The Belle of Hope by Cindy Casterlin


The Belle of Hope

The Belle of Hope

In the early 1950s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded iron chains and shackles. On April 13, 1956, Mental Health America had these inhumane bindings melted down and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell. I incorporated this symbol into the demo painting for a Color of Woman class held at the Binghamton, New York Mental Health Association. She is an inquiry into the relationship between resistance and hope. The finished painting was included in our silent auction on Sept. 19th. to raise funds and support our services, offered at no cost, to community residents.

I offer about 20 hours per month working in support groups providing expressive art component. Intentional creativity is part of every class I teach, be it Smashbooks, Color of Woman Method, exploring body image, writing poetry, music,  voice and even photography. We explore our stories and what we want to shift/create in our lives.

One example is 3 hour workshop called Lush Layers, exploring the relationship to our own bodies. A recent painting shared by Color of Woman Teacher Kate Langlois, inspired me to include a step where participants marked areas on their silhouette (hot/cold/or numb spots) that continued to hold pain, trauma experiences, shame or a sense of loss. This was done in water color on canvas.

Lush Layers by Cindy Casterlin

Lush Layers by Cindy Casterlin

All around the body shadow was written whatever thoughts or feelings came up as they contemplated their body image. Afterward, we journal a bit around the areas that call to us and then, using a spray bottle, melt most of the image away. Next a layer of acrylic color over whole canvas, selecting one intuitively that felt most healing in that moment. A new body silhouette came next, choosing a pose that most expressed what was needed in that moment. Going into inquiry, students asked themselves, was it playfulness, more rest, to feel powerful, or perhaps a sense of calm/stillness? We added more layers of symbolic language, asking the body what it most needed and exploring what we have within our control to offer. What needs to shift, what benefits will I claim if my body becomes a beloved friend, a cherished companion? Since this workshop was a group who have been meeting for 12 weeks to support healthy weight loss the body image work was a powerful experience


October 7th- SMASHBook Workshop with Color of Woman Teacher Cindy Casterlin 

The Awakened Heart – A Shift from Chaos to Connection 

A workshop to support cancer patients and their families

LOURDES Regional Cancer Center in Binghamton, NY

To register, please call LOURDES: 1-877-956-8733

More about Cindy Casterlin—> HERE