Liz Asch Greenhill w/ Zaji Cox

At Corporeal Writing we’re all about opening the platform, continuously working on new ways to expand participation and experience, and breaking open what writing means.

We’ve created this new series of visiting writer workshops with some pretty phenomenal mammals. We are delighted to have humans in our community interview the writers who will be leading these collaborative workshops at Corporeal Writing Center.

In this second installation we present writer, artist and acupuncturist Liz Asch Greenhill interviewed by Corporeal Writing comrade, Zaji Cox.

Photo of Zaji by Don’t Blink PDX

Photo of Zaji by Don’t Blink PDX

ZC: You currently engage in what seem like very different types of artistic expression—writing and visual art. How does your creative process differ between these mediums? How is it similar?

LG: I tend to write personal lyric essays and to make abstract multi-media 2D art. In some ways I think of those as opposite approaches in representation: figurative writing and nonfigurative/poetic art. In both writing and visual art, I like to explore the senses, that's my favorite way to work, so I might make an abstract painting based on a poem or music or a conversation. With writing, I want the language to capture taste and movement and scent—that's what I aim for. I try to shake up the senses. I'm very interested in trying to stretch language to explore other art forms and to challenge/allow myself to return to classical methods of painting that scare me because I have limited training and it's been a long time. I also wrestle with resistance and fear more around art than writing because I'm more critical of my visual art and that critical voice can be very damaging to my creative practice.

ZC: Are there similarities between your approach to acupuncture and your approach to art?

LG: Yes, there are. Thanks for asking that question. My training is in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is very by-the-book and by-the-map, grounded in pattern recognition, sort of like following recipes. That informs my work with a body greatly, kind of like the background layer in a painting. Upon that I build up other layers of metaphor from Chinese Medicine as poetry, using my hands with acupressure and various forms of energy work, acupuncture needles, and language (I integrate impromptu guided visualizations to help the mind shift the body's energetics). Each session is a design-based experience that leaves the patient with a new composition. Working with patients feelslike making art. I love it.

ZC: What made you want to pursue something like talk-based artist support?

LG: Before I went to acupuncture school, I worked as an artist's assistant to some very beloved artists in New York City. I really loved that work. I find a sense of purpose in being a backstage helper to artists so they feel supported to make their work. It's so fulfilling. I decided, after many years in practice as an acupuncturist, that I was not done being an artist's assistant. I even looked for jobs here in Portland working hands-on as an artist's assistant, but it's so different here from in NYC. Those jobs don't really exist here. I realized that with the knowledge I've gained from working with and studying the body, I could help artists get unlocked in a new way: using energetics and embodiment techniques that stem from my acupuncture practice. I think of it like Artist Assistance 2.0—with a new and improved skillset. I'm not just organizing your files and washing paint rags and tidying up the studio anymore. I am working with artists now collaboratively, mind to body, body to mind, to help artists get aligned internally and more in touch with their voice and imagery and process.

ZC: Do you think there are commonalities to be found among artists when it comes to the process of working past being stuck, or is it more often specific to the person?

LG: A lot of us fall into the same patterns: self-doubt, self-criticism, self-sabotage, comparison to others, elevated standards and unrealistic timelines, and so on. These patterns of thought match patterns of organ disharmony in the body. We can look to the metaphors that shape Chinese Medicine as tools to unlock these kinds of limitation, and utilize them to propel us forward and outward. Once we activate the senses and engage the imagination into the corporeal experience, we find movement and insight—which are antidotes to stuckness.

ZC: Have your methods of dealing with being artistically “stuck” in your own projects changed over your career as an artist?

LG: Yes, a lot. I fall ill to stuckness just like everyone else, and I too, learn new methods each time, and that's when I get the opportunity to practice the exercises I discover with others. It can feel uncomfortable and disappointing to feel flat on a project, but now I remind myself when I feel that way it's okay, it's part of the process, everything ebbs and flows. I now practice adjusting my pace and my expectations, and I look inward, when I usedto look outward and put so much pressure on myself. I still wrestle with my demons, but I have more strategies and tricks now. I've also come to accept that sometimes stuckness is just stillness; or, it's a buried emotion or unmet need to discover. I'm not a therapist so I don't go the route of psychology as my method, but rather, I use metaphor and energy medicine and language, which are my chosen tools. ::

Liz will be leading a workshop “Breaking Up Stuckness Together ” on Sunday, August 25 :: 10am-2pm Corporeal Writing Center 510 SW 3rd Avenue Suite #101 97217
Save your seat in Liz’s workshop here.

Liz Asch Greenhill is a writer, artist, acupuncturist, and artist's assistant. She's been helping artists since the '90s in one capacity or another. These days she's upgraded her approach to integrate methods of somatic healing and bodily energetics into the writing room. Liz will help you access the wild imagination of your artist self to learn new insights about your creative process and projects. Fun facts: Liz did an MFA under Lidia's magical mentorship. And, you might have heard Lidia sing her praises as an acupuncturist.

Zaji Cox has been creating stories since she began reading at age three. She discovered her passion for writing when she wrote her first short story at nine years old, and began seriously considering it as she went on to write and self-publish a fantasy/adventure novel by the time she was thirteen. She wrote a collection of short stories for her high school senior project in 2012, which she went on to compile into a book that she self-published in 2016. Her prose and poetry have been published in Pathos Literary Magazine and The Sunflower Collective. She is currently working on a children’s book as well as a memoir in poetry and prose. Along with being a writer she is also a dancer, Portland State alumna, and animal lover.