Former student uses art to heal trauma


Helen Harlan

“Outstretched” by Yvette Joslyn

Yvette Joslyn sat in her ceramics studio in her home in Natomas and stared at her latest art project, a clay sculpture of a seated woman with arms outstretched.
Joslyn said she was frustrated that the as-yet-unnamed piece had collapsed three times since her assembly began.
“We’ve been fighting a couple of weeks,” Joslyn said. “But I think we finally have an understanding.”
Joslyn is a former part-time student at Cosumnes River College and works part-time as a night nurse in the emergency room at Sutter General Hospital. She started sculpture art in 2019 at the encouragement of Dr. Arthur Jey, who worked by Joslyn’s side for over 10 years. After viewing some of her charcoal drawings, Jey told Joslyn that she needed to bring them into three dimensions.
“I’ve done sculpting. My wife has worked in clay a lot. It’s a very grounding experience,” Jey said. “The feeling in what she had sketched out, it jumped out of the page. It just had so much emotion because there were so many palpable emotions in the world.”
Since then, Josyln has used the clay medium to process the trauma she and her fellow medical professionals endured during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2020, people were making things for us, people were clapping. We were feeling like we were fighting this virus and we were going to help people,” Joslyn said. “We were scared to death, but there really was an embracing of the (nurse) community.”

Joslyn took a beginners clay sculpting class with Art Professor Linda Fitz Gibbon in fall 2021. She said she took the class to hone her skills and continue to use art as therapy.
“It became clear from the outset of Art 402: Beginning Clay Sculpture that Yvette had a natural ability for the clay medium and for personal storytelling,” Fitz Gibbon said. “She came to my class to improve her technique so she could continue growing as an artist while continuing in her nursing job.”
Joslyn’s piece “Covid 2021” was featured at the 2022 CRC student art exhibit “Inhale Possibility: Exhale Creativity.” Joslyn said it reflected the change she saw in the public.
“The change from 2020 to 2021 was really striking for me. Not only were we fighting the virus, we also had all this anger that was directed towards medicine in general,” Joslyn said. “People were afraid. We felt we were trying to help, but we were being abused a little bit. So it was hard.”
The companion piece “Covid 2022” further reflected Joslyn’s struggle, she said. It features a female’s face looking out at the viewer and behind it a smaller individual, a nurse, head bent over their knees.
Joslyn said the nurse in the piece was tired.
“Very tired,” she said.
As a Black woman and mother to three grown children, one of whom identifies as trans, Joslyn also used ceramics to process the trauma of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Joslyn created “Inherited Trauma” just after George Floyd was murdered. She said it represented generational traumas that have been passed down from one generation to the next.
“This idea of trust and justice and freedom and being constantly reminded that that’s not actually happening,” Joslyn said.
Despite the heavy nature of much of her work, Joslyn said that she feels better after creating art than she does before.
“As you’re what I call ‘fighting the clay’ you’re also exploring the topic,” Joslyn said. “Thinking about ‘what am I trying to say here?’ And it helps you to process. It helps you to kind of focus it into something.”
Scott Joslyn said he sees the benefits art has helped his wife Joslyn. He said he thinks she and the clay have a symbiotic relationship.
“She’s doing things to the clay that will produce a result, but the clay also allows her to fill her mind off of work and provide genuine relaxation time,” Scott Joslyn said. “Her art has become a part of her.”
Joslyn said she encourages everybody to use art and as a mental health therapy.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of art it is: food, painting, fabric, cosplay, whatever. Find something that takes you out of yourself for a period of time that clears your mind,” she said. “Go make art. Whatever it is. Go make art.”