Broken Vessels: Presence of the Divine

I remember vividly, from a very early age, I felt broken and different from the community that surrounded me. I was emotionally separate from my own family that I was born into, I didn’t belong and didn’t feel aligned with the guided/conditioned behavior around me.

I discovered at 3 years old, the only space I felt safe and connected was when I was sitting on the warm and soft Persian red rug that I loved the endless pattern on, leaning forward and drawing on a pile of empty white paper for hours, loosing myself and the sense of time passing.

I always kept this sacred space, almost religiously, within me growing up & not understanding the world outside the borders of the paper, the violence and conflict, struggling and looking for the truth:” What is going on? Why am I here for?”

Only after many years, when I was going through a very dark passage in my life, completely broken and had nothing else to lose; I stepped out of my pre planned path in life and embarked on a life of constant uncertainty, living fully in the creative process, what I always needed and wanted to do.

This past year, being chosen to be a fellow in the LABA Broken year was deeply profound to me. It happened in a year of transition from COVID living, from the big city to living in the woods, from almost a monk-like life, which is fit for an introvert.

From the first gathering at the 14Y Theatre, I immediately found a safe space for open discussion and discovery, mutual curiosity, creativity, play and support. Exploring the biblical texts of Broken was quite shocking at first (even though I learned it for years in school growing up in Israel). It was different. It was bold, deep and meaningful, exactly what I was looking for.

The creative process is a mysterious one, a place where you step out of “Your-Self” & if you are aligned you connect to something vast and unknown. In theses split moments of grace, you understand that you are only a vessel and something bigger flows through you, guiding you and holding your hand.

Brokenness was already an integral part of my working process when I entered LABA.

Even though I learned traditional & contemporary painting working techniques that are very “ordered” and somewhat organized, I always found myself working differently from fellow artists. Constantly breaking and mending the forms I intuitively build as I go. Looking for the sweet spot where it feels whole but still vibrates with the parts. Now, after a year in LABA, I know breaking is part of my creative process and I reclaim that.

The studio space is my domain. I feel at home with the physicality of materials that I am holding and manipulating in my hands. Since the process is deeply intuitive, without language, it feels limiting to express in written words the encompassing experience of the inner process. The only place I can compare it to is the never-ending space between the skies and the earth – empty yet fertile and full of potential.

I am still going through the process of allowing to give space to my broken parts, to accept them just as they are and not constantly trying to fix them. It is still very raw and difficult. To bodily integrate it in my nervous system will take time and patience, like anything in nature, a healing of my trauma in life. I came to realize, through discussions in LABA, that Brokenness is a state of movement, a transition in the works, the opposite of a stand-still. In the first gathering, each fellow brought a broken item that was significant to them to share with the group. I brought Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” recording live from a concert, where he whispered in his deep velvety voice, moments before singing: “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.


By 2022 LABA Fellow Nava Gidanian-Kagan