The Heroic Feminine

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Myth and the Artistic Journey

The real and modern adventure is no longer to the dark woods of Africa or to the summit of Mount Everest, but through the vast landscape of the soul.  This is the country that is still truly unknown.  The saints who remained cloistered understood this: that there is nowhere to go, that the real journey lies in the soul hidden.

Painting itself, has become for me an extended meditation, a journey of self-knowledge referred to by the ancient Greeks as nekyia.  It is on such a path that myth is encountered.  By myth, I mean the emergence of meaning at its source, and it is a place I have learned that needs to be tended to.  It is a place rich in image that has the potential to manifest a wisdom about ourselves not hampered by limitations of culture.  It is a place reached through intuitive journey in which the images emerge freely, of their own accord.  Victor Hugo states that “we never see but one side of things, the other’s plunged in night and mystery.”  Our desire to see the other side if the beginning of the mythic journey.  It is the foundation of the imagination and the fuel that gives power to the image and that in the end transforms our very being.

The roll of the artist is to be a cartographer of the nekyia – to be open to these autonomous experiences and then allowing them to be revealed.  Art therefore, as Emerson puts it, is the “memorialization of Eternal Forces in life which, having no permanent language or iconography, require art to be known at all.”  It is to this end that I paint.  In a sense I follow those painters that allowed their intuition to have veracity.

My work was once referred to in a review as “Blake-ian” and with this I agree.  Blake allowed himself to render freely images that evoked the other world.  Again Emerson states, visual art “strikes the viewer so deeply, with such authority, the merely personal is obliterated.  Something like an archetypal self is evoked.”  This quote appears on the first page of my journal.  It gives the artist consent to take the journey.

Evoking more than the personal

Along The Rio Chama, painting by Judith Reeve

“Art is the memorialization of elemental forces of life which, having no permanent language or iconography, require art to be known to all.”

“The eros of the eye, that is visual art: striking the viewer so deeply, with such authority, the merely personal is obliterated; something like an archetypal self is evoked.”

Both these quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson appear on the first page of my journal.  They have guided my work.  The emergence of an “archetypal self” has been of keen interest to me.  Thematically I have focused on the conflict between the body and the spirit, between material elements and the soul.  This conflict, as I witnessed it in the landscape of the west, further provoked my imagination.  This tension I have attempted to magnify imaginally by looking to mythic figures whose qualities can harness the elements and provide a sense of order.  These symbolic figures, similar to those encountered by Odysseus on his journey, mirror an interior geography.  It is this interior landscape I am interested in and its analogical relationship to the world.  I see it in the west and I see it in the human figure as well.

(This artist statement was used in a program for a show featuring images painted in New Mexico along the Rio Chama.)