Three hearts, three different people, three different art materials. And each material serves to facilitate a deep expression of feeling.
The first is made with finger paints by an eight year-old girl. The daughter of a troubled couple, she has witnessed domestic violence and has made it her business to appear invisible so as not to get caught in the crosshairs. She is very quiet and constricted. Finger paints are an opportunity for her to break out, and she makes the most of it. Her heart is messy, full of blood, full of life.
The next heart is drawn with markers by a ten year-old boy. He is also from a troubled home, but cannot be described as self-contained. He is talkative, rambling, all over the place. Markers, which are straightforward and don’t allow for much shading or nuance, help contain him, and he creates a powerful and straightforward image of his pain. (The image also seems to depict a physical penetration, and sends out a red flag for sexual abuse.)
The third heart is created with colored sand by a foster mother. She is fostering her three grandchildren because her daughter is a drug addict and has deserted them. She is angry and full of complaints when she enters the parent workshop, exhausted by the demands on her time by the agency, the schools, the courts. At the end of the group, I put out colored sand and ask each person to make a sand painting of something they would like to throw away. It is only after she finishes the image that she recognizes what she has created. She would like to get rid of her black heart. She tells us that she is filled with anger and heartbreak, terrified that her daughter won’t survive. She tosses her image away, and the group expresses support and hope that her sharing has made the load a little lighter for her. There are several other grandparents in the group in similar situations.