Through curiosity and creation, we can connect, Reason with Muse,
the ambiguous of our experience, and bring to question both
Knowledge and Mystery, to open a world of new possibility.
Glimpse the beauty of a perceived reality weaving Itself
through and between
Chaos and that which holds
The Idiot God
"Is it There...is It there?", Rothko had asked about an Essence he sought through painting (Ashton 56). But how could anyone do anything other than question? Though, the questions cause one to get lost. And once very well lost with a great lot of effort, the answers are found located, Just, and before the asking; the Garden, There, all along.
As Rothko, I have searched for the Light of understanding I believed to be contained in the act of painting. I have dug into layers of paint on canvas in the same way that I have scraped for answers, in an effort to find my own Light. Danto explains the process in which I have found myself. He says, "the highest vocation of art was once to advance some grander matter. At one time, the energies of art coincided with those of history. But when art entered into a new level of self-awareness, it turned into philosophy (which) caused it to come to an end. Art was limited by the fact that painting...is a non-verbal activity and had to discover what it's true identity was...(by) becoming dependent on theory. From then on, progress could only be enacted on a level of abstract self-consciousness....and if artists wished to participate...they would have to undertake a study very different from what art school could prepare them for. They would have to become philosophers..."(Danto 455-460).
Through the creative process, the artist continues the tradition of bringing the unmanifested into consciousness and physical reality...often through the use of archetype*. These gods, powers, and laws are the basic constructs for understanding the stories of our human existence. Myth, spacial arrangement, points, proportion, and line were once a representation of the internal experience of Self in relationship to an unpredictable Universe. Concepts were once drawn as laws of action through which Spirit was made concrete (Lawler 1-31).
Since the scientific method, archetypes are used only as a metaphor to understand our current systems of knowledge. We have gone through centuries of reliance on observable methods based solely upon man's reasoning** (Lawler 1-31). Humanity has killed many gods by dis-joining intuitive, spiritual understanding from quantitative measures. And, those who wish to draw lines of relationship between subjective and objective experiences are left without a cohesive structure free from doubt. As I have found myself engaging in systems that deny a belief of an Essence in form, I have had to construct reasons for the making of my art.
*Archetypes are original models after which things are patterned. In the psychology of C.G. Jung, (it is) an inherited idea in the individual unconscious that is thought to derive from the collective experience of mankind as a whole (Devinne 94).
**Though this is not entirely meant to be gender-specific, it, however, raises the question as to the effects of the concepts we construct and the perceptions that we may unnecessarily disregard.
The very foundation of western education is an instruction in the duality of mind and spirit. We do not assume that our perception is truth because it exists. Sensation and intuition must be explained within straight lines of definition, dissected apart and seen as separate. We disconnect the observer from the observed. Within logical reasoning, it is virtually impossible to speak of a function without knowing 'the what' that is functioning.
Language and symbols tie actions to nouns, and processes to objects within rigid lines of cause and effect (Lawler 1-31) But much of our human existence is unyielding to definition as we strive to make meaning out of our experience. It is my aspiration to link spiritual seeking to the mundane of my experience, to see and believe the Essence, released into form.
Defining my intangible, spiritual experience has often been defeating in purpose; as soon as it is pinned down, the feeling is gone, and so the meaning. Word and form so easily become empty symbol. Without an allowance of inclusive perception and countless associations of significance, the meaning becomes a shallow and forced intention.
Throughout my education, I have stood in silence before what seemed an omnipotent judgment, in the hope of giving the right answer. I have questioned my intuition and sensibilities to give a logical explanation for my Self, my actions, my thoughts, and my art. And I have stumbled....in the process, self-conscious: aware of every shift of weight and will, of a shaking arm. Like an archer trying to master the medium and aim, my intent has been certain, but I have missed the mark, watching self-consciously, noting separation, between object and action.
Holding the feminine, my body and voice within philosophical constraint, I have learned the straight lines and points to be made, having taken refuge in the penetrating analysis of content and form. I have scurried over the lives of artists and books of science and philosophy looking for viable answers...but often I have lost sight by neglecting to relish the journey.
Emerson writes in his essay on 'Self Reliance', "If ever a man claims to know...and carries you back to the phraseology of some old (time or world), believe him not. The centuries are the conspirators against sanity and majesty of the soul. History is an impertinence and injury if it be anything more than a cheerful epilogue or parable (to) my being and becoming" (Emerson 48).
Explanation is a useful attempt to understand the influence and context of my work, but it is also a response to vulnerability. The child who once soothed herself in fear and isolation, through repetition, rhythm, and rhyme, through the counting of detail and following of lines, can be seen in my life and work. I have struggled in the shame of the most profound and joyous of my experience, by thinking it necessary to either hide or explain an internal knowledge and the innocence of a childlike perception. In this, I am reminded of Durer's engraving, depicting The Fall of Man. But perhaps the Shame of a Whole Perception is The Real Fall. So, Here, I stand, at the brink of possibility, with the desire to form my own hybrid knowledge.
