Michel's work combines visual art, writing and social consciousness with her conscience (see "Artists Behind Bars," issue of Jan. 31, 2007). It's led her to find a way to bring people together to share their oracles, she says.
The Family Oracle is a project, an event, an experience that taps into the oracle in every person.
"I thought that it would be fun to have my family come for the first party as a Christmas present," says Carolyn Brookbank, a local mother and grandmother. "My family was friends, grandchildren, children's partners and my sisters."
Brookbank says "instead of going out to dinner" the family had a "connecting experience." That experience was creating some art (a collage), some writing (the meaning the art) and some fun time together
Participants get a "menu" when they arrive at Michel's studio that describes the three different "courses." After choosing a single word printed on a piece of paper that has a stack of images behind it, the work begins.
"(During) the appetizer step, Pic leads the group through a watercolor process ... which is what you use as your background for the collage," Brookbank says. "The main course is you cut out the words and pictures that go on the background for your work. The dessert course is that you write on the back of your large picture ... what the collage means to you."
The stress of having to recreate a detailed landscape and an expert looming large at the front of the room are conspicuously missing from the studio. That means freedom to play, which helped make the experience significant for Brookbank and her family.
"We all made handmade things and shared ourselves with each other," she says. "We got to enjoy a process both as a group and an individual."
From Michel's perspective, making connections between people that are meaningful is the point.
In the FosterFamily Oracle gathering, that means people coming together who don't know each other or might know each other in some other capacity.
"When I got there, I was a little anxious because most of the people there I didn't know," says Rob Cook, a local artist and recent FosterFamily participant. "But Pic very quickly made us all feel very comfortable, and the process lends itself to conversation. People were trading pictures back and forth."
The intimidation factor was gone by the time the visual art was created, Cook says, so reading his writing to the group wasn't difficult.
"Each one of us is explaining our card, but what you're also saying is, 'This is what these symbols mean to me,' " he says. "That's sharing a deep part of yourself. You could ... have this connection with these people that felt safe."
At the end of an Oracle event, each participant takes home the original art after Michel digitally photographs both sides. She assembles the work of the group into a "deck of cards" for everyone. More than a memory of the event, the cards -- or keys as she calls them -- are a way to re-access the oracles of others.
"When I hear somebody sharing about a word like bliss, that gets me thinking about what that word means to me," Cook says. "It's interesting to hear someone else's perspective ... to hear someone else's story.
"That was the meaning for me -- the connection in the moment and then afterwards this finished thing you can refer back to ... as a way of capturing that moment. It's something I will be using in my life."
FosterFamily Oracle events are open to the public and are hosted by C. Pic Michel the first Monday of every month beginning April 7. Day-long Oracle workshops are also being hosted on March 21-22. For more information, visit www.cpicmichel.com/foracle.html or call 513-861-1910.