Photo ©Catherine Just
About My Art:
I approach my art making as an opportunity to embark on a journey, to open doorways and to walk along that fine line that separates the visible and invisible worlds, attempting to build bridges of connection between the two. This is a pilgrim’s path, at times treacherous, at times ecstatic, but I am always aware of the symbolic signposts along the way that direct us with specific intention toward the sacred. Something is sacred when it reminds us of our connection to the Divine, when it opens our hearts, when we remember a sense of union with Life. The path I walk with my art is intended to lead both me and my viewers toward a deeper communion with Divine Source.
Much of my work is inspired by my environment around my home in central Mexico near the 2000 year old pyramids of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan was a city created by masters who reminded themselves of their innate connection to the Divine and all life by adorning everything with symbols of it, from the most mundane tiny bowl to the most massive temple walls. To this day, the world left over here on the fringes of one of the world’s most important archeological zones dances constantly along the borderlines of duality. It is a world of cheap cinderblock houses built within hollering distance of ancient majestic structures, with mangy stray dogs chasing past temples, with people poor, jealous, guarded, and conflicted walking in the shadows of their ancestors who were known masters at overcoming precisely those ever-historic human conditions. I look for meaning in symbols that are millennia old, trying to glean glimpses into lives past and into perspectives of reality that the modern world can’t even begin to understand.
The making of art is an act of navigation, maneuvering through the waves of life with a paint brush as an oar, observing the environment, the direction of the current, the rotating display of coded stars overhead, and the pull of an inner voice telling me which way to go. While painting is a fine balance between analysis and intuition, it always points toward a destination of visionary surprise, of revelation, of unexpected heart-thumping recognition of something much greater than my tiny human self. I believe that art makes living in the world more tolerable. Art illumines the unbearable beauty and the unbearable cruelty of the human experience. We wrestle daily with trying to connect to something big in spite of our smallness. While we live in a world of duality, I also believe that duality constantly seeks union within itself, and my artwork is an inquiry into and an expression of this ongoing quest. I look for connections in my work between heaven and earth, between ancient and new, between life, death, and rebirth. My palette often reflects my inquiry into duality as I place complimentary colors side by side to allow them to vibrate as the images reveal differences and commonalities in new ways.
Finally my artwork is about craving union, a core theme at the center of all humanity. We optimistically, idealistically, steadfastly and faithfully plough toward a sense of union even when all the physical evidence appears to suggest a reality that is otherwise. Art is the only way to wonder at the great beyond and bring enough of its mystery into our experience to fuel our dream of breaking down the sense of separation that seems to define every aspect of our everyday lives. Even if we are living in the midst of total chaos, conflict and tragedy, we humans dream of love and being loved. We dream of comfort and mercy. We dream of belonging. My intention with my work is to prod the dream along a bit, to tend this particular corner of the collective dream and offer up a vision that we can change our perspective by moving beyond mere belief and questing tirelessly into a pure experience of Life.
About Art as Shamanism – Shamanism as Art – Shamanic Creativity:
An artist is a shaman. What is a shaman? Perhaps a more apt word would be that of the shamanic tradition of this region in Mexico: nagual. The prehispanic Mexicans divided the world into two parts: the nagual and the tonal. The tonal is all that is manifest, that has form, the physical, what we perceive as "real". The nagual is that which is unmanifest, has no form, the invisible, what we cannot perceive with our ordinary senses. A shaman or "nagual" is someone who can navigate between these two worlds. An artist is a nagual in the sense that he or she travels into the world of the unmanifest and brings back information, images, ideas, and transforms them into form, making them manifest in the tonal. An artist is capable of grasping images out of the invisible and making them "real" in this world. The artist is able to communicate with the void and make something solid out of nothing, transporting nothingness into the material dimension of reality. This is definitely the work of a shaman. Another traditional role a shaman plays is to be of service to the community. An artist does this by creating a portal between the tonal and nagual, or between this world and the Divine, in the creative work they make, left for the community to witness in the material result of the creative act. By leaving this portal for the community, the community has a more direct, more active, more continuous connection to the Divine.
Photo ©Catherine Just