Art, Awakened: How portrait modeling led a young woman to art and gratitude.
by Anne Kubitsky
Appreciative moments, heartfelt insights and expressions of gratitude of all kinds—what I’ve been receiving in my post office box each day for almost a year. Since October 2011, I’ve been organizing an ongoing community art initiative called the Look for the Good Project, in which I ask people to write or draw a “glimmer of gladness” on a postcard and mail it to my address. In the beginning, I left blank invitation cards in coffee houses, post offices, parks, cafés, community centers and pretty much anywhere I could think of. I thought that it might be fun for people and wondered if they would write back.
To my surprise, they did. I got hundreds of postcards from all over the United States, Canada, Russia, Germany, Australia, Venezuela, Denmark and Uzbekistan. In fact, I received so many cards that newspaper journalists started writing about the project, radio shows began buzzing about it, and a whole community of people came together to help me pay for a traveling exhibition. And as the postcards continue to pour in, I’ve begun to open up to the idea of gratitude in a whole new way.
In fact, this project has been incredibly healing. It all started 12 years ago when I was sexually assaulted by a number of men at a music festival. Still in my teens, I found the experience so traumatic and upsetting that I buried it inside for the next 10 years. And although I was naturally artistic, I was so afraid of the pain that might surface in my art that I studied science, philosophy and anything else that made me feel more “objective” and in control.
But I’ve since found that the artistic spark cannot be squelched; eventually, it has a way of bursting through. That’s why I’m so grateful that Jerry N. Weiss, portrait painter and a friend of my mother’s, asked me to sit for him as a model one day. Flattered at the idea, I said yes, and we were soon gabbing away in his studio while he painted the first life-sized work. We had so much fun that Jerry then asked me back for another painting … and another … until he had accumulated almost 10 life-sized paintings. During our sessions, we talked deeply about life, love, art, spirituality and things that were meaningful to us both.
As the hard edges of my memory softened and I eased into the full spectrum of my emotions, the inner artist in me bloomed. With Jerry as inspiration, I began to paint too. Little by little, I began to create a picture book recounting the true events of a whale rescue. Since the story was all about gratitude (in the real event, the whale gently nuzzled all four divers after its rescue), it eventually led me to start this postcard project and ask other people what they were grateful for as well. And, given the response, it’s occurred to me that maybe this is what gratitude does: it brings people together, it breaks down boundaries, and—as evidenced in my own life—it brings about healing.
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude,” and I believe that this is true. That’s why I’m continuing this project and asking you now to participate. Good thoughts, good choices, good actions—they all begin with gratitude. And the more we each use our lives to open up to gratitude, the more our very presence becomes a living, breathing work of art.
Anne Kubitsky is a writer and artist based in Old Lyme, Connecticut. To see images of what people have shared and to find out how to send in your glimmer of gladness, visit www.lookforthegoodproject.org and www.findgoodnow.org. Art, Awakened originally appeared in The Artist’s Magazine (September 2012). Get your copy today at NorthLightShop.com.
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