Liminality is not just a place. It is a state of mind. I can shift my state of mind and enter liminal spaces as I create. The more lost I get in it all, the more abstract my work becomes. I also become a little freer from the things that have held me: freer from certain objects, freer from places in time I’d been previously less likely to leave, and freer from the memories tied to yesterday.
This painting may not look like it has anything to do with childhood, but when I break it down, it does. The orange swirly shape has the texture and color of a baby teething toy that was attached to my crib. I still recall what it felt like in my mouth and what it felt like to exist as a two year old. The bright pink square is like the taffy candy I used to buy at the Hilltop Deli. I can remember the taste, the stickiness, and being ten years old. I look in from outside myself as I work and capture bits and pieces of moments past: often without realizing how any of it means anything. Suddenly, the objects no longer matter as much to me: only this significance matters. The deeper I go into the creative realm, the more abstract my work becomes, and the less attached to things I find myself. I stay cemented in time and space while getting pulled even more deeply and very much further away. I have gone nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Creative expression makes space for this unique state of existing.
We all carry our past with us, and we all move towards and away from it as we walk in the present. Something that happens right now can throttle us back to the age of four in an instant. We keep moving to and from what we know of yesterday unwittingly. Art helps us as we enter and exit these liminal portals. A song from childhood helps us recall the face of a beloved grandparent. In a few moments of reflection, grief is eased, and our deep affection for those we have lost is heightened. The illustrations in a favorite childhood fairy tale remind us of our father’s lap and the sound of his voice. We close our eyes and sit in that lap for a time, and finally we are grateful despite all that we have lost. The feel of a crayon on a piece of paper brings us back to kindergarten. We re-experience its waxiness on our chubby fingers. We recollect peeling off the paper wrapper and blunting the crayon’s tip as the tool was rubbed back and forth on coloring pages. The peace we had when we colored as a child is suddenly ours in present time— regardless of how hard this present time happens to be.
What if we picked up a crayon and colored for a little while? Maybe we’d spend a little time in the stillness of a moment faintly familiar and discover that it has crossed us over into childhood, back to today, and into a new moment where we find ourselves remade. Wondrous are the ways art can guide us through our liminal places and spaces.