What is art about? Why do paintings matter? These are questions I ask myself daily, so as to be ever clear about the purpose of my craft and the worthiness of my devotion. Today I was reading Joseph Campbell's Goddesses, Mysteries of the Feminine Divine and in his typical clear and illuminated way, he explained exactly what painting and art is all about. In the history of humans, image making is core to our essence. We have made images in a multitude of forms, often representing deities. What is the function of this image making? Of this deity representation?
Campbell states "Now, the energies of nature are present in the outer world, but also inside ourselves, because we are particles of nature. So when you meditate on a deity, you are meditating on the powers of your own spirit and psyche, and on the powers that are also out there." (Joseph Campbell, Goddesses, Mystery of the Feminine Divine, p. 14) This meditation is meant to put one in accord with nature. The function of the image is to align our spiritual nature with the world in which we live.
It is not necessary that the image be realistic or abstract, its function is to remind the viewer of his or her spiritual nature. When one assumes that the image of the deity is the concrete meaning, however, its meaning is lost. I see this gap in understanding frequently when viewers do not perceive the value of an abstract image. There is nothing concrete and so it must have no meaning. I often wonder if this missing link in understanding is reflective of our disconnect to the natural world as well as absence of a larger functioning cultural mythology. We are left to read artwork at face value, not perceiving its symbolic potentials. This knowledge of how to be in accord with our own life seems like a foriegn language at times. However, just because the language is not always understood, does not mean that the spiritual meaning is absent.
Images have the power to point the way to powers held within each of us to grow and expand our consciousness and to become in accord with the world in which we live. In religious terms, Christ on the cross is not a historical representation of a temporal time and place event, but a symbol that points us in the direction of understanding our own transendence. We are reminded of our potential to die to the energies that have held us back, old habits thoughts and ways of being. And are resurrected into a new larger life, a spiritual life that is more in accord with the world and is not just about our small ego getting what it wants. In the same way, abstract painting points to an interior state of being and recognizes different possibilities within us.
By being with a painting one has the potential to remember ones own divinity and expansion. The painting reminds us of our higher nature and points us to this direction.
A series of images that records the transformation of the painting Heart-Mind 2012. Oil collage and chalk on canvas, 60 x 48 in. into the painting Evolve 2013. Oil and collage on canvas, 60 x 48 in.