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Borrowing upon the centuries old, Japanese practice of Kintsugi, or golden joinery, these artists found new meaning after loss. By intentionally breaking a ceramic object, assigning meaning to each broken element, and joining the pieces back together, each artist created an object that is uniquely transformed, and beautifully whole. Scroll down to read each artist's statement about their work.
Beginning in the Winter of 2019, artists initially used their work to process the impact of mental illness, some also grappled with the disrupting event of the global pandemic of 2020. All spent several months to complete their work, reminding us that healing takes time. Originally scheduled as an installation at the Montclair Public Library, we have now pivoted to this online gallery. We hope this exhibit will inspire viewers to think of ways that new meaning can be assigned to places in your own life that may seem broken, and to know that nothing is beyond healing and repair.
“When you want to emphasize the hopeful side of a situation that might seem gloomy on the surface.”
Originally, it was uncomfortable to break my bowl, I was apprehensive, and it did not feel natural. I didn’t want the pieces to become too small and preferred to hit the bowl a few times before stopping. It was uncomfortable to apply too much pressure.
The colors I originally chose were colors that reminded me of my parents. The turquoise for my mother, yellow for my dad and the blue for me. I didn’t identify a color for my brother. I feel like his mental illness originally had the greatest impact on me in the late 80s/early 90s. I feel like his illness was the tipping point for all of my family members to break. My father took his life, my mother became detached from reality after my brother’s multiple suicide attempts and my brother continued to cycle in his mental illness.
Putting these broken pieces together was therapeutic and felt like I was putting together a puzzle. The silver glaze that I used was the main color that connected the bowl and made me more comfortable with my color choices and the process.
Anonymous Artist, 12/19/2019 through 3/10/2020
I chose shades of blue for the top of the plate and solid colors on the bottom to represent the mixed emotions describing my grief process. Shades of blue represent water. Griefs deepest depths can feel dark and lonely. The white strokes show possibilities still present. The lighter shades of blue blend up the sides of the plate where despair has been lifted. When I ask for help, I find new strength to go with the flow.
The solid colors represent stages of grief:
Anonymous artist, 12/9/2019 through 3/2/2020
How can we repair a broken heart? We cannot.
But we can find new meaning for the broken pieces and create a new story!
It was definitely an amazing experience – surprising rush of different emotions, and feelings, flushing through me all along…
Is it possible for all the broken pieces to fit together?
One step at a time,
piece by piece,
magically found their place back together
holding each other accountable,
nested in their specific place,
a New Bowl was formed!
Whole, beautiful in itself!
Telling its own story just by being present!
Claudia Sabino, 11/20/2019 through 3/5/2020
I started with me. I broke this mug about one week before the official lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. I identified myself among the broken pieces. I painted my smooth sides purple and my cracked edges gold. I intended to explore my relationships with others and myself in this work. However, I became disconnected from the mug just as the world (amid the pandemic and social unrest) did with me. Like this broken mug, I am a work in progress. I am under construction. I am fragmented yet humbled. I see and have an opportunity to be whole. I will start with me.
Genaya Palmer, MA, LAC, NCC, art therapist
“Ask your bowl what it will do for you,” the facilitator urged, during a broken bowl Expressive Arts Summit workshop which took place at the School of Visual Arts in NYC in 2019.
“I can hold your tears,” was the answer.
For me, this process was about surrendering, knowing I was not alone, and trusting the process. Breaking the bowl unleashed a flood of tears, in remembering my parents and sister, who died in 2012, during a seven-month period that brought me to my knees. This bowl was created seven years later, each piece represents a dear family member who I recall with love. Putting it together felt magical and reminded me of grace. My experience with this activity was so powerful that I knew I had to share it with others who were coping with the grief, loss, and trauma that accompanies mental illness within a family. Given the trauma of the pandemic, this exhibit may be even more widely relatable.
Thank you to art therapist and substance abuse counselor Christa Brennan for guiding me in my own broken bowl process.
Renee Folzenlogen, LPC, ATR-BC
Art of Repair curator, May 2, 2021