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Magical Folk Arts

As a young child, I came to find solace from uncontrollable circumstances by delving into magic, fairy tales and folklore. In an effort to gain some modicum of control, I would internalize stories and symbols that gave meaning to those challenges. Over the years, these themes have ebbed and flowed throughout my life, acting as a guiding force through an allegorical labyrinth. In response to ongoing social upheaval and having a child who doesn’t speak due to a neurological impairment, I am driven to explore the value of symbolic language to address the implosion of meaning in our culture today. While initially attracted to the magic of sigils as a way to exercise control in the world, I have ultimately found that my interest lies in utilizing symbols as an agent of healing.

Folktales frequently include wise women or ‘witches’, serving alternately as a catalyst, medicine-maker or monster encountered along the way. The demonization of the witch over the course of centuries has undermined the legitimacy of Earth-centered worldviews on both sides of the Atlantic. A term once applicable to most of Europe, the word Pagan literally translates to ‘people of the earth’ or ‘country folk’. Generations of disassociation from the land has resulted in the erosion of traditional folk culture, which derives from our relationship to place. This has left us out of touch with our bodies, each other and the spirit of nature. By personifying the healer and shadow, witches embody the story element we need to embrace the paradox of magic and mend our connection to the Earth.

Language is inherently symbolic. Writing itself was once even considered a form of magic. Like my child, who uses ideograms to communicate, I have also found a voice working with pictographs. This conceptual medicine-making grows as I connect to collaborators and traditions, grounding my work in place and time. Mark making in folk art often carries meaning through pictorial language, encrypting the cosmos of a people. Cultural context is then reflected back at us through the material environment, with repeating glyphs informing how we value the natural world and our place within it. To synthesize new linguistic codes, we use pieces of preceding idioms. By borrowing from ancient signifiers, my work seeks to renew magical mark-making as a form of folk art, attempting to give old patterns new meaning.

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Repeated use of an object slowly forges associations that become meaningful over time. Everyone has a favorite drinking vessel, personal adornment or piece of art that projects something of who they understand themselves to be. While a talisman or amulet is an item charged with intent to attract good fortune or repel harm, we also develop associative feedback about ourselves and our place in the world when the environment around us creates a cycle of storytelling in our lives. I am interested in exploring the connection between folk culture and our experiences with Nature and the Earth – as expressed through magical symbolism.

Our presence on the Earth produces ripples of causal effects, radiating outward from the center of each being, affecting our communities and institutions on all levels. These tremors are then reflected back at us through social and physical environments, accumulating ever greater resonances over time. We mirror our perceived surroundings, experiencing a distortion of the real in infinitely complex and undulating exchanges. Accustomed to living in this hall of mirrors, what happens when we pause to alter the flow of our unconsciously occurring story cycles? Through careful use of materials and symbolism, my work is an experiment in inducing modest transformation through a cultivated relationship with art.

To test my theories, I employ a variety of surfaces like copper, stoneware and hardwood panels, to investigate how symbols can act as localized attractors for the change we want to see. The solutions to issues of social and ecological justice are inextricably linked to our immediate environment and how we relate to the concept of wholeness. Our problems can’t be solved by algorithms, they must be carefully explored through intuitive and emotional connections. Rather than relying on the utility of logic boards to do the heavy lifting for us, we must reacquaint ourselves with a sense of mystery. Each talisman and warding tile we create is a seed, intended grow and flower into it’s own energy attractor for good in the world.

Printable PDF Resume: J.Malec Artist Resume

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Member of A Conspiracy of Strange Girls art collective.

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