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

SHADOW

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.