Transforming violence

Shadow by Jennifer Davey

Shadow, 2015. Oil, chalk, and paper on canvas, 48 x 60 in.  Jennifer Davey  All Rights Reserved

Shadow, 2015. Oil, chalk, and paper on canvas, 48 x 60 in.  Jennifer Davey  All Rights Reserved

This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MINDCOCOONDISCERNMENTSCREENHIDDENBODYLOVE, and BOUND.

“Enemies are the main instigators of spiritual advancement”

His Holiness, The Dali Lama


n. A dark shape that appears on a surface when someone or something moves between the surface and a source of light.

n. A reflected image

n. An imperfect or faint representation.

v. to secretly follow or trail

v. to follow and watch someone doing a job in order to learn how to do the job yourself.

from Merriam Webster online

I start this series of writings by exploring the word SHADOW. It is one of the first paintings in which I began stenciling words directly on the surface of my work. It is appropriate to start with shadow because it feels like it matches the beginning of the creative process. I have an idea and a slight hint of direction, but mostly I am working in the dark, relying on my instincts to lead the way. In this painting, I began with the idea of exploring the shadow, or unconscious in contrast to the rational, known aspects of my mind.

Shadow is such a rich word. In its most benign definition, it is the tree that provides much needed coolness in the heat. One can also shadow a mentor, learning the in’s and out’s of a job in order to become proficient. In psychological terms, it represents those parts that we reject and refuse to acknowledge within ourselves, instead projecting them out onto others. In approaching this painting, I am thinking of shadow in psychological terms. It brings to mind opening a long neglected, dilapidated shed, over-full with old, moldy, ruined items. In opening it, it is absolutely overwhelming to think of clearing it out. There may be snakes, mice, mold, pools of stagnant water, and worse.  And my first response is to leave it for another day, or better yet, another decade, or pray for fire or flood, so I don’t have to deal with it at all. This is the shadow. Sticky, humbling, over-whelming, uncomfortable. Yet, I know that there is wisdom in examining this “shed.”  In fact, I would say there is dire and present necessity to examine, investigate and integrate the shadow both individually and collectively. Denial of the shadow comes at a great cost, because the shadow has energy regardless if we honor it or not. It is violence. It is ignorance. It is hate. It is over-consumption. It is judgment. In denial of the shadow, we deny part of our actions as humans, assuming that if we do not recognize it, it must not be true.  But sometimes the shed has to be cleared out.

And in this process of clearing out, I like to refer back to the positive definitions of shadow, that it can provide much needed shade on a hot day, or that we could shadow the workings of our own mind. In doing so we can learn in intimate detail how our mind actually works, thus becoming proficient and running “us.”  In exploring my shadow, I find that those neglected and rejected parts of myself actually have a purpose. By taking time to see and to approach the situation with love, their use becomes clear. This is the heart of peace and this is the treasure that lies within exploring the shadow. 

NOW by Jennifer Davey

Life Death Life, 2105. Oil and chalk on panel, 48 x 48 in. Jennifer Davey  all rights reserved

Abstract painting is often labeled as dead, zombie-like, or irrelevant. I can see nothing further from the truth. Painting provides a physical field in which to actively transform consciouness, connect the divine with the everyday, and find lessons in how to be human in the 21st century when all collective guiding cultural myths lie in shatters around our feet. How does one stand up from the rubble of myths, old dogmatic religions, out-date ways of perceiving, and learn to live in accord with the rest of humanity as a resposible steward of planet earth?  

By scanning Facebook, of course. 

I woke up this morning, getting ready my day, filled with self-satisfaction about my art opening tonight. Friends were invited, outfit was selected. A little morning coffee, Facebook and some studio time.  What else was needed for a day already slated to be great? Then I watched Jon Stewart's reponse to the South Carolina shootings. I cried. There was so much truth in what he said. And I felt so humbled, and then driven. I know that art has incredible powers to transform. It has transformed my life completely. It brings together opposites. It allows me to talk to and come to peace with my shadow. It teaches me how to live. And yet, all that has been very personally focused. And listening to Stewart's words reminded me of what tremendous pain and violence exists in America because of racism and ignorance.  And that although art can by no means fix everything in one broad brush stroke, I can think of no other tool so deftly capable of transforming the heart of a human being. So this morning, Facebook. or more accurately, Jon Stewart, reminded me that it is my desire to do everything in my power to use art to transform hate into love, shadow into the light. It is my desire to bring myself and others into accord, learning to live in this home that is ours, planet earth, and this country that I am lucky enough to call home, America. I am very much looking forward to tonight, but more to my return to the studio to face and touch these very big problems of ignorance, hate, violence, that will not go away until we understand, love, and integrate them.  Thank you Jon Stewart for speaking truth.