Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The gift of writing and creativity

I am absolutely delighted to introduce my colleague, Dr. Janice Jones.  

I have invited Janice, whom I admire very much, to share with us about one of her original works - "Into the Forest".  You can view a YouTube of this creative work here.  Not only is Janice the most beautiful person, she is also incredibly creative and today she is sharing her story about the creation of "Into the Forest", as a writer and artist. 
(I am pinching myself - this is such an honour! Thanks so much Janice!!!)

Into the Forest is a collage of visual images from my original – and unfinished - artwork.
I began to draw that visual story of love and danger many years ago. It became a kind of meditation on the past, and a way for me to reconcile feelings of love and guilt. At nights I spent quiet hours creating a visual representation of my life and the story of our early years together while my little girl Emily slept. It comforted me to tell that story through images, and to hide in tiny lettering ‘secret narratives’ in parts of the artwork. I loved the mystery of that – glimpses of stories that cannot be shared. Over the years, I would take the drawing out, and add a little more. Eventually, my daughter had become an adult – with her own stories and secrets. She is an inspiration to me – her courage and resilience leave me in awe so that my hand froze above the paper. I realized that I could not finish the art work for two reasons. Although it had started as my story, Emily was also central to the narrative. As she grew up I realized that it was not my place to tell her story. Also – age changes our body and our mind – my hand now has some of the tremor of age. I can no longer craft those steady fine lines.

The blank page – pregnant silence.
A quarter of the page is empty. I will never finish it. There is something primitive in my reluctance to finish the story of a life – and particularly my daughter’s life. Ideas and images have such power. We are beings of spirit – and we recognize deeper meanings without being able to speak them: the page will always remain unfinished. Space allows the future to happen.I wanted to share the work and the telling of my story. So –I photographed sections of the artwork and created a film, with music and words. It is slower than I would wish – and not as smooth, but I hope that it speaks to those who watch it. In many ways, it is the story of so many women who love dangerously.
In the company of wolves.
At the base of the picture is my first husband. I fell in love with his beautiful blue eyes and raven-black hair, but his mind was broken. Naively I thought I could heal him: he had so much promise and talent. Instead I began a descent into his world. As so often happens in life, I had decided to give up and move on when I discovered that I was pregnant. Now I could not go to university. I was scared, but full of wonder that a new life was growing inside me. With him, I moved to a city far away from my family. He was unfit to work. The area was poor and violence was common. Like Persephone I travelled a long way into his underworld so that I hardly remembered who I was. But, when Emily was born I found a purpose beyond myself.

However, his illness became extreme, and we were in grave danger. I fled, returning home to my family.
I dressed and acted as if I were well, but inside I carried much fear and guilt – as if I had brought the darkness back with me. It took a long time for the night-terrors to stop, for the hairs on the back of my neck to stop rising, for my heart to stop crashing when darkness fell, the phone rang, or I saw a man with dark hair.  He never became well, and it grieved me always that he had little happiness in his life, for I still loved the person within the illness. Some healing came when our adult daughter re-connected with her birth father.
Through her kindness to him I have found a degree of self-forgiveness and acceptance that I did what had to be done.

Looking back – dancing across time. At the end of the film, I dream of reconciliation – of a return to love, freedom from guilt, and a rebirthing of youth and strength. As if we were young again, we dance through the stars and under the immense map of the universe. Those stars map our histories – they are our life force and genetic fire - transmitted through our daughter and her baby sons. We live again, renewed, beautiful, tender and in love. We forgive and are forgiven.

Images and metaphors in my poetry and films
As an artist and writer I am sometimes surprised and a little shocked by how dark my symbolic language is. Nobody would imagine that this cheery middle aged woman is inhabited by a fertile and complex layering of myths, fairy-tales and dreams and gives life to that vocabulary through storytelling. In this story, the wolf does not devour – but is absorbed into the spirit of the girl. He is as vulnerable, as full of hope, and as lost as she is. She carries his shadow with her always, becoming part wolf. In my mythic world, the female is powerful – a shape-shifter. I am greatly influenced by the myth of Persephone and her transition into the underworld – by love and sacrifice and redemption.

At a superficial reading, Persephone’s tale is one of a girl who is savagely taken by Dis – God of the underworld and death. She is made Queen of the underworld. Her mother Demeter (the corn goddess) challenges the gods by making the earth freeze so that all fruit and grain dies. Eventually her daughter is allowed to return. But – Persephone eats 6 pomegranate seeds – the only food she consumes in the underworld over 6 months. This means she must return to the underworld and to her husband every six months. In the film you will see images of fertility linked to the pomegranate. Persephone/Demeter is a unity that represents the turning of the seasons.
In my writing and artwork women are creatures of the spirit, connected to the earth and the stars. Their spiritual abode is the forest and the ocean – their rhythms are those of the moon and the waters. A shape-shifter, woman is both nurturer and destroyer.

Dr Janice K. Jones (jonesja@usq.edu.au)

Now the exciting news is that Janice has just published a book which includes the creative writings of many of the pre-service teachers she has worked with.  Janice has a gift for the creative, in both art and writing, so please check it out here


Thank you so much Janice for sharing the story behind this work and for being the creative treasure that you are :)  Janice can be contacted at the email address above.

You can read more about Janice's published research through her eprints here.


  1. Not only was the YouTube video mesmerizing, I was transfixed by your words on this blog, Janice! Fabulous, beautiful, full of light and dark...I connected with this on so many levels!! THANK YOU, KYLIE, for allowing me to experience Into the Forest...and THANK YOU, JANICE, for sharing a piece of your soul!! Xoxo

    1. Thank you Joy - I am so touched that you had such a strong response to my work. This means a lot to me as a person and as an artist/writer. My hope is that you, and other readers will be encouraged to explore through writing - to create and to find ways of speaking of our selves - reaching out to others through words and images and music. It has taken me many years to feel confident enough to share this story - and this is the right time for me. There is an incubation period to every tale...and some take much longer than others! Janice

  2. Thank you for leaving feedback Joy. Janice is a total gem and I love her work so much. I am so pleased it "spoke" to you and you could connect with it - so could I :) And thank you Janice, for agreeing to share your creativity with us :) Kylie

  3. Janice,
    I connected to your story and art work, so much that I cried! What a beautiful story...your unfinished art work made it even better. Thank you so very much for sharing your story!

  4. Anne - thank you so much! Isn't it wonderful when works bring tears - not because they are sad, but because they speak to what we know as humans! I'm really honoured that you have responded this way to my writing. I have a huge smile and feel very joyous as I read and 'speak back' to you and to Joy (and to Kylie who so kindly suggested I share my work on her lovely site). It is easy to look back with wisdom - but it has taken me several decades to realize that it is perfectly fine to leave spaces...and that spaces speak too! A thrilling discovery - and I'm inspired to write and create more. Thank you Anne!

  5. What an amazing collection. It's so beautiful that you realized it should be left unfinished to truly be done right!

    What a unique post! :)