’re going to do something kind of fun. Fun. As soon as Cindy told me, I was like– right into my perfectionism, I’m like, “Wow, look how quickly that showed up.” We’re going to do a little exercise, we’ll post the link to this piece of artwork. I haven’t even looked at it yet. We’ll post it in the show notes so that you can follow along. And Cindy’s going to walk me through a kind of– we’re going to look at a piece of art, right?
Lisa: And you’re going to ask me questions.
Lisa: I have not looked at this, so I’m already like, I’m like, “Wow, I’m feeling anxiety.” But this is what Full Frontal Living is about. This is what I preach, right? Like, we’re not– whatever comes up is going to come up. All right. So do I get to open it now, Cindy?
Cindy: Yes, you can open that.
Lisa: I get to open it?
Cindy: Okay. Yeah. So, for you all listening, this artwork is Sopa d’Europa by Miguel Barceló, and it’s at The Meadows Museum at SMU. So if you Google that and then– Lisa said, I think, she’ll post a link on the show notes as well that you can find a picture of the artwork. And I don’t normally ever give the title before I show the artwork, so you can pretend you didn’t hear that even though it was in Spanish then you probably didn’t really fully understand what it meant.
Lisa: Oh, my God, this is like inside my brain, Cindy.
Cindy: Okay. So, what does-
Lisa: Did you pick this just for me?
Cindy: Oh, no, everyone resonates with this one, so this is a good starter one. So, why don’t you describe what you’re seeing?
Lisa: So, I am seeing a man, or figure, I guess it could be a woman. But immediately, I thought, man, sitting in a room with a round ceiling that’s covered in picture frames, stacks of books to one side. You know what? I don’t know what he’s looking down at, but immediately, when I saw it, I thought it was a book, but that was my brain going to making it a book. It’s not a book. There’s a globe off to his right as well and another open book. But he just looks so defeated, my interpretation.
Cindy: Yeah, do you want me to tell you why I was like, “Ohh.” Okay, so good. So yeah, he’s in–it looks like some sort of like European library or something, like, there are the golden frames, but everything’s covered at the sort of this black paint over the gold, and the gold is kind of showing through the black paint. So it’s really dark, like a dark painting with these gold highlights. And then, he’s in the front and he’s not looking at that bag behind him at all. So, we’re going to go through a process which is called Lectio Divina. It’s actually a spiritual practice from, like, if you were to interpret a passage from the Bible. We’re just doing that with this instead. So our first step is, we’re just going to talk about the narrative. So what do you think is happening in the story shown in the picture?
Lisa: That he’s studying something. This is totally my interpretation, for me [crosstalk]
Cindy: That’s what it is.
Lisa: I’m like completely projecting my own stuff onto this paint.
Cindy: That’s what this is all about. Okay. Because I know exactly what he’s doing. So he’s having to learn something or do something and he’s having a hard time with it, and he doesn’t really want to be there.
Lisa: The darkness is kind of like how it feels this, to me, this picture, so fascinating because, you know, for me, I’m such a kinesthetic learner. So if I do hands-on, that’s how I learn. But back in the day, when I used to have to study like we all did, I would have to program in extra time for me to go to the library because I would open up my book and I would immediately fall asleep because it was like that part of my brain that’s like ‘you’re not smart enough’ would shut down. So this picture, this is why I think this is so interesting. Do you pick this one? This picture, like totally brings me back to that feeling of “Oh my God, I have to do this. I have to pass. And I hate this, this is so hard on me.” Like the whole painting feel so heavy, right? Like, literally, it almost looks like he’s in a tunnel.
