Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Artist as.....shaman

Great minds (and those of us with lesser minds too) think alike.  The theme of artist as Shaman is one I've had buzzing around in my head for simply ages.  I've always felt there really WAS something magic about art, even as a small child.  I remember thinking when I was a teenager and wrote rather a lot of (probably rather bad) poetry (as teenagers often do) that poetry was about as close as I could get to magic, because of the strange and mysterious feeling of plucking a poem out of the air (for a lovely description of just that notion, go here ). I've never really felt that any poem I've written is truly mine, I just happened to 'find' it floating in the ether.  All art seems to tap into this magical 'otherplace', painting ideas seem to take on a life of their own, and often motifs and themes that I've added for no particular reason suddenly make complete sense when the piece is finished.

A few years ago I read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.  And this passage jumped out at me and so I scribbled it down in my visual journal/diary, because it made such complete sense to me.

Another journal entry from a year of so later finds me fascinated with the odd little things my daughter (then just 5) often made for herself.  I also used to make 'things' all the time as a child, and I can remember the state of mind in which it's part make-believe and part totally serious.  On one level I knew I was using old bits of wood and string, feathers and gum nuts, but simultaneously on another level the object's 'true' magical identity and purpose existed, I could 'see' both objects at the same time and both were equally real.  Sometimes I still have flashes of that feeling, though my terribly logical and rational (!) 'grown-up' brain tends to dismiss them now.  But I do occasionally make/paint/create something that seems to have come from somewhere else, or has a sense of power and life beyond what I've attempted to imbue it with.  Some time ago I found some very cheap little plaster masks at a local craft shop. Nothing special at all, but being fascinated with masks I bought several.  But in painting them they suddenly seemed to develop not just personalities, but a quite powerful presence for items so small and mass produced.  They seemed to WANT to be brought to life.

So finally, I was browsing through my lovely copy of Brian Froud's Good Faeries/Bad Faeries yesterday, which I've had for a few years but never actually read the introduction before...and found this lovely passage.  I'll leave you with these thoughts...and a couple of odd little things I've made recently.
"Joseph Campbell has said that artists are the 'shamans and myth-makers' of our modern world.  Like Campbell, I believe in the artist as shaman, journeying deep into uncharted inner worlds, then bringing back sensations and visions encountered in that mythic terrain. I see my pictures as maps of the journeys I've taken through the realms of the soul.  And I hope that these maps will lead you to find faery pathways of your own."


loucieee said...

I really love this post. You know, people with creative minds does not stop to take us beyond the world of imagination.

A mermaid in the attic said...

Thanks Dragonfly! I think imagination is one of the most important tools of all, even Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. After all, if you can't imagine something...you can never build/invent/create it.

Ruthie Redden said...

I can so associate with the feeling that art is magical even when small, coming from a family of artists in one form or another, it felt perfectly normal too. We lived in two worlds i think, and i love that my art now still comes from deep inside! the joseph campbell quote sums it all up beautifully. The time travellers wife, is a fave of mine & i loved the film too (unusually after reading the book 1st!)Love the masks, & your other creations, a wonderful imagination at work x

A mermaid in the attic said...

I haven't seen the film yet,wasn't sure if I should (though I do like Aussie boy Eric Bana!), sometimes they just don't work for me after reading the book. I also came from a family of artistic types, all the women in my family, mum, grandmother and aunty, were/are artists. It was wonderful because I always had access to art materials, and role models to follow, and yes, it was just considered normal.

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