SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) is the bestselling author and artist of fifteen books, including Succulent Wild Woman, Bodacious Book of Succulence, Eat Mangoes Naked, and other titles. She is an acclaimed speaker and teacher, and CEO and founder of Planet SARK, a business that promotes empowered living, and her writings and artwork.
In an interview, SARK said she knows that art is healing “because of how it heals me and how I see it healing other people every day. Through art, we come alive through the deep connections to our souls and spirits.
“I’m talking about being ‘artists of life,’ not only visual artists. I believe there is an ‘art of living’ and that this art practiced heals each of us everyday in small and significant ways. [From Arts and Healing Network interview.]
In another interview, she explains how challenging and difficult her path has been.
Q: What were you doing before you started writing books? Were you always so creative and spiritually aware?
SARK: No, not at all. I’m a survivor of incest. That was a period of seven years and it pretty much, at that point, destroyed my life. Then, from the ages of 14 to 26, I had 250 different jobs because I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do [with my life].
During that time period I was also living a very self-destructive life and I wasn’t at all creative in any kind of physically manifested way. At 26 I finally turned to dedicate myself to art and writing, and proceeded for the next ten years to be rejected in every way that you could be.
Q: What motivates you to keep writing?
SARK: The people, and my own spirit. My own need to express my experience drives my writing. Also, what I feel to be speaking through me. It’s like taking dictation, in a way.
[From interview: Living Juicy: A Creative Conversation with SARK, by Laura Barcella.]
SARK has explained how much she chose to stop living as a victim, “as if someone was doing something to me. I was flying blind in my life, crashing and burning.
“As an incest survivor, I was hiding, avoiding, living less than a half-life, careening around and dealing with many addictions and an overall dysfunctional environment. Life was like a pinball game and I was the ball moving from one dramatic event to another.
“I made a clear decision to change my mind and my role by using role models, mentors and teachers.” [From Balance magazine interview.]
Investigate your pain
On her site she includes the urgent advice to “Wake up to your pain and investigate it.”
That can be hard to do when trying to protect yourself emotionally. For men and boys as well as women and girls, of course. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse can have profound impacts on how we accept and treat ourselves, and how we interact with others and life.
Here is one of SARK’s creativity and personal growth programs :
One of the tracks (“Remember That”) on Jessica Simpson’s album Do You Know? has the powerful lyrics, “It doesn’t matter how he hurts you / With his hands or with his words / You don’t deserve it / It ain’t worth it / Take your heart and run.”
Simpson declared in an Elle magazine article, “There’s nothing on my album that you’re gonna hear that I don’t relate to or that I haven’t experienced. Because the only way I know how to sing is from life experience. I have definitely experienced abuse in a way that I would tell people to take their heart and run.”
Actor Teri Hatcher revealed in 2006 that as a child she was sexually abused by an uncle. “This is something I’ve tried to hide my whole life,” she said. She never told her parents, but thinks they suspected. “I think their way of dealing with things is denial and guilt. Nobody wanted to talk about it. But all I did was blame myself.
“I have so much pain. I’m a woman who carries around all these layers of fear and vulnerability. I’m trying to be my powerful me; it’s in there, but I have to find the strong part underneath the layers of ‘I’m shit. I’m never going to go anywhere!’” [More on the page abuse & creative expression.]
Dealing with abuse through therapy and art can have profound, life-changing value.
Roxanne Chinook, a Tribal Member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon, experienced rape and family violence. She says, “My art emulates a personal and cultural experience, from the spirit of the trickster to healing from the traumas of my past. The process of creating strengthens and restores my spirit, and has rendered me a relationship with the sacred.” [From the page Healing & art.]
The creative power of anger
One consequence of abuse may be deep rage, and art can help deal with that anger constructively.
Psychologist, Stephen Diamond, PhD says “Creativity is one of humankind’s healthiest inclinations, one of our greatest attributes.”
As he explains in his book, “Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity,” our impulse to be creative “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos and conflict.”
It takes courage
But this isn’t an easy or comfortable process, he notes. “To confront consciously one’s inner demons — the daimonic — takes great courage. It is an enormous struggle with one’s self, a coming to terms with who one really is and how one really feels, an arduous, demanding process in which pursuing or persisting in artistic work can be instrumental.”
In his book, Diamond writes about a number of prominent and accomplished artists who exhibit varying degrees of success in accessing and expressing their demons in positive ways.
Niki de St. Phalle
Painter and sculptor Niki de St. Phalle, was able to find “a fertile outlet for her ferocious rage toward men — and the dominant masculine art establishment — via the creative expression of violence in her highly controversial work.
“Her famous ‘shooting paintings’ resulted from firing live ammunition at paint-filled, white-washed balloons mounted on a blank, virginal canvas.
“Thus, rather than becoming a crazed killer or vengeful victimizer of men, de St. Phalle’s fury — some of which stemmed from having been sexually abused by her father — fostered a fecund creativity, that served her well throughout her prolific career.”
More in my interview with Dr. Diamond: The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons.