Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Intuition in Art

Lines of Desire 1358   12x12"   Oil/cold wax on panel  © Janice Mason Steeves  

Everything we do and hear and see integrates itself into a work of art if we can find the connecting threads. And that artwork in turn can inform us about ourselves.  I went to hear a talk a couple of weeks ago by John Philip Newell, author of the book, New Harmony, the Spirit, the Earth and the Human Soul. He was the Warden of Iona Abbey in Scotland for many years.  He spoke about Celtic Christianity which holds the belief in the interconnectedness of all things and the pivotal importance of the feminine.  That sacred feminine he says, is essential in the healing of  our world today.

This past week, a friend invited me to consider the story of Inanna-a strong, sensual and powerful Goddess who was worshipped in ancient Sumeria-and the journeys she took to recover  sacred powers to give to civilization. This led me to pull out  my books on mythology, where stories of the Goddess  describe how the feminine-that intuitive, nurturing aspect of both men and women-was lost when patriarchy came to replace worship of the Goddess.  I think how art can access that feminine/intuitive side and how learning to understand ourselves is one important goal of art-making. 

 I came across a Youtube video of  Jim Dine speaking about his retrospective at Pace Wildenstein Gallery in 2009. I have always loved his intense and wide-ranging creativity.  One of his main objectives in his art practice, he states, is to explore his own unconscious.  He intuitively goes wherever it takes him, whether making sculptures of his childhood interest-Pinochio, or, writing poetry on walls and objects and then photographing it, or drawing self-portraits on museum walls and then washing them away at the end of the exhibit.

Last Saturday, I went to MOCCA Gallery in Toronto to see a Louise Bourgeois exhibit and to hear the talk by Jonathan Shaughnessy, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery.  I was interested to learn that Bourgeois spent more than 30 years in analysis. Through that self-understanding, she was able to access her deep anxieties, fears and issues about parental betrayal and turn those problems into deeply moving sculptures.

Bourgeois wrote:"The whole art mechanism is the result of many privileges, and it was a privilege to be part of it…The privilege was the access to the unconscious. It is a fantastic privilege to have access to the unconscious. I had to be worthy of this privilege, and to exercise it." 

This has been a week of interconnecting threads related to the idea of the feminine, intuition and the unconscious. My own art practice/my path, is informed by intuition.  I let the work lead the way. While there must be a balance between intuition and a critical analysis of the process-right brain/left brain; masculine/feminine-in order to create a strong work of art, I begin with intuition. This process opens a door into the unconscious and can teach us about ourselves.  And although it is a place of mystery and magic, it can take you to places you've never seen.  It can take courage to open that door.

"You have to have the courage to take risks. 
You have to have independence.
All these things are gifts.
They are blessings".  
Louise Bourgeois

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lines of Desire-Paths We Follow

Lines of Desire 1351    60 x 72"  Oil/Cold wax on canvas  © 2013 Janice Mason Steeves

I am interested in paths.  Trails that emerge from human or animal footfall are called Lines of Desire.  It is the name that landscape architects give to those spontaneous narrow paths-the shortcuts- that people make across fields, or woodlands that do not follow the paved walkways.  Sometimes called social pathways, they have been created over time by people repeatedly walking the same track.
I'm calling my new body of work, Lines of Desire to indicate the path that I am travelling throughout this series and the route I have travelled to get to this work. It is the same title I gave to an earlier body of work.  I wanted to revisit the idea.  My work has always been influenced by the idea of place-whether it be the sacred places/pilgrimage sites that have drawn me to various countries, the prairies where I grew up, the land I live on now, or the inner place of spirit.  The search for place has been an outer journey as well as an internal one. The life-threatening illness of my dear friend Susan has influenced this most recent work as I wrote about in my last blog post.  Her courage has inspired me to consider gratitude on a daily basis and taken me on a different road in my painting than the one I have followed for the past year or two.

I'm following the well-worn path of gratitude.

The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” 
― David Steindl-Rast

Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefullness, and gratefullness is a measure of our aliveness.” 
― David Steindl-Rast