Expressive Artist Connie Murray
● By Enjoy Magazine
“All of my pieces are symbolic, they all have meaning,” Murray says of the pieces she has created to honor her mother, her mentors, her friends, her godmother, her losses and life transitions.
After finding her birth mother, she worked through the emotions with a piece titled “Esther” that incorporates torn pieces of her adoption paperwork, a gold crown representing the universal Mother, keys, broken tea cups and so much more.
“Expressive arts are perfect for me,” she says, noting that she has attention deficit disorder (ADD) and thinks in pictures rather than words. “I’m prolific. That’s how I work things out. It’s what my art’s for.”
“It’s lovely being ADD, I guess, if you can work through it,” she says, acknowledging with a gesture the multitude of pieces she’s been able to create.
“I make sure I have art in my day for my own personal therapy,” she adds. Yet, as a trained expressive arts therapist, she is quick to point out that how she interacts with clients simply “is what it is.”
“This is not art therapy,” she says of her work with clients. “It’s really just giving people a language, whatever it is.”
Murray has a long history working in social services with chronically homeless and schizophrenic people. In 2007, she became a licensed marriage and family therapist and is working on her doctorate in psychology with a minor in experiential learning through expressive arts therapy.
Studying at Saybrook University under Natalie Rogers, daughter of influential psychologist Carl Rogers, she is able to bring a unique healing modality to the North State. “It’s really nice to offer a different way of doing things,” she says, noting that there is an utter lack of judgment and analysis when clients create in her presence. Rather, she offers herself as a trained witness to their experience using a philosophy of person-centered, unconditional positive regard.
The expressive arts are “an integration of self-understanding not limited to words,” she says, noting that they help incorporate the body, mind and intuitive sense.
Murray volunteers with survivors of domestic abuse at One Safe Place once a week. “What I do is educate that they aren’t crazy,” she says. “Their brain is hurt. I show people what they can do every day on their own to heal themselves, but more importantly, how to model for children how to heal. It’s amazing how many with grief and trauma issues are happy to find out they aren’t crazy.” Expressive arts allows them to “put it out there in a safe way.”
Murray has been deeply enriched through her mentorship from Natalie Rogers and expressed that appreciation with a life-sized mosaic sculpture titled simply, “Natalie.” The process of creating the piece was to internalize the lessons of Natalie and the expressive arts program. As a result, she says of Natalie, “She has really been encouraging me to get my art out there and have people look at my work.”
In addition to mosaic sculptures, she has also been exploring her dreams through collage, which end up being big, bold, complex pieces incorporating a multitude of ephemera and paint. Murray is wrapping up her first big one-person show of 11 sculptures at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and she opens as part of a group show with three pieces at the Highland Center for the Arts in Weaverville on August 1.
In healing and in learning, as in life, it’s important to find a place of comfort and security. Of the unique opportunity she found at Saybrook to study in a way that incorporated her style of information integration, she says, “I just know that when I walked in there I had found my thing and my voice. I had never been in an academic setting that was tolerant of a nonverbal person.”
It’s a gift she’s offering up to the North State, one beat at a time, whether it be with a mosaic tile, brush stroke or pounding of a drum. Through all the mess and heartache, she has trained in the tools that can help an individual “to get that unconditional positive regard that you are lovely the way you are.” •
Facebook: Mosaics by Connie Murray