Adam and Eve, Albreicht Durer (1504)
Internal, oil on canvas, Trace Datsi Pennell (2001)
A Voice of Un
Art has been an expression of an existential crisis; a way to find voice for my experience. It is the language I chose because of a virtue I thought held within silence. But this voice has been halted and haunted in fear. It shakes with Uncertainty in making a choice for freedom. And though it has taken a leap of faith to listen, I can now quiet the questions and return to the strange silences of my experience, to speak my whole truth.
The most challenging aspect of learning has been in the process of not knowing...and in the unlearning of what I thought I already knew. I have often believed I must not exclude an "other" in order to support my own half truth. And ironically, I have also tried to avoid speaking another's truth in order to explain my own. By holding to this binding belief, I created experiences based on old pattern, causing myself great frustration and long periods of silence.
I have tried to get past surface definition in order to free a stifled will. Through the un-naming of space, object, and logical order, a circular perception opens to a sacred nuance in everyday things. Objects become more colorful, and one notices both positive and negative space. Ideas and intuitive assumptions connect spontaneously, without knowing the reasons why.
During these moments, associations are inclusive and without logical order; troublesome habits of thought begin to dissolve and heal, pointing a way to new understanding. This is called "yugen" by the aesthetic philosopher Fugiwara Shunzei. It is defined as the "reception of possibility (inherent in) the willingness to admit meanings exist beyond what can be described" (Shunzei 678-687). It can bypass the ego of self-restraint, allowing one to play as a child in a world perceptive of mystery.
Riddle, rhythm, and chance take on new meaning in the spaces of silence. And the forms I make from these perceptions have been described as having an "autistic sense" (Hardy). They dislocate themselves from willful consciousness and through trusting, I begin to connect an internal seeking with the external sensory experience.
"Did you know that you knew?
Did you knew that you know?
Did you know that you knew the Great Un?
the child who hatched from an egg"... said the Mimmerfoo,
the ceaseless of whispering fools.
- journal entry 2001
The mind seems to travel in cyclic patterns, concentric...based upon personal experience, in a search for the end of questioning. But it is only when I have become quite exhausted in answering my own koan* that confusion stopped. "Form is Void, Void is Form" (The Heart Sutra). And my solace is found during times I have seen truth lies...beyond what the mind comprehends.
Koan of Un
- Trace Datsi 2001
Art has been a tool for introspection and self- discovery. Painting produces a sense of catharsis and is also a process of asking myself questions and turning inward to work out my own answers. I believe that choice of subject matter and the use of media inherently show the emotional state of the artist. The artist’s hands are truthful, because of a connection to what is felt from deep within.
My artwork was once filled with great angst. At the time, I read Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. It inspired me. I thought, if he could hold onto his thesis as a means for his very survival, then surly I could do the same through making art. I could hold on, despite symptoms of depression and PTSD. There is a quote often attributed to Frankl, by the psychologist Rollo May “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space the ability to choose” (May, 1975, p.100).
Rick Hanson speaks about a technique to counteract the fight/flight/freeze reaction in Buddha’s Brain. It has become my daily habit to focus on the out-breath to deactivate the amygdala (Hanson, 2009, p.96). And this, coupled with Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, EMDR, (Shapiro, 2012, p.5), has helped me make significant progress. My mind no longer races; I no longer need medication for anxiety. I have been able to quit smoking and the flashbacks that I had daily are gone. Most importantly, I can feel myself present inside my body and can continue to take that necessary pause that is necessary in order to be able to choose instead of react..
Without this space, the somatic experience of my body, I do not know my gut reaction; ideas and emotions hold equal weight and become confused. The longer I have practiced recognizing and expressing feelings through art, following my breath and processing the memories in trauma focused therapy, the more I know what I feel, think, and need.
In allowing what is there, I can sense what is of me, and what is of some external circumstance or expectation. Tara Brach describes this process in her book, Radical Acceptance. She speaks about R.A.I.N. “Recognize what is going on; Allow the experience to be there, just as it is; Investigate with interest and care; Nurture with self-compassion (Brach 2013, p.1)”. Our thoughts can be real, physically painful, and very much affect our lives. But they may not necessarily be true. When I have non-judgmental awareness and can let go of the interpretation, I gain a better presence within my body and can watch the thoughts and feelings come and go, instead of identifying with them. I can begin to change my habits of thought and emotion through acceptance.
“… By virtue of this capacity (of self-detachment) man is capable of detaching himself not only from a situation but also from himself. He is capable of choosing his attitude toward himself. By so doing he really takes a stand toward his own somatic and psychic conditions and determinants (Frankl p.8)”.
To Be Continued......