Healing Through Art
One Local Artist’s Journey
By A.G. Ortiz
When most people look to the past they do so with rose colored glasses, protecting the ego from the damaging or less than beautiful parts, ensuring, more often than not, that the patterns of the past are continuously renewed. Looking with an honest eye takes a strong sense of self and a desire to break generational curses and heal childhood traumas. In such a position did Chilean born artist Alejandra Vasquez find herself at the outset of the pandemic.
When asked to describe her earliest memories of making art Alejandra spoke of an affinity for coloring books and crayons, empty notepads that could come alive under her fingertips. In school her talents were quickly noticed by educators, but missed at home. She recalls growing up in an immigrant household where there was no extra money for things like art classes or a variety of supplies.
“There was, as I had been told and read, no jobs or money in art. So unless I had rich parents or a benefactor there would be no surviving everyday life with art. I still doodled here and there, but focused my schooling elsewhere.”
Though her love of art was renewed during a college elective course at Kean University, she pursued a degree in English Literature, graduating in 1997 and eventually became a certified K – 8 teacher in 2012. She would go on to win North Bergen Educator of the Year in 2020 and lead her students to the second highest district scores for Language Arts in 2022.
Increased personal and professional stress had Alejandra seeking an outlet and she began therapy in late 2020. She was encouraged by her therapist to begin creating again. She turned her focus inward and began the painstaking work of self actualization.
“ [Being an artist] is when you are not complete unless you are creating. It is an overwhelming urge, a yearning that you can’t escape, you must paint, draw, write whatever it is because it feeds your soul. That is how I feel about my art. I need it to heal, to meditate, to express what I’ve been hiding for so long.”
Through her self analysis Alejandra was able to tap into her traumas and suffuse her art with a soul that has become her signature style of emotive chaos.
“We all have a story to tell; emotions, memories that were pushed down inside. Some of these memories we can’t remember but our bodies do. It’s imprinted in our souls. I’m not trying to relive [these memories] to be in more pain, I’m trying to process and release [those feelings]. Art – painting and writing- does this for me.”
When she approaches her sketchbook or canvas now Alejandra begins by exploring her sources of inspiration. At times that might be as simple as a color or a desire to play with a new medium. More often than not, however, there is a desire to release pent up emotions.
“ A feeling of grief, anger, love, joy, or peace, that I feel a strong need to express but not always does the image come with it. With these types of paintings I just start with intuition and many mistakes! I feel the painting tells me what to do next.”
Healing generational wounds comes in spurts and gaps. There is no straight path and oftentimes whole circles of retraumatization can make patients feel as though progress will never happen. Art therapy provides an outlet for self reflection in a safe space and can help keep patients on the path to growth.
This past year Alejandra has expanded her horizons and submitted her works to be considered for the Jersey City 14C Art Exhibition as well as building a social media presence and soon to launch eponymous website gallery. She looks forward to the continued practice of healing through her art process and the possibility of making art a full time investment in herself.
You can currently see the works of Alejandra Vasquez on Instagram @alejandravasquez8222.
*All quotes attributed to Alejandra Vasquez (July 2022)