Shadow Self / by Hayden Michelle

As I have been using my watercolor circles for daily introspection, I have been confronting repeatedly how difficult it is to own all parts of myself.  This is not a new realization, but one that has been brought into my awareness in a myriad of ways over the years… sometimes with gentleness, sometimes, with a deeply painful familiarity.  And I wanted to explore this continuum of selves that I carry inside myself in a very direct way through sculpture, a different dimension of expression than watercolor, yet arising from within the same circle.

We all have many parts that make up our whole, formed from a lifetime of accumulating experience.  And I have expended untold amounts of energy and shame trying to keep the “less than desirable" ones at bay, hidden from the view of others, and perhaps most of all, myself.  It has taken years of dedication and ongoing work to realize that by not embracing the fullness of my complicated self, that I am not fully living.  

This means that I widen my view to continue examining where these difficult parts originated, and continue to be perpetuated... whether it comes out in my parenting, marriage, relationships with others, how I view myself…  all reflect back some very foundational beliefs about who I am, and give me opportunity to offer gratitude for those that are positive and life-affirming beliefs, and space to explore those that are toxic, taken in before I had the chance to develop them for myself from a place of fullness, self-acceptance, and loving-kindness. 

It is always curious to see how I can offer freely to others what does not necessarily come easily in the giving back to myself.  What a process this journey of evolving continues to be!  Creating this nautilus sculpture came about from a printing “mistake", where I thought I had printed a nautilus facing the same direction from both sides.  As I pondered about the interface of the 2 images, facing opposite direction, it occurred to me that this was the more accurate concept I am working with— the yin and yang of my inner self, the light and dark, and most importantly, the intersection that brings wholeness to being.

I chose to sew on glass beads at this delicate, yet strong, juncture, highlighting and honoring the light summoned to the bridge that is made between these two seemingly contrasting sides of myself.  I wanted a reminder that all parts of myself, and indeed, us all, are sacred... that every one of us carries many dualities within ourselves, all of which have opportunity for change and healing, when needed, and celebrating, as well.  I continue to be so grateful for artistic expression that brings contemplation and aspiration as I allow it to live in my space.  It is powerful-- this innate desire to bring the inward, outward.  My hope is that we can all find symbols which bring us opportunity for accepting the wholeness of our humanness, and to greet ourselves with the same compassion we offer each other.