Sticky Suns

song du jour: Solar, Miles Davis

When I called my mother today to ask if she had any books on Jung and his writings on Tarot cards, I told her not to roll her eyes.

"I'm rolling my eyes," she replied. Ok, so it wasn't the call she was expecting from her rather rational daughter, rational not only in the practical sense but in the philosophical sense as well. When I explained that I had always wanted to follow in the long tradition of artist-designed Tarot cards and create my own set, she sounded slightly less skeptical. When I explained further that I have always been intrigued by archetypal and alchemical symbols and ideas and reminded her how much of that inspiration creeps into my work, she sounded even less skeptical. When I mentioned that I'd turned my momentary frustration with running out of my favorite boards to collage on and had remembered this years-long put off project when I found in my vast stash a box of 24, 3"x5" samples boards, she applauded my conniving ingenuity to find inspiration in a studio "half full" rather than "half empty."

What got me re-energized about these ideas earlier in the week (before remembering again today) was reading in the artist statement on fellow metalsmith, Nanz Aalund's new website that her series of two-finger rings is based on the Major Arcana. While, I've always jokingly called myself an alchemist, I'm rather obsessed with delving into what Malcolm Gladwell would call the "stickiness" of the images we associate with archetypes, and there is no richer place to look than Tarot cards. The symbols may appear straightforward, but they actually contain great depth and complexity, and there is some very human reason that these Rorschach tests of bygone eras have evolved over time and culture, yet retain so much of their known metaphors.

The truth is I've never owned a set of tarot cards because every time I see a set for sale, I either think, "I could do better," or "Wow, these images are so amazing that I really ought to make my own." (I'm like that with everything; it's a wonder I didn't have to build my own house.) Ok, well, so far I’ve done the background for the sun, but it's a start. Most importantly, just starting instantly changed my mood from stressed to creative.

I've been working on a group of 4 collages, based on the 4 main archetypes of the lover, the healer, the warrior, and the trickster that I began last year when I took a workshop at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, BC. Eventually, I finished the warrior, and more recently, the lover. At the rate I'm going, I'm on the one-a-year plan. Squeezing in parts of 22 mini-collages in the middle of working on a book and creating new work to show before the holidays is very much my style. Just like I need to have ample raw materials to feel ready to create, I need 100 projects started (literally) to feel that elusive balance between Chaos and Order. Order only ever wins in time for the deadlines, whereupon, I dip once more into the primordial ooze of wire, sheet metal, rocks, paint, paper, etc.

But back to the stickiness...

Despite not playing with Tarot cards, I have been known to contemplate the drawing of runes and often used to use them in my work as secret symbols of whatever was going on at the time I was making the piece in my own wacky sense of humor and mystery. It's not so much that I believe or disbelieve in the divination process. - Some would say by my appearance that I spent a past life or two laying out such objects next to the crystal ball in a my tent (or perhaps some other role among the circus freaks). - It's that I like the spontaneous information by way of chance. The information needs not to revolve around truth so much as it does an idea to ponder, hence my love of Sage.

If a divination method is the brainchild of an artist rather than an ancient Egyptian high priest, what's the real difference? If something hits at the very heart of the human experience and causes us to stop for a minute and contemplate more than our own stress, is a pedigree necessary? Do we really need to be reassured of desired outcomes in the future, or do we need to slow down and and feel at peace in the present moment? It's what an image, group of words, or symbol can suddenly pop into our consciousness that becomes food for thought, food as in chocolate to be savored rather than (ick) liver because it's supposed to improve the health of one's future.

I started with the sun because when I read a description of it, what immediately came to mind was a sun/moon stamp I carved last year. Inked different ways, I can emphasize the stylized sun rays, the crescent moon, or the self portrait woman-in-the-moon. There are times when I come up with ideas like these that seem out of the clear blue sky, and I have to trust that there will eventually be a need for the creative compulsion of the moment. When I don't give in, I get overwhelmed and frustrated with what I'm working on. When I do give in, I briefly wonder why I've suddenly shifted my priorities to accommodate a new idea and then inevitably feel better, work faster, and decide I'll probably figure out later where that new thing I just had to make will fit in the grand scheme of my work.

Such work is art in the dark for the moment, but it always makes it into the light. Sometimes the logic of things is not immediately discernible. Sometimes it's the sheer act of creating that keeps us sane. Time for me to get back to the drawing board...literally...

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