Brown, Susan

Susan Brown, MA, LPC, CBIS, is a former member of an Eastern philosophy, high demand/cultic group and has been a member of ICSA since 2017. She is a therapist and Certified Brain Injury Specialist in Colorado by trade, and an artist, writer, and avid volunteer in several communities. 

Sanctuary, 2017

16” x 30”

Mixed media collage on canvass (acrylic, mirror, glass, fiber, found objects, magazine, beads) This collage was completed a year after exiting, created slowly, deliberately, and somatically. The image of Kwan Yin (akin to Mother Mary and Earth Goddess Gaia), for me, represent the highest feminine archetypal spirit of goodness and protection. Adorning her image, and incorporating nature, water, whales, birds, the moon, monks in contemplation, children reaching and exploring, and a walkway spoke of my grief and hope, nostalgia and memory, and newfound freedom. The artwork itself provided me a safe space to heal, a literal and figurative sanctuary I placed my attention and psyche into during my healing process. 

Version 1

Version 2

Grandmother and Child, 2017

16”x 20”

Acrylic on canvass board

This painting was completed 6 months after exiting the group. I made this as part of an art therapy group. Some of the materials we used came from donations, including this canvass. I chose to paint on a canvass with an image someone had previously painted. The original image was of a horizontal landscape with an orange and yellow tree, mountains, and moon. I turned the canvass vertically and added the image of the grandmother and child on top of the original image of the landscape. I wanted to honor the original landscape image from the unknown artist, to preserve it, while also adding my image. The result of the painting is of two blended images, which I later realized was a metaphor for my own identity of blending two personas, one inside the high demand group and one outside of it; 2 selves, distinct, yet blended. One of my greatest regrets being in the high demand group was not attending the birth of the child depicted, my nephew. Had I been my “normal self,” I would have immediately flown there to meet my sister and my nephew at his birth. While in the group, I was coerced to focus on the groups’ needs and not that of my family members. This painting became the beginning of reconciliation for me and was a gift to my mother (the grandmother depicted in the painting), which hung vertically for several years in her home. When my mother moved to a new home in the fall of 2020, the painting felt uncomfortable to look at when hung vertically. We decided to turn the painting horizontally, it appeared to transform into another, new image, more integrated than before. As is the same with my identity, years later. It now hangs horizontally and commemorates my nephew’s birth and the ability to alter our perception. Sometimes we just need to turn a viewpoint to another position.