The Transformative Power of Art by Hayden Michelle

 "Beneath the Bark", (16 x 55 x 6 in)

"Beneath the Bark", (16 x 55 x 6 in)

I am honored to be featured in the Winter 2018 issue of International Encaustic Artists' encaustiZINE magazine, "Art and Transformation",  alongside fellow artist friends, Melissa Hall and Michelle Belto, and to have my work, "Migration, Interrupted", featured on the cover.  Huge thanks to editor, Melissa Rubin, and International Encaustic Artists for creating this wonderful resource that keeps us inspired and connected!

Please hover over the image above and use right and left arrows to peruse the entire issue, accessing full screen by clicking on lower right brackets.  It is full of powerful ways that these artists use art for transformation in their lives and for those who encounter their beautiful art.  I am privileged to be included in this issue, as it is a theme near and dear to my heart.  

In the Spirit of Hope by Hayden Michelle


It is hard to believe that we are into the new year, and I wish belated tidings to all for this upcoming year.  I have been away from the blog for some time, but holding space for returning.  There has been much hard work in the past many months-- physically, emotionally, spiritually, artistically.  I would like to back up and share about the most recent work that was on exhibit at Atlantic Gallery in New York City, curated by Melissa Rubin, and juried by Ingrid Dinter.  The call to entry had perfect timing in my life...

Instantly intrigued by the complex theme from the International Encaustic Artists Association for their upcoming exhibit, "Hopeful Darkness", I jumped to work to begin exploring the possibilities for articulation.  I appreciated the challenge of creating work which depicted this dichotomy, both of which I hold as vital for exploration and expression.

As the IEA shared in their call for entry, "Two states of being with such opposite meanings, fit so beautifully together and can create a powerful statement:

Hopeful= believing something good will happen; auspicious; bright; encouraging; optimistic; promising.

Darkness= devoid of light; dismal; gloomy; secret; possessing depth and richness.

These are concepts which we all grapple with on a daily basis... globally, nationally, and in our communities and personal lives.  There was plenty of meaning for me when this call for entry came out in July.  And then in August, when the truth of this took on further significance, with a diagnosis of MS.  As the weeks and months followed this newly labeled piece of self to be absorbed and addressed, so did the layers deepen for the work I was creating for this entry.  

I reflected much on wholeness, as expressed in my last post, and created a piece by this name.  

 "What Does It Mean to Be Whole?", (18 x 17.25 x 4.5 in), 2017

"What Does It Mean to Be Whole?", (18 x 17.25 x 4.5 in), 2017

And I created a second piece, titled , "Trust that Light Will Return".

 "Trust That Light Will Return", (12 x 16 x 6.5 in), 2017

"Trust That Light Will Return", (12 x 16 x 6.5 in), 2017

 I reflected on the importance of holding on to hope for peace following difficulty, and the amazing power of our bodies and minds to be resilient and to regenerate to meet life's unexpected comings with courage and growth.

The third piece submitted, "Rebirth",  held both the concept of lightness and darkness within its carefully folded, yet opening, petals.  This is the piece that was chosen to be included in the Hopeful Darkness Exhibit (Nov. 28- December 16, Atlantic Gallery, New York, NY), and I was surprised by my own realization, days after notification of acceptance, that the base photograph of locust thorns contained the same thorns that were used photographically as well as in their true biological form on the bovine pelvis sculpture, entitled, "Tear Bottle", for the IEA exhibit 2 years ago (you can read the journey of that piece on blog date December 7, 2015, Another Way of Keeping a Diary, Part II... hyper link is not working).  I had no idea at the time of creation of that sculpture the challenges that would present themselves in the 2 years that followed, as difficult parts of life are always unpredictably interwoven in the unfolding of our lives.  

 " Rebirth", (5.5 x 7.5 x 7.5 in), 2017

" Rebirth", (5.5 x 7.5 x 7.5 in), 2017

  What has shone most brightly throughout all of these experiences is that there was hope that was always present, and much love and light that did return.  I know it is my challenge, during this new phase, to keep searching for the light that is always there behind the clouds, and to support others in their search.  I am sending this light out to all of you for the journeys in the year ahead, grateful, as always, for the interconnection between us all.

What Does it Mean to Be Whole? by Hayden Michelle

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The morning after my family witnessed the eclipse, a second shadow came into view.  I heard words spoken by my neurologist that I was not expecting— a diagnosis of MS.  It is not that I thought I was immune to this or any other life-changing diagnosis.  I know many, one who is near and dear to me, that live with this condition with grace and courage and deep strength.  I know from personal and professional experience in hospice, that change and loss can strike at any time, ready or not.  And I am very aware that there are far worse conditions.  And still, it has stopped me in my tracks.

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I have been sitting with this for weeks, trying to let it settle into place in the awareness of my being.  I am not wondering, “why”… more, it is that I am contemplating.  “How”—how I am going to incorporate this new aspect of living into the daily flow of raising and homeschooling our children and helping them cope, being strong and balanced in our marriage, available and supportive of my friends, family, and community, and yes, make art. 

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And what I keep coming back to, amidst the feelings of bewilderment, sadness, anger, fatigue and especially fear, is that I will just do it like I do any other not-so-easy thing that crosses my path.  That is what we all do-- we use what we know, and apply it to the new reality.  It is not mysterious, even though it feels daunting.  We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, with the self-talk/reminder that we can do more than we think we can do.

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I chuckle to myself, aware that although I have several rote phrases I rely on inwardly when feeling challenged by life, that this challenge is not one that will be going away.   I will have to walk the walk, and pull upon inner and outer resources in new ways.  And relying on others or asking for help is not my forte.  Not so much.  That is why being a social worker was natural for me… I am quite at ease in offering support to others.  Now I must meet myself with the same loving-kindness that is easy to offer outwardly,  and remain open to the gift that comes from this vulnerability, yet again.

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The visual and emotional memory of seeing the eclipse in totality was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  As the moon made its’ way across the path of the sun and aligned completely, intensely radiant white light erupted around the entire periphery of the moon’s silhouette.  It was a brilliance which could not even be fully transmitted through photography, yet, thankfully, is forever etched into my mind.  It made me cry, as I felt such profound purity, hope, beauty, and awe that this symbolism was put into form we could record with our own eyes and memory.


The eclipse being so closely paired with the MS diagnosis, has made me ponder how to use this as a symbol for healing and transformation as I begin treatment and management of this disease.  Just as I work with fragmented parts to create entirely new entities with my art, so must I apply these principles to living with this disease.  I am deepening my awareness and gratitude for the ability to move, speak, maintain independence, and receive help and support.  I am deeply grateful for the work and dedication of all of the scientists, doctors, and patients who underwent clinical trials in order for medicines to be available for me now.  I know I must take this gratitude and channel it into actively transforming my daily challenges, and hope I can do so in the same way I approach my art… as remaining open to new possibilities of being, new ways of expressing, and courage to share the journey, hopeful that perhaps it may help someone else navigate a difficult part of their trek. 

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  And as much as I have slipped into feelings of brokenness and fear of my brain/ body/ mind not returning to its healthiest state, I realize I must focus on trust and on the concept of wholeness, just as moon is whole, no matter its phase.  Despite being changed by what we experience, whether it be trauma, illness, loss or any challenge on life’s path, we are all still whole inside.   Thank goodness for that, and for the inner wisdom and vocal loved ones who remind us of that when we need it.  As the light brilliantly surrounded the moon, so am I aware of a fullness of love and compassion in the circle in which I am blessed to be encompassed.   

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