Cindy: Yeah. Okay. Good. You kind of skipped ahead a little bit which is great because you’re going straight to that personal connection. So the second, you got the narrative there that you think he’s learning something and he’s struggling to learn, he’s got the stack of books, the open book. He’s got this like a– in person, it’s a lot easier to see, but it’s like a bowl and it’s like a really thick texture and it has this really like mysterious thing and there’s like little specks of like plastic in there that are blue and you can’t like make out what’s in it. So it’s like this murky bowl in front of him that he’s like staring into. So that’s just for the listeners so they can really try to get a mental picture. You can look at this but don’t do it while you’re driving. I forgot to do that [inaudible] and I never would someone like indirect because they’re looking at art while [inaudible]
Lisa: You know, it seems like a straightforward thing people would know. But nowadays, I feel like we always have to, you know, [crosstalk]
Cindy: Yeah. Oh, and one other thing I wanted to say before we move to the next step is, you keep saying ” in my interpretation,” which is awesome. And something I always tell the people I’m working with is that your interpretation is just as important and just as valid and just as real and just as true as whatever the artist thought, as whatever the art historian thought, whoever wrote the museum label, whatever I think, whatever the guy in the museum who’s walking around being pretentious, like whatever he thinks, like your interpretation is on par with everybody else’s because once the artwork leaves the artist’s hands, it becomes the viewers’. It’s now yours. So, no matter what the artist meant this to be, it doesn’t matter. It’s whatever you want it. Whatever it is to you. That’s another disclaimer I should have said in the beginning.
Okay. So the next step is to look for symbols. So, what are some things in here that you’re seeing that could symbolize different things?
Lisa: Mmm. So, the globe, to me, is all about freedom because you know how much I love to travel and I want to see the world, so that’s obviously something that’s really near and dear to my heart right now. The bowl that he’s looking into, right? So I’ve made this all about learning from you that he’s not actually looking into a book, he’s looking into like this blackness of nothing, right? which is really appropriate for where I’ve currently been, which is really struggling on holding my attention on possibility and not going into like the black hole of like, “when are we going to be on the other side of this?” You know, for me. And then, just all the– I know they look like picture frames, but my heart immediately says, “Oh, those are all mirrors and things are just being reflected back at him.”
So he’s looking in the deep dark well that, you know, if he just shifted his interpretation– Jesus– if he just shifted his interpretation and look up at the mirror, he’d have a completely different vantage point, and that is literally what I’ve been working through over the last little while, is, you know. And I’ve shared this with you, being a coach, we can have all the tools in the book, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t still get lessons about where we’re holding our tension and using those tools. And I’ve really had to look at like how can I see the world differently? Because I know one of the things that, you know, one of my mentors talks about is, the world is this way or that way. Because we tell ourselves the world is this way or that way. And I’ve been really fighting for, “But the world is this way. The black pit of despair.” When, really, even in this painting, right? If he just, you know, if he looked up and saw the mirrors, what might he see reflected in the mirrors that would give him a completely different vantage point, you know, than what he’s looking at. So, I also think it’s really interesting in that, so he’s got like it’s almost like wood panels behind him.
Lisa: And I’m drawn to like there’s a little– Do you see the figure of the man?
Lisa: Okay, so that’s not just me making that up. But that’s just interesting. I’m like, “What the hell is that doing there?”
Cindy: What do you think?
Lisa: Curious standpoint. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to that. I was just like, “Oh, that’s really interesting. It doesn’t like– it seems like out of place.” But then I assume that the artist would have put it there intentionally, but I don’t really have an answer as to why. To me, I’m just like, “Huh?” It’s almost like someone came along and key to me.
Lisa: Keep a little manage to the wall. So that’s just interesting too.
Cindy: Good. Okay. So, we talked about the narrative, we talked about the symbols. The next step in which you’ve kind of been doing all along, which is where’s the personal connection to your life. So I think you’ve pretty much already answered that pretty well, but are there any other thoughts you have about how this relates to your life?
