Creative Cross Training / by Susie Lubell

Work in progress. Like everything else.

Work in progress. Like everything else.

Three weeks ago I was scrolling around in Facebook, which I do far too often and which I generally find to be a total waste of time. But during this particular session I came across an invitation to a workshop on Voice and Space held by a fantastically gifted Israeli vocal artist named Victoria Hanna. I signed up immediately. For those of you who know me, you know this is highly uncharacteristic as I usually spend weeks researching the crap out of something until it has lost all of its original appeal. But something told me this was an opportunity not to be missed. 

I came across this video by Victoria Hanna about a year ago and was completely mesmerized. I had never heard of her before. Honestly I couldn't even figure out if she was speaking Hebrew. Or Arabic. Or Aramaic! It's obvious to me now that she's singing the alphabet and an acrostic prayer spoken during the festival of Sukkot called Hoshana. But during that first time listening and seeing this spectacle I could only hear tones, linguistic explosives and fricatives and nasals; I could only see someone absolutely embodying her own power. The images and sounds stayed with me for a long time.

And here she was offering a workshop on Voice and Space, whatever that meant, in Ein Kerem, a quaint artist's colony only 20 minutes from my house. It's like if Eric Clapton was having a workshop called Chords and Cords at the local YMCA, and you happened to find out about it, you would put on your favorite pair of corduroys and go for it. Figure out why later. Which is exactly what I did. The very next day.

And good thing it was the next day because had I had any more time to think about it I would have backed out. But I didn't back out and suddenly I was standing in a circle with 15 other women, in a small compound off the main road in charming Ein Kerem. A chef, a rabbi, a psychologist, a retired architect, a high school senior... indeed we were a wide range of ages and experiences. And for the next five hours we did exercises in opening up. We did a lot of humming. A lot of moaning. We talked about the body as a vessel. A space within a space. A container with holes. An instrument. Like a flute. And before I knew it I was bearing down and chanting next to Victoria Hanna while she made reference explicitly to her mouth and implicitly to her vagina, mentioning in the same breath, Talmud, childbirth and poetry. It was kind of exhilarating. She talked about how vibrations move through us. The whole world full of frequencies finding their way through each person. In as air. Out as sound. Thinking of it in this way removes all ego, that pesky thing that berates us for not doing it right. Whatever IT might be. Because when you're just the vessel, the sound comes through you, but it's not YOU. If you let the vibrations move through you at your most open, that's when the magic happens.

And suddenly I understood why I was there and what her words meant for my own practice. I'm not a singer, though I have been known to sing in Yiddish on occasion. I am a painter and my best work, the work that I feel most connected to and delighted by, comes when I get out of my head and let the vibrations move through me and onto the canvas in wild, juicy color. Mine is a constant process of letting go. Opening up. Revealing to myself and the world my own singular gifts. Because no one sees exactly how I see or processes the grand space outside of me the way I do. So the more I open up, the more clearly I can translate those gifts onto my canvas.  

This is the kind of experience I call Creative Cross Training. Doing something creative, that's not your regular thing, to unclog the openings. It can be anything. Voice. Movement. Photography. Even that class I took last year in screen printing which was, for me, a completely new way to work in color and layering. Creative Cross Training also allows me to take risks and fail miserably without damaging my ego. Because I'm just the vessel. Whatever comes in moves through my space. In as inspiration. Out as creation. I just have to make sure the path is wide open and marvel at whatever emerges.