Title

Death and renewal : a process of growth through loss

Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Contemporary Art

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Sally Kestor

Second Advisor

Maggi Phillips

Abstract

Moore (1994) suggests that a liminal experience can take us from an often divided sense of self and connect us with our own heroic stories. This longitudinal study traces nine journeys of renewal described through experiences of loss. Loss in this context is not limited to actual death but is explored through narrative, symbol ism and the creative arts as tangible expressions of the participants ‘grief and its movement towards renewal . Participants were called to review, evaluate and grow in new ways. The descent, struggle, and growth they experienced is what Campbell (1973) calls our mythic journey.

“The Studio” and its particular culture of community mentorship is defined as an entity in its own right. Participants ‘grief narratives are explored through their creative works and the lenses of community and mentors. Participants from “The Studio” were interviewed to glean their perceptions on: (1) a significant death, (2) a liminal experience, (3) community, (4) mentors, (5) rituals for self - soothing, self-expression and support, (6) groups and (7) aspirations. The purpose of this was two-fold. Firstly as a way of making tacit the participants‘ group experiences and secondly to gather data by which a multi-modal programme — “The Retreat ”—was designed based on the participants ‘responses and was implemented as a three day live-in art therapy programme. Participants ‘art work from “The Studio” was used as a baseline for loss and grief imagery and as a historical visual overview of the participants‘ underlying themes in their grief stories.

The client/therapist relationship forms a key feature of the study, as does the concept that others can serve as mentors. Participants had a diverse range of anomalous losses between them such as: sibling and parental loss, relationship loss, rejection and deprivation of love from family, overpowering criticism and emotional, verbal and physical abuse, loss of access to grandchildren, loss of a breast, loss of a family business and lifestyle.

The purpose of “The Retreat” programme was to transform existing perceptions of loss through the use of creative media, journal processes, and community experiences to record an unfolding process. It is proposed that the arts and the symbolic connect individuals to both the inner self and to others. Art therapy as the bridge between verbal therapies is a creative practice. Coupled with experiences of community and solitude it can invoke deeper connections to others and environment rather than to hierarchical methods that are geared only towards achievement and accomplishment. A post-research interview tracked participants’ perceptions of the success of “The Retreat ” programme for personal change.

LCSH Subject Headings

Art therapy -- Psychological aspects.

Loss (Psychology)

Access Note

Access to this thesis - the full text is restricted to current ECU staff and students by author's request. Email request to library@ecu.edu.au

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