- Classical Acupuncture & Blazing Valley String Band

A Healer's-Eye View

One day, seemingly out of the blue, I was kidnapped by the Muse of Art. It was as if, on Monday, I was the Debbie Jolly I'd always been and then, on Tuesday, I was a crazed stranger obsessed with photographically capturing the energetic essence of various human beings. I cajoled friends and family to pose for ma and made them costumes in which to do it. Then, in 1999, thanks to Lynda (no relation) Jolley, I was lucky enough to show my black-and-white portraits at Big Art, a gallery here in Sacramento. It was so much fun, not to mention gratifying and validating. Below, see the show and the artist's statement I was asked to provide.

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Artist's Statement

     I have a warped view of life. Working as an healer for fifteen years has done that to me. You see, I'm an acupuncturist - someone who uses needles as extensions of her hands to reach past the barrier of skin in order to touch the life force, the qi, the prana, the energy that lies just beneath the epidermis, and to coax it back into something that allows the body, the mind, the spirit and the emotions to expand their notion of what they are and to heal. Thus, the concept of energy runs like a thread through every facet of my public and private life. It's the focus of my consciousness.
     As I've expanded and healed myself, I've come to realize that I live for drama. And, really, there's very little more that is more dramatic than healing. It's basically wading into an ocean of pain and fear, anger, grief, sadness and depair and, with your own hands, your own heart, your own consciousness, pulling that person back to shore. The shore is compassion and acceptance. But the vehicle I use, the boat and even the wind in its sails, is something called "The Five Elements", a system that states that (1) the whole universe is a limitless blob of energy and that (2) the entirety of it can be divided up into five distinct types, flavors or gestalts: water, wood, fire, earth or metal; five different colors - blue, green, red yellow or white; five different emotions - fear, anger, joy, sympathy or grief; five distinct seasons - winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Put into practice, it asks you to try to see the oceans, the trees, the sun, the soil and the gemstones and precious metals inside each person.
     A few years ago, something snapped and I started making kitty-cat ears for my sister Avi. (She later told me, "I really started feeling pretty as soon as you put those ears on my head.") Then I took her picture wearing them. Next, I persuaded my sister Shannie to leave the safety of her sick-bed and to let me adorn her with a crinoline and flowers and take her picture. (I was crazed: the Call to Art outweighed her 102-degree fever and splitting headache.) Soon I was staying up until the wee hours making costumes for the people I felt I could ask to sit for me. All the years of being with people, day after day, watching the elements inside each of them, listening for them, feeling them; all the years of looking for the fields, the clouds, the sunsets and the sunrises, the slim saplings and the rough old oaks, the diamonds and the rubies within each person had brought me to this point. You can only watch and take in for so long and then you have to do something with all that hope and despair, with all that fear and beauty, and so that's what I was doing: trying to find a way to visually represent their energy, the core of who they were. Some of them talked to me about issues they were wrestling with as I took their picture. Some of them (later) saw things in the pictures that they didn't know about themselves.
     Classical acupuncture is an experiential form of medicine - that is, in order to do the work, the practitioner has to be able to experience the phenomenon of the patient as one would experience spring or a waterfall, a blizzard or an earthquake. The best way to understand the Five Elements - and, therefore, to identify them in someone - is to go outside and be with the water, the wood, the fire, the earth, and the metal; to absorb their smells, the feeling of them, their rhythms and sounds, and the emotions that they engender. Because energy doesn't stop at our skins, and we thus have within us these same Five Elements, my job is to learn the cadences of the patient, to learn to identify the voices of the elements as they speak to me, just as someone stopping in a forest would learn to discern the rushing of a nearby stream from the bird music around her. The thing about photographs is that they provide an experience that is visual. To me, the beauty of being human is a seed that exists in everyone. I looked at the people in these photos; I tried to see their energy; I made costumes to express what I saw; and then I took their pictures.

                                                                                                                                       April, 1999