Painted at Kripalu with Aviva Gold
In April 1997 I did a workshop called “Painting from the Source” with Aviva Gold at Kripalu. I began with a figure joyously raising its arms to the sky. Then I failed to buy something in the shop which was gone when I went back deciding that I wanted it. Normally I make myself wrong for being disappointed in such a situation (“It’s your own fault, and isn’t that really trivial to get upset about…”) but this time I decided to acknowledge my disappointment by painting it. I cut the figure in half and drew it bowed over with its arms reaching down. A tree seemed to be growing up in front of it, so I elaborated on its trunk and roots. After leaving the room, I came back to my painting and saw that there was a woman with arms raised in the negative space produced by the bowing figure and the tree trunk. I outlined her torso more clearly and put in an eye to show that her head was turned sideways. Again I left and again I came back to see that she was connected to legs, made by the roots of the tree. She was slender, dark brown in color and wearing the very full pants that I associate with dancers in India and Indonesia. I could not have painted her if I had been trying to, she was an amazing product of my unconscious.


Painted at Kripalu with Aviva Gold
May 1998: Sixteen people came to learn about the Sacred Calendar, its foundation in astronomy, the symbolic meaning of the eight major holidays, dances that expressed the energy we were celebrating. All parts of me were there: astronomer, dancer, set designer, priestess.
To keep myself from crashing after this intense creative output, I signed up again for “Painting from the Source.” This time I enter the state Aviva calls “plugged in” where there are “no mistakes and no accidents.” I paint with my hands instead of my eyes, smearing paint where it “feels right” rather than “looks good.” I tear pieces of paper and stick them on with paint, building up layers. The surface grows richer and richer. I dip my hands in a color Aviva calls “Placenta Red” and they make a long oval shape in the center. I expect it to be a vagina, but when I look back from across the room, I see a woman: her hand in the ritual gesture, her feet poised, her head crowned with a pointed head dress.

This is not the whole story.  Nine years earlier I had encountered a Red Woman, but it was a long time before I connected the two.  That story is here.

3 Responses to Paintings

  1. Bobbi Bailin says:

    your art work is awesome Jenny
    You are so gifted with your hands as well as your words.

  2. Excalibur says:


    I got to your website from a Francis Weller entry . . . somewhere . . . I read a number of your posts and the history of your healing work. WoW! on that. What an effort, and for so many years. You are using some words and concepts that make me think you’ve read Right Use of Will by Ceanne de Rohan. But, maybe not. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

    I started to paint in watercolors to confront my fear of making mistakes and not being in control. Can’t control watercolors. With time I found a way of using watercolors to short-circuit the mind dominating what my body and emotions had to say.

    I’m a bodyworker and have developed/found a number of ways of recovering emotional energy. A key part of my work was finding that each client brings with them their own healing process – and so my job is mostly getting really good at hearing and seeing what the body says, while a client is talking and moving. There is something in your work that suggests body paint as a way of ceremonial transformation.

    I feel a comradery in reading of your many setbacks – in finding yourself back in depression, after periods of relative normalcy. Sheesh. I’ve scratched my head so many times, wondering why I was returning to a place I thought I paid enough of a price to pass. In my process there is a concept of a ‘plane of reversals’, which we need to cross in order to end self-denial, and where self-doubt can pull us back.

    I want to share a warning. I found that writing can dilute the intensity of experience to a point where transformation can not take place. Even if relief may be felt and wanted. It’s a difficult choice sometimes – relief or intensity – where intensity does not guarantee a conclusion or a breakthrough, but relief at least offers a certainty of moving towards the shallow end of the pool.

    I’m glad to have met you through your writing, Jenny. I hope you get to reap the harvest of your efforts. Now.

  3. jenny says:

    Dear Excalibur, I apologize for not responding right away to your long thoughtful comment. Actually I did write something fairly long, and when I went to post it, it disappeared. I had too little time to try again, and I’m afraid I just dropped it. Reading what you said again today, I realize I had been hoping we could have a conversation. Maybe we still can.
    I do want to say something about “writing diluting the intensity of experience.” I think that certainly does happen and can happen to me. One thing I have found, through “Writers for Recovery,” [ ] is that writing and then reading to a sympathetic witness can be very powerful.
    Thank you for the richness of your comments.

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