The Primal Wound

I have started to read a classic book on adoption (and geared towards adoptees) called The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, by Nancy Verrier. Although the author is not an adoptee herself, she is the mother of an adopted daughter, as well as a biological daughter.

As I read, I am finding that the subject material and her descriptions of the adoptee’s unique position in life is definitely ringing true for me. I found myself nodding my head as I read, and feeling as if the book was written specifically for me! Here is an excerpt from her book that seems to summarize the main theme she explores:

What adoptees need to know is that their experience was real. Adoption isn’t a concept to be learned, a theory to be understood, or an idea to be developed. It is a real life experience about which adoptees have had and are continuing to have constant and conflicting feelings, all of which are legitimate. Their feelings are their response to the most devastating experience they are ever likely to have: the loss of their mother. Just because they do not consciously remember it does not make it any less devastating. It only makes it more difficult to deal with, because it happened before they had words with which to describe it (preverbal) and is, therefore, almost impossible to talk about. For many of them, it is even more difficult to think about. In fact, some adoptees say they feel as if they either came from outer space or a file drawer. To allow themselves the memory of being born, even a feeling sense of it, would mean also having to remember and feel what happened next. And that they most certainly do not want to do.

Many adoptees are adopted as infants. For years there has been a preconceived notion that babies could not possibly retain the emotional trauma of separation – after all, they’re “just babies.” However, scientific research in the field and countless testimonies of adoptees is proving that this early separation (perceived as the ultimate abandonment) leaves an indelible imprint on the infant. Since the experience is not consciously remembered, it floats in the background of the adoptee’s psyche, as a feeling of emptiness, loss, and confusion. As adults, we may feel an underlying sense that something is missing, even though we cannot come up with a single concrete reason for this feeling. Many adoptees struggle with depression, anxiety, and some with acting out inclinations. Often this behavior confounds the adoptive parents and health professionals, who can find no obvious reasons for this behavior in the adoptee’s external life.

As an artist, I am beginning to realize just how much of my work has been a searching for her face. In my depictions of floating figures and faceless apparitions, I have struggled to form an identity and a likeness for her. I look into my own face and features, and can only partially reconstruct what she may look like.

It is easy to take for granted the fact that most people know exactly who their biological parents are, and are therefore directly in touch with their lineage and their origins. For the adoptee, this basic and vital piece of information has been cut off and sealed away. And so the searching for her True Self begins…

New Paintings

This summer has been a very productive one for me in the studio…despite the heat (and the fact that our AC doesn’t quite reach there) I’ve been painting almost daily. I’ve been working more on my “sandstone series” and have also been doing a lot of palette knife painting. There is something so satisfying and energy generating about applying paint and thick pastes with a palette knife! Each stroke brings about unexpected splashes of color and textures to be explored. Here are some pictures of my latest work – all created over the summer months…

p.s. I’ve also added these images to my galleries: To see even more new work look under the “Abstract, Sandstone Series, and Earth Windows” Galleries:) As always, just click on the image to see a larger more detailed version if it…

Surf Astoria Cafe

Today I’m bringing one of my paintings titled “Floating Flowers” over to a new coffee shop and internet cafe called Surf Astoria. I really love their mission statement:

“Surf Astoria lives to nurture the local community, and consistently strives to be not only a neighborhood gathering place but a dynamic venue for where you can nourish your mind and body. We believe a café exists to not only offer you comfort but engage you, and through our homemade treats and custom blends cutting-edge internet PCs, technical & creative services, and “come-as-you-are” demeanor, we offer a Euro-style café experience and artist collective where we hope to inform and entertain you and your friends.

We are writers, poets, filmmakers, photographers, painters, musicians, actors, DJs, comedians, designers, artists, and your neighbors. We invite other local artists to approach us with any and all creative musings, maybe you’d like to use some of our space to showcase or sell your paintings, sketches, photographs, tickets, music, books, foodstuffs, films or anything else you can dream up. Or maybe you just want another set of eyes to look over the masterpiece you poured your soul into. Either way, we’re here every day, from 10 AM until 10 PM. Just drop by!”

This is exactly the sort of alternative art and networking venue that we need more of! I’m excited to be a part of this community…stop by if you are in Astoria!

Are you my mother?

This was one of my favorite books as a child. It was a very popular children’s book for many. However, when it was read to me – many deeper issues welled up in my young mind, and still do to this day – as an adult adoptee. The young bird in the story has been separated from his mother and goes on a quest to find her again. He meets all sorts of animals from different species and repeatedly asks “are you my mother?” Although he makes friends on his journey, each animal must reply that “no, they are not his mother.” Finally he is reunited with his mother and she folds him up in her protective wings. For me this ending was bittersweet because it did not mirror my own experiences, as one who is still searching for her birth mother.

Now, entering my second year in art therapy school, I am exploring ideas for my graduate thesis. My experience as an adoptee and my natural inclination to explore my feelings through art and writing seem fertile ground for a more in depth exploration of this topic. Questions that I am interested in asking are ~ how does an adopted child develop a sense of self, when they are unable to bond with the woman who gave birth to them? Has my own search for a “face” in my phantom-like painted figures been a symbolic search for my birth mother’s face and identity? How can art be used to heal the “primal wound” as it is often called in reference to adoptees?

I hope to make contact with other adult adoptees who have also been adopted through a closed adoption (one that closes off adoption records, rather than keeping them open). This is an exciting, sensitive, and large exploration that I know will take me in many unforeseen and creative directions.

Transitions & New Beginnings

This summer has been full of transitions, changing roles, new faces, and new environments. I’ve worn many “hats” as an arts instructor, graduate assistant for my school, and now as an volunteer (and upcoming intern) in Child Life at Mount Sinai. Sometimes my head spins when I wake up, and I can’t remember which job or internship I am headed to!

To be quite honest, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately more often than not…I have been painting and drawing almost daily over the summer and that continues to be incredibly helpful as a way to release some of my excess anxieties or give me an energy boost when I’m starting to get worn down.

I started to think about the role that my dreams have played in helping me to sort some of this material out on an unconscious level and nightly basis. While talking to my therapist about my reoccurring dream themes and motifs, we both realized that in my dreams I am usually either flying, or below ground or sea level. Many times I am diving in the ocean and surrounded by unknown creatures – or venturing into a cave that I have never walked through before. From the vantage point of flying, I am able to observe life as it unfolds below me but my feet do not touch the ground that I am observing. While talking about this with my therapist I realized that I am having trouble feeling grounded (literally and metaphorically). It is hard for me to find a resting place for my body and mind at this point in time, and I feel like I’m on a frequent roller coaster ride between flying high and burrowing lower into the earth or sea.

Do you ever feel that you are not “grounded”? How do you find that balance again in your own life?