Monday, December 01, 2008

Defining My Mission

One of the benefits of being at a painting residency, besides having ample time to work on my art, is that I have the freedom from distractions to ponder on why I paint what I paint. Of course, I had a general idea already, but I never really tried to articulate a coherent reason for what I do. This first week at the residency got me really thinking about my art and why I do it.

I have had a long history with art, starting out as a child. I was fascinated with animals and nature. I remember as an adolescent spending days and days of my summer exploring the outdoors and painting watercolors of birds and animals. Writing also started to interest me then and I wrote and illustrated stories about animals and fantasy worlds that curious children could access through strange means: like a hole in the ground, a secret door in an attic or through a hidden cave.

My undergraduate and graduate years ended up being devoted to writing. As a philosophy major I found myself interested in the idea of writing moral fiction. I started graduate school with the goal that I would write fiction focusing on issues of morality. I wanted to write fiction that taught lessons and contributed something beneficial to society. This led me to fairy tale literature and to the fascinating world of cultural history, subversion of authority, oppression, gender issues and mythology.

Midway through graduate school the need to paint resurfaced. This need has grown more insistent with each passing year. Writing still has a place in my life, but it holds second place to visual art. Writing often holds a framework for my art, but visual art is true expression for me.

I feel like I have come nearly full circle in relation to my art. I started out fascinated by nature and drawing birds and animals. I was curious about exploring other worlds, those secret worlds that were often just out of reach from the world we knew. Then I went off in other directions for a while exploring other traditions or forms of art like fashion design, sewing, ceramics, jewelry making, digital art, and Asian brush art, to name a few. Only to return again to nature and my curiosity of exploring other worlds.

In Buddhism there was a teaching that said when you start out you see that a Mountain is a Mountain, then you observe that a Mountain is not a Mountain, but in the end you learn that a Mountain is a Mountain again. I have returned to artwork about nature, but it is through a different way of seeing and being in the world.

Myth has become an important influence, as is the current situation with human society and the natural world. I believe reconnecting both to myth and the cycles and rhythms of the natural world are keys to a healthy society and planet. Understanding that there are realms of being that are beyond our collectively accepted reality is also important for our well-being. I think having lost touch with this knowledge has left us wandering around in the dark, clumsily destroying nearly everything in our path, fumbling in search of a light with which to see again.

I understand the purpose of my art is to explore myth and nature and the interplay of the two. I hope to revitalize myth and create an interest in a renewed relationship to myth and the natural world. Through the use of research, observation, vision-work and meditation I create my art. I am not interested in illustrating myth, nor do I want to simply replicate or attempt to restore the myth to some non-existent original. Rather I try to connect to the living essence of a myth and paint from that source.

I don’t believe that there is a true original version of a particular mythic archetype. I think that a myth forms and evolves from archetypal matrices, which are then built and constructed with symbols of a particular culture and the natural world. I find most “restored” myths empty and drained of life. A true enlivening of a myth comes from tapping into the universal source and is ignited by imagination and fueled by symbolism.

I focus primarily on Celtic and pre-Celtic mythology, mainly due to an ancestral connection, but I believe I will eventually explore myths of other cultures in my work. When I work on a piece, I meditate on or follow a vision influenced by a particular mythic figure for symbol. I often use a natural object like a rock, tree, ripples on water, rust on metal, etc. as a vehicle to tap into the energy or consciousness related to the myth.

The first result is usually an abstract piece--which reflects energy over form. Often the myth still speaks strongly to me, so I develop another piece focusing more on symbolism, (personal, cultural and universal symbols) this work is usually more representational.

As my art continues to develop, I hope that my skills and ability will be sufficient to share my discoveries of the world of myth and teach of the necessities of a balanced relationship with nature. I believe ultimately that the artist’s role is to provide a service, to guide and to teach something about the world we live in or could be living in. That is my hope and wish for the art that I bring into the world.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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