Art is a way of understanding past experience as well as a way to see things anew. It allows us to contextualize and reframe ideas about ourselves and our place in the world. Most directly understood intuitively, with subtle forces at work on a subconscious level, both viewing and making art can elevate us from the slog. Carving out a physical anchor-point to mindfulness practice, an art object can trigger an opportunity for moments to breathe deeply with the senses and s – t – r – e – t – c – h calcified neural networks, opening the heart. Like utilizing a guided meditation, physical works of art awaken the heart to itself by becoming a shelter for daydreams, intentions and quietude.
A part of my practice this year has been to study the subtle energies of plants. An investigation into herbal medicine has been grounding my work with signs, symbols and stories that are abstractions of healing and protective powers. The similarities between these two include; finding both plants and images couched in their natural habitat, gathering them respectfully and learning to use each responsibly. For instance, a tincture of Motherwort is softening the brash effect Nordic staves have when enlarged on a nearby canvas. There appears to be an equilibrium that must be maintained to ensure energetic balance through an ever shifting personal landscape of sigils reflected back from all corners of my workshop.
While I am learning to create this body of work, I am also learning how to wield my own unruly energies. To try and heal someone effectively requires that we first heal ourselves, or at least the healer must appear objectively to be whole. Though I can’t claim either of these things, I can set myself aside and bypass those requirements by becoming a pass-through for something elemental, older and greater than myself. This relieves me of the pressure to posses all the answers when I’m presenting this work to my audience. So, in my mind, I’m taking orders directly from the story’s source to my hands for technical execution. If I am just one of many vectors for a seed that recurs in storytelling everywhere, then I can be a part of a tradition that is much less isolating than being the lone Artist.
Making sense of loss: immortalizing the visage of a loved one transmutes grief to creativity.
I’m feeling this out as a collaborative model for artmaking, viewing myself as a healer in an almost physical sense. Offering a kind of salve for common emotional and social ailments, I’m looking to uncover imagery that has always been there for us to draw from, but that has been buried or misinterpreted for a spell. There is medicine in the imagery we choose to embrace in describing the world and our place within it. Folktales and song are full to the brim of this same kind of magic, but where have they gone? We need to find our stories again, granting our heart roots that can be fed organically, energetically from a source that is intuitively known, and infinitely variable in it’s tonic.
The concept of healing is a radical offering these days, when all that is passed around to quench our thirsts are bitter and artificial constructs. Medicine can be bitter too, but the effect is to improve the patient’s condition, not to deteriorate it further. And so I find myself bitter tasting in a way, arguing for a medicine of the soul, looking to story traditions I am tenuously connected to, but grounded in the Earth, as my hands and feet have never known her not to heal. If I am successful, I will make medicine, if I become full up of myself, I’ll just make trouble.