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Artistic Identity: Nurturing Creativity Beyond Childhood

The artist, Carolyn Wonders, is sitting on the stairs that go to her art studio which is in an attic on top of the artist's garage. Carolyn looks off into the distance as if contemplating something or deep in thought.
Carolyn Wonders sitting on the stairs to her studio

Artistic identity isn't just about the strokes of a brush or the choice of colors on a canvas; it's woven from the fabric of our experiences and in my case, a quest to belong. Growing up, I often felt out of sync, like I didn't quite fit into the molds around me. The traits I cherished within—contemplative, creative, and sensitive—stood in stark contrast to the toughness and practicality my environment demanded.

Belonging, that sense of being an integral part of a group, eluded me. It wasn't that I didn't seek it; rather, I perpetually sought it without returns. I remained on the outside, my voice dismissed as naive in a world that didn't match the contours of my soul.

Brené Brown's words resonate deeply with me: " and belonging are fundamental needs for us all. When these needs remain unmet, we falter; we break..."

I broke. Repeatedly. I even allowed the pursuit of belonging to overshadow my own safety, leading me down paths fraught with control and abuse.

Recently, amid grief over my mother's passing, I encountered a profound insight from Dr. Sarah Kerr who was helping me navigate the depths of death and dying: She said, "You didn't get what you needed growing up." No blame, no guilt—just a simple truth. The structures around me offered training to conform but lacked in nurturing the essence of who I was, especially as I ventured down the unconventional path of an artist.

As artists, do any of us truly receive all we need to flourish? Perhaps the artist's journey is one of continual reinvention, untangling ourselves from societal indoctrination to discover our genuine identities.

The acknowledgment from Dr. Kerr was affirming. With kindness toward myself, the echoes of a painful past are slowly dimming and the sting, still present, but easing. Nurturing my inner artist, safeguarding her against the hurts I experienced, brought forth a profound peace that is, as always, reflected in my art.

At one time I dismissed the idea of revisiting childhood experiences as pointless self indulgence. But understanding the past, accepting reactions, and mending the wounds has become integral to shaping a healthier future. Unhealed pasts have a way of manifesting in the present. By embracing and understanding them, we pave the way for a more authentic future.

Photo of the artist on a grey background, purple blouse and red lipstick. The button says, Are you digging the autheticity? "Join my newsletter"

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Carolyn Wonders


Modern life with its social, political, and cultural debates leaves us all raw, triggered, and anxious. We are bombarded by rhetoric that is carefully chosen to obscure truth and advance agendas. I see art as a universal language that can transcend that which twists us into parrots of this rhetoric. Living with art you love and seeing through an artist’s eyes can help us see these superficial debates for what they are and get us in touch with what really matters.


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