Lisa: No, I think I kind of covered everything. It’s just really like as soon as they pulled it up on the screen, I’m like, “Wow, this relates to where I am now, how I’m feeling now, how I felt in the past” Like, just different aspects of my life because I’ve even been thinking about, “Well, maybe it’s time for me to get another certification or take another course.” Because I haven’t taken a lot of courses in the past well, intentionally. Right? because it’s so easy to get into that story of, I don’t know enough, and I really needed to put that story down. But as I’ve been thinking about potentially taking another course, this whole feeling has come up again “Am I going to want to read a bunch of stuff? Am I going to have to listen to a bunch of videos? Is this going to bring me joy?” And I see this and I’m like, “Oh, God, Lisa.” You need to really think about this, right? Like it has to be something that’s really going to light me up for me to do it because, to be honest, still to this day, studying very much feels like that. And that is, you know, that’s just an old belief, so it’s just fascinating to see that it’s still very much got its teeth in me, and I’m allowing it to. Doesn’t have to be that way.
Cindy: Yeah. So good. You’re so good at this. Okay, everybody’s good at this. And that’s the thing is you– I have these conversations with people and they think you can talk about this because this is something you do. Like, you’re natural at this. But, every single person I’ve ever discussed art with, they can do it. Like, it’s natural. It’s brain-wired for you to find narrative, for you to find meaning, and for you to find a connection. Like, you’re born with it. And so it’s easier than you might think, you just need to like allow it to happen. So the last step of this, and this, I think, you’ll resonate with too because I’ve done coaching with you and it’s always– we’ve talked it before about having an awareness of your issue is one thing. But actually, like, doing something with that awareness is something else that some people don’t typically do.
So the fourth step of this is, what are you going to do differently now that you had this connection with this artwork? What are you going to do next?
Lisa: It’s a really interesting question because the more I look at this, the more I feel that it’s almost like a tightness in my chest. And it’s also like this picture too, I don’t know if it does this for you, it almost has like movement to it. So when you guys look at this piece of art, it almost looks circular, like the walls around him are going to start turning, which is really interesting because one side of the painting is more gray and the other side is more gold, almost like there’s light shining on one side. No light shining on the other side. So, for me, it’s really just about, you know, and this has been a question I’ve been asking myself a lot and I know I asked my clients a lot is, you know, what am I going to continue to tolerate? And what am I going to stop tolerating in myself in my life? Like, what stories am I still working from? Where do I need to shift where I want to interpret things in a different way? That’s really what it comes down to for me right now, which has been happening. But I think this piece is about learning and the beliefs that I still hold onto about learning, so I don’t believe anymore that I’m stupid. Like, I put that to bed. But there is still this part of me that believes that learning is really, really hard for me and very arduous. Like, literally, I feel like my soul is being sucked out of me just looking at this figure because that is how I feel unless it’s like a hands-on thing. Right? And I think that that’s often why business can feel challenging for me as well because when I’m coaching, like, that’s my art, whatever comes through me, when I’m on the podcast, whatever comes out of me, I just trust that that’s no longer for me, it’s for the world, it’s for my client. It’s not for me. It’s not about me. But that part of me that’s like, where am I holding myself back from my growth because I’m still afraid of what I am and what I’m not capable of within my business? You know, the things that feel hard for me, right? We talked about this, like, some of the things that could we both share as coaches that feel arduous. Like, you want me to do what? I have to sit down and do research and messaging and feels hard like, “Ohh.” Open up the paper, I got to read, I got to think about stuff. It’s totally what I’ve been bumping up against, right? It’s like all the things I’ve been told for years that I need to look at within my business are really like, now that I’m stepping into that next level have really come up for me, and I’ve really been fighting, not particularly wanting to do it, because I feel like this man in this painting.
Cindy: Yeah, you got to look up and see all those beautiful golden mirrors around you, and make it easy.
Lisa: How did you pick this picture? Just intuition?
Cindy: Yeah, it’s in a local museum and I’m using that I’ve done workshops at. And so I’ve led this activity with teachers. And it’s the perfect artwork for this activity. Everybody can relate to. But I’ve heard so many different interpretations, and everybody is slightly different, and I think it’s really amazing. My favorite one though, and it shows how entrenched we are in this like art being this expert thing that only some people can access, is I actually let a docent training at the museum where this is at. And the docents, since they already knew so much about this painting, they had a really hard time separating what the “real” meaning is. You know, it’s called the Soup Of Europe, and it’s about the struggles in Europe before World War 1. And there’s like some assassination of someone. And I was like, “No, you guys, stop. Don’t think about what it’s supposed to mean, think about what you see in it. It’s a totally different thing. Don’t go reading about it. That’s why I don’t give the title, I don’t tell people to do any research because the answers are in the picture. The answers are in you, you don’t need to find them somewhere else. So, yeah, it’s just a perfect artwork. But there are so many out there that you can really connect with and have these deep moments with, which is what my program is going to be, lots of moments, just like what you just did.
Lisa: Well, and I just have held space for small intimate groups of people in the past, right? You’ve been in rooms with my clients. I just know the shifts that happen when people show up and share their own interpretations about what’s going on and their own stories. How much healing happens from that? Because somebody else would look at, you know, for instance, this painting, and say something and I’d be like, “Ooh, oh, I can see that now too that might apply to me.” And, you know, even looking at this through the lens of you don’t care about the background of the painting because that’s not what it’s about and I think– I’ve never thought about it that way. Like, I think I believe that I needed to know the painting and know the artist and know the why. And then, instead of just saying, “If I just look at this and this artwork was created for me, right? He painted this for me, some dude, back in whenever, what can I learn about myself? It’s such a beautiful way to allow people to explore their relationship with themselves. I’m really excited for you about this. This has been super fun for me because I’ve never experienced you in your work.
Cindy: Yeah, you haven’t.
Lisa: No, I’ve never experienced that. So, it’s really– so knowing you the way that I do and knowing how challenging it was for you to really connect in with your emotions and now seeing how this work has always been a part of you and now because you actually know how to access your emotions all the time and not just with art and how to work with them, how it’s going to be so powerful for you to bring people together? because not only can you hold space now for people with their emotion and art, but you know how to hold space for people just with their emotions period because you’ve made peace with your own.
Lisa: That’s really cool, Cindy. I’m like having a proud coach moment here. Because now, it’s like I see the bigger picture, like the full circle moment about what you’re here to evolve into. And I think that there are so many people like you and like I who are very deep feelers, and emotions can feel so overwhelming, so much so that we shut them down.
Lisa: And this is such a beautiful gateway for you to walk people back into their emotions and also express them in a way that feels safe around others and have these deeper conversations without talking about the actual things in their life that are necessarily like, you know, going on. It’ll just come out naturally in conversation.
Cindy: Yeah, and it’s really amazing to see what happens. Because when you have the artwork there, it provides– it’s like a safe, it’s just a safety net. And I’ve noticed it with students, they’re willing to talk about things that they wouldn’t know– you wouldn’t say, “Okay, let’s talk about gender bias right now. Tell me your thoughts on gender.” And they’re just like, “Ahh, wait, what are you doing to me?” But if you put artwork and there’s like a sense of gender something or other, they can talk about it because they can talk about something they see, they can relate to things they know, and it just makes it easier to have those really hard conversations, and the same is true for your feelings as well. I think, when you and someone else are looking at something together that’s outside of you, it makes it just a little bit easier to feel those feelings and talk about those feelings than if I just said “Talk about your feelings” you know? feel your feelings.
Lisa: I know that Jake, at his school, he’s specifically in art therapy classes
Lisa: to help him access emotions. And he’s so creative, and so many people are so creative. And then, you know, that shutdown as not being valuable, that’s a whole other conversation for another day. But, art is incredibly valuable. And I hope that moving forward, and especially even with this conversation, that people start to look at it through a different lens of how it can actually help them heal, help them feel, and bring them some peace in these times, right? Like, there’s something to be [crosstalk]
Lisa: Just losing yourself in a piece of art. Well, this has been amazing. Thank you for walking me through this. I was totally nervous. I’m like, “Okay, we can do it live.” But this is how I do things, right? Like, let’s just go for it. I don’t have [crosstalk] vulnerable.
