Sarah Valeri: Always a painter, I worked in privacy until 2004 when I came to New York City to study art therapy at New York University. At this time, perhaps because of the frenetic energy of the city and the way it shifts your dreams and symbolic language, I began exhibiting in public through self produced exhibitions. After completing my studies I worked within psychiatric, educational, and community mental health settings as an art therapist. Much of this time was spent facilitating an arts room for children with divergent sensory experiences and polyglottal communication, using rhythms, gestures, song making, art, words, and movement. We learned to share and recognize memories and experiences without words. My work with survivors of trauma also taught me to consider the range of bodily and psychological experiences, as trauma has a tendency to over- or de-centralize our identity and experiences. All of this must be mentioned as it becomes central to the purpose and motivation of our work, to seek an understanding past the limits of our form and location.
Throughout this time I have explored personal mythology, poetry in image, and open bodied forms. Over the past fifteen years in the city I have exhibited throughout the metropolitan area, as well as in Berlin, Japan, and Mexico. I enjoy self-produced shows for which I cook for everyone, but I enjoy a well constructed gallery show as well. Currently I am attending the Certificate Program at the New York Studio School, which provides an independent study program with studio space and mentorship and I teach an Intro to Art Therapy course at Ohio University.
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As time goes on, I hope to explore and come to understand many sensations through creative thought and work. To empathize with other beings it is important to be able to consider the range of our bodies and senses that we forget. However, at this time, a reasonable step in this progression may be to focus on the many ways form in painting can help me progress the understanding of a shared consciousness found in many forms. I will consider this my first language, with potential for more. And perhaps sometimes the question is not if I can force fluency in forms I do not yet understand, but in stretching the bounds of the language and movements I have been given.
I am working on creating a series of paintings and printmaking that focuses on the breaking and regeneration of forms. Traumatic reactions often leave people feeling depersonalized because they have lost a consistent sense of themselves or their relationship to the world around them. Of course, this response may also be considered creative or at least unique as a body and mind strive to make sense of new realities and survive, yet sometimes this desire to hold on to a past form or reality can prevent regeneration. Do we have to let go of our photos of ourselves to regenerate? Do we have to find our connections rather than our separated forms? And how exactly would this be diagnosed by the current medical model?
The works I have begun are built from constellated organicized geometric forms. The neutral shapes without legs or tentacles are given life through simple gesture or location. They are neutral in their identity but moving and interacting as herds, or elements, or exploding entities. A greater understanding of molecular interactions would support this work.
Our consciousness is recognized and enjoyed within a form or between them. A sympathetic form that we can have some understanding of sharing an experience with. Perhaps we understand what a dog will enjoy from us, or what would frighten a bird, but when consciousness breaks from these vulnerable and tender forms, can we recognize ourselves in it? I certainly do want to dismiss the vulnerable belly as it connects us to so many beings, but is there an idea of who we are beyond the body, and would that understanding help people whose concepts of security in form and in mind has been broken?
As I continue to work on these images or interaction and influence outside of or between bodies, I would support the concepts of the work with research in trauma studies, molecular interactions, and the fluid communication between natural forms in the forest (unity is also a loss of boundaries). Color is my most focused language and while simplified forms can make a strong impact, the color that moves across or between them also communicate the connections or separations we feel within or between ourselves. Lately I have been using a true neutral grey to feel the stop of an unbreathing body. Yet death, which is often a part of regeneration, comes in deep greens and reds.
Since this work will be presented virtually, it is possible that aspects of animation can be used, but for the time being I will focus on painting and developing forms. As I mentioned at the beginning, a future hope is to continue developing these concepts with other senses less dependent on color. I also hope to expand this work into multisensory curatorial projects once my own understanding has developed.