Cures for Stagnation
by Courtney Putnam
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Creating art is a form of healing for me. My art is greatly influenced by work as a healer—I was a massage and Reiki practitioner for about a decade—and I see my play with paint and wax and found images as part of my path to personal growth and healing. I work intuitively, finding images and textures to embed in wax, which I feel express an emotional current running through me, such as grief, resistance, hope, unrest, confusion, and yes, even sometimes, delight. I am particularly fond of mixed media and encaustic art because of the way these forms allow for whimsy, mistakes, messiness, and layered depth. I cannot be perfect in this art-making process, and that is a gift. By working intuitively, I work imprecisely, and create very much with an awareness of my body and its messages. Birds and other creatures inevitably find their way into my work as well, and I let them fly in and stick to the wax. Birds are frequently central to my creations because they are gentle yet powerful creatures; they are so light and fragile, yet profoundly symbolize freedom, release, creativity and transformation. I often use found text in my art as well, for I find that the juxtaposition of words and images creates a dynamic tension, a sort of poetic conversation. As a poet myself (I graduated with Antioch’s MFA “Mango” cohort in 2003), I find it hard not to incorporate words into my work. Bits of poetry, snippets cut out of a children’s book, and words culled from magazines and textbooks find their way into my work, and I don’t always understand the juxtapositions right away. I let the meaning develop for me like a Polaroid.
Courtney Putnam is a visual artist, writer, and teacher who lives in Bellingham, WA. She is associate faculty at Cascadia College where she teachers English, college strategies, and magazine publication courses, and is the advisor to the college’s creative art magazine Yours Truly. As a collage artist, encaustic painter, poet, and essayist, Courtney enjoys blending genres and mixing media, finding interesting moments of juxtaposition and surprise. Her work has appeared in Phoebe, Moon Journal, Weave Magazine, and Licton Springs Review, among others, and she is the creator of Body Cards: Insight from the Body, Wisdom for the Soul (Schiffer Publishing).