Judi Owens, who teaches local art classes at a studio on the second floor above Christy’s Candles and Gifts, 2631 Michigan Road, talks about how art helped her through a painful chapter of her life and how she uses a process called healing art to help others process through grief. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Judi Owens, who teaches local art classes at a studio on the second floor above Christy’s Candles and Gifts, 2631 Michigan Road, talks about how art helped her through a painful chapter of her life and how she uses a process called healing art to help others process through grief. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Dealing with grief is something Judi Owens has experienced, but the local artist deals with her grief a bit differently than most.

She uses grief, when she can, to be constructive. Owens paints to deal with pain, and helps others do the same.

On the walls of her small art studio hang several pieces of her work. She creates pieces in several media, including watercolors, oils, charcoal and photography.

Owens has always loved painting. The self-taught artist has painted off and on most of her adult life.

Yet it wasn't until the mid-1990s when the Massachusetts native discovered a new outlet for her art. Owens experienced a tragedy - one she won't talk about specifically - that turned her world upside down.

"In 1995, I went through a huge loss," she said. "The biggest loss in my life."

A friend introduced her to healing art as a way to work through the grief by painting.

"Healing art enables a person to express a range of emotions, whether they be grief, anger, hurt or pain, through creative art exercises," Owens said. "Recognizing the significance of those emotions allows for movement forward toward wholeness."

Last year, Owens moved to Madison to be closer to family. She began to host healing art sessions in her studio, located on the top floor of Christy's Candles and Gifts store on Michigan Road.

She's held three sessions so far. She usually holds sessions at her studio, but she can take the artistic sessions elsewhere. She's held healing art sessions at churches.

During the sessions, participants stand in front of a blank canvas and create an abstract piece using sponges and cotton swabs.

"It's not about creating the best piece," Owens said. "That's why we paint abstract pieces."

Once everyone is finished, she hangs the pieces on the wall. Owens then asks painters about their piece. She asks why they painted a square in one area, or why they used a certain color.

"It's important to talk about their piece because they're recognizing their feelings in it and expressing it," Owens said. "And, of course, unless you know you have these feelings, you can't heal."

Owens said she's seen a wide variety of reactions from people - including tearful breakdowns.

"Art has a language in and of itself," Owens said. "It just comes out in paintings."

Dealing with that grief, Owens said, is something that benefits everyone.

"Most people are dealing with grief of some kind," she said. "It's something that transcends."

Currently, she is working on a program for children. She hopes to work with educators to help children who have been bullied or had to deal with traumatic experiences.

"My goal is to partner with local educators," she said. "You see kids taking their own lives and living with such pain."

Owens continues to offer times for class, even though some people become uneasy about the class as it nears.

Some people, she said, seem to try to convince themselves the class won't work before they go because nothing else has worked for them.

"It's hard, but it's worth it," she said. "That's the way it is in life."

Anyone interested in setting up a time for a healing art session, which are cost-free for participants, can contact Owens at 812-273-3072.