CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) is a required part of my ordination process and my time at seminary. I did one unit of CPE at a level 1 trauma center in the urban core of my city in the summer of 2016. This translated to a summer of intensive work in which I served as an unpaid chaplain for 60-70 hours a week. I did 11 on-call rotations, staying at the hospital for upwards of 32 hours at a time. Those who have done CPE or serve as chaplains recommend various outside activities to help deal with the stress of the work. Part of my strategy to discharge the intensity of the experience was to create weekly intuitive paintings.
Basically, I painted my feelings working on each painting for 30 minutes to several hours each night after I got home from a long day at the hospital. The result was a dozen abstract paintings.
So, where does the connection to 2017 come into play? Well, my church regularly does art installations. I decided to be bold and proposed to the art team a showing of my paintings. When they said yes, I was delighted. My show lasted for six weeks in January and February of 2017, and I did a gallery talk one night.
Friends and family came in from outside the state to support my gallery talk, and I was extremely grateful. The chance to talk about CPE and the paintings was wonderful. One of the most interesting results of displaying my art was the reaction to certain paintings from people who had served as chaplains or done on-call at medical facilities. Several people actually could identify the emotions or the theme of a painting because they had experienced that feeling. I was humbled and awed by this.