Intimates: Creative Expressions of Love and Intimacy around the Globe
By Andrea Cook, February 2021

We are all, together, experiencing a major change. As we move into unfamiliar territory, trying to find our footing, trying to envision a post-pandemic future, we enter what I predict may be an era of compassion and humanism. This is at once a challenging time and a beautiful opportunity. An opportunity for a rebirth, a turn toward what has been inside of each of us all along.

It is at this pivotal moment that I am drawn to creative expression and all of its curiosity, healing, and transformative powers. I am a bilingual arts therapist living and working in Montreal, Quebec. Through this personal creative project I aim to discover new methods of experiencing intimacy and connection as a means of healing and unity. I aim to lead by example, and I invite you to come along for the journey.

 More than ever we are in need of new ways to connect in a changing world. In a time of video calls, waving through windows, and empty streets, art presents something both familiar and innovative. We must look to the past, have gratitude for what has served us, but we must also find new ways of connecting, following an extended period of isolation.

My journey toward love as a lifestyle and not only a relationship began in childhood and in earnest over a year ago. I feel that this is my calling, my special talent, and am honoured to share with others to help them find their own unique place in the world. Not only do we have the ability to find love, but we all possess the powerful ability to create it. Art therapy presents a safe space for those feelings to take root and grow.

 Intimates is a collection of illustrations expressing intimacy beyond words. “Love,” “desire,” “sex,” and so on, cannot encapsulate their meanings the way that I see artistic expression come alive on a canvas, a page, even a screen. Art is a space where diversity and differing global perspectives can transcend language, form new connections. Art can explode with colour, it can change each time you look at it, it can be soft and gentle, or intense and moving—just like desire.

 As a mindful human relations practitioner my usual methods of research have not been possible with everything going on in our Pandemic affected world. It has become more difficult and often impossible to access the library, to travel, to collaborate with others in person. So much of my work has been about looking outward—at clients, at research, at the world. To cope, and to heal, I have begun to do for myself what I do for my clients. I have begun to turn inward, and to conduct research not only in external data but within myself. This project is the result of that.

Intimates will bring my personal arts-based research to life, through therapeutic explorations of the intimate self. I invite readers to look, comment, respond, and engage with the images, to consider how they relate to the intimate self, the private self, the sexual self. This is a project of collaboration between artist and viewer. It moves, takes shape, and exists between us.

The project is an inclusive and curious exploration of sexuality, embracing differences as a way of better understanding ourselves and others, how we express, experience, and share intimacy. Intimacy is so many things—it is challenging, it is vulnerable, humourous, pleasurable, it changes and grows deeper and more complex over time. Creativity, in my opinion is the path to an open mind, an open body and an open heart.

Whether I arrive at answers or only more questions, I will dive deeper into a world nourished and inspired by love. But what is love? So often we defer to what we have been told. A book tells us how to love, who to love, and why. An article outlines how to be a better lover, step-by-step. We must remember that these are only tools. The truest form of love for each individual exists within, and must be cared for, encouraged, and respected. There is no single way to love, to be loved. There is the love we have for the self, for a lover, there is intimate and sexual love. How you choose to define and understand love is your own personal journey. To share your experience of love, and to be open to another’s experience—to hold both in the highest regard—is true intimacy, true connection. 

Life, love, sexuality, and intimacy all ebb and flow. Perhaps this is why connections are so often made between love and the moon. The moon pushes and pulls the tides, creates rhythmic movement, much like the changes we experience within. There is a softness and femininity, but also strength and passion in love which transcends gender and sexuality. It is a softness and strength within us all, and an openness to be shaped, held by another’s experience. When we invite another person in, to see our intimate self, therein begins another ebb, another flow. A new rhythm together—the dance of the inner selves.