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Getting to the roots

March 18, 2012

Oil pastel from artist's sketchbook with moon and terrain

In The Courage to Create, Rollo May says:

“Artists can portray …experiences in music or words or clay or marble or on canvas because they express what Jung calls the collective unconscious. This phrase may not be the most felicitous, but we know that each of us carries in buried dimensions of our being some basic forms, partly generic and partly experiential in origin. It is these the artist expresses.”

It seems like May is suggesting that we all draw on the same basic forms, whether from experience or common culture. A don’t know if that means a square has the same visual significance for everyone, but I do think it is worth exploring where your imagery and style come from, although I’m not sure it is possible to categorize sources or even to clearly trace influences.

I like to think that, since each of us is unique (in spite of our collective unconscious), we also have a distinct point of view, and we produce uniquely personal images. And if you work long enough and create enough art, something will begin to resonate and you will find forms and content that are particularly meaningful for you. A kind of truth. And the art you create will appeal to other folks who have a similar sensibility. Back to May, the courage happens as you keep working, unsure of the destination or outcome…just looking for that resonance.

Here’s one of my latest pieces:

Picture of four mixed media cradled panels, 12 inches by 12 inches

Pretty obvious, I guess, that I like triangles, squares, checkerboards, and muted colors. I like the suggestion of hidden meaning in drawn symbols, scribbled writing, and incomplete or partial images. For me it represents a story that I can’t quite figure out, as if these layers are the visual equivalent of the unconscious. I love that phrase from Rollo May—buried dimensions of our being. Isn’t that mysterious and rich with possibilities?


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