Cindy: You did it awesomely.
Lisa: I feel like I’ve gotten to know you on an even more intimate level, which I really love and appreciate.
Cindy: Yes, me too. It was really fun to be on the other end of the– it was like I was the coach for just a minute, and that I enjoyed that.
Lisa: I love it. And you know what? you’re amazing at what you do. So now, I’m even more excited that you’re putting this new, you know, art connection circle out there. So, where can people find out about this? Because again, there’s no fancy sales page. So don’t be running off, Cindy now is making a sales page. I’ve known her for a long time. We’re just going to stick with Google doc and have fun with it.
Lisa: So, how how can people reach out to you, find out more? Yeah, some basic details here.
Cindy: So we’re going to have the link at artclasscurator.com/circle, and it will probably redirect to the Google Doc. But I can’t promise you there won’t be a sales page up, but I– there will–She does know me well. But yeah, there will be– So artclasscurator.com/circle, and on that page, we’ll probably have an email opt-in as well. This is brand-new so we’re just– this is going to be the kind of easy, low-key launch. We’re going to start the program the week of November 8 and it will be a five-week program with the break off for the U.S. Thanksgiving. So basically goes right up until Christmas. And, a small group, they will really get to dive into this content together with assignments and live calls to share.
Lisa: So good. So let this be your permission for anybody who’s listening. If you think you have to have, like all your shit together before you go out and start something that’s going to make you happy, just start.
Lisa: Like, I literally built my business just by saying, “I think I’m going to try this thing.” I am really, really excited for you. Thank you for spending this time with me. This was a super fun episode for me. I love this kind of interaction. That painting is going to stay with me, I think, all day today.
Lisa: It’s a little bit haunting. So make sure that you do check out the show notes and go and take a look at it because it really is worth sitting in front of for a few minutes and seeing what comes up for you. I can’t imagine anybody looking at it and not feeling something about it. The longer I look at it, the more things I see too, which is really fascinating. That is the power of art. So, thank you, Cindy, for spending this time with me. I adore you. It’s so fun.
Cindy: Thank you for having me. Yes, I had a great time.
Lisa: I can’t wait to see how this unfolds for you and for all the lucky women who choose to jump into this container with you.
Cindy: Thank you.
Lisa: So until the next episode, everybody listening, you know, I say this over and over and over again, you are responsible for making yourself a priority, and that means looking at ways you can care for yourself. And remember that self-care isn’t something you do, it’s a way of being. And it doesn’t need to be hard and it doesn’t need to be complicated. But if you want to show off as your best self, if you want to achieve more in this world, it really is about learning how to slow down and do less. So, go and make yourself a priority. Go find a piece of art, music, whatever it is that floats your boat, and just let yourself be with it.
And then, make sure you head over to Instagram and tell me how this episode and this piece of art impacted you because I would love to hear. So, until next time. I will talk to you guys on the next episode.
Cindy: If your art appreciation classes were anything like mine, they happen in dark rooms with endless slides and boring lectures. Art in the dark. But art appreciation doesn’t have to turn into nap time for your students. Start connecting your students to art with powerful class discussions. It can be intimidating to start talking about art with students, so teachers always want to know what they should say. The real question is what you should ask. You can get 82 questions to ask about almost any work of art for free on the Art Class Curator Blog. The free download includes the list of questions, plus cards that you can cut out and laminate to use again and again. These versatile questions can be used in everything, from bell ringers to group activities, to critiques. Just go to artclasscurator.com/questions to get your free copy today.
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82 Questions About Art
82 questions you can use to start and extend conversations about works of art with your classroom. Free download includes a list plus individual question cards perfect for laminating!
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