Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Art and Me and My Mothers

Last year I had some time off from my usual crazed schedule. My winter months were peppered with time in my art studio. I began an art series on mothers, mostly designing the art pieces and the messages in each piece. I sketched, dreamed about them, and began collecting the assemblage bits for those pieces in the series that would need them. I begged off from actually settling in and engaging in creating the actual pieces and found excuses that kept me from the process. Things like doing the dirty dishes, needing to run to the post office, having to have a nap, and other absurd excuses became major priorities as a means for not beginning the project for real. Once the lame excuses ran out I simply started other art projects. The first distraction was the creating of soft sculpture characters. One of the characters was a mermaid sitting on a very old shell. The shell was one that I have had for years and got at a yard sale. She is sitting on the shell with long wavy hair, iridescent tail, and sea treasure jewelry. I put her in a local shop on consignment and after several months she didn’t sell and I brought her home. My next art distraction was creating an acrylic on canvas of three mermaids on the shoreline with a huge moon gazing down upon them. I am not an airy fairy kind of person. I am not into goddesses, divas, or maidens. Many of my repetitive motifs are of the moon, night skies, and females. Why mermaids have been coming to me was a mystery, but if you are an artist like me in any way there are motifs and symbols that come and pester and pester until you give them life through art. This was the case with the mermaid deal. It would not be my first choice for a paintings theme…but there ya have it. This fall the whole mermaid thing intensified. I began running into pictures of mermaids in magazines, on post cards from friends, on book jackets, greeting cards, I accidentally knocked one off a shelf in a gift shop, I was given the book the Mermaid’s Tale, and then the movie was on television. It finally occurred to me that there was this repetitive image of mermaids coming to me in these myriad ways and that it was really in my face sorta shouting at me and I hadn't really been willing to listen. When these sort of message or symbols come to me repetatively and I recognize it I stop and listen. The mermaid took some time to sink in for me as at first it seemed such a trivial and shallow image.

“Okay,” I said to the higher ups, “I will stop long enough to look deeper into this symbol and the archetypal meaning.” In this case I decided to look into myths around mermaids. I wasn’t ready to settle with the sexy diva commercial version of today’s mermaid and figured if this archetype was coming to me that there was a reason. I couldn’t imagine what it would be. It seemed childish, sexist, and down right silly to me…a mermaid…indeed! In the Greek myths and in most cultures we hear of the mermaid and her siren song…calling one to the dangers of the rocks where one meets their demise. The stories of the seamen who respond to the siren call and crash upon the jagged rocks and perish. The danger of the feminine. But if you go back further you find that the myths have traveled away a bit from the original archetypal meanings. Mermaids show up in many cultures. Ireland, China, India, North America, Europe and others have had in their recent and ancient history images and myths of the mermaid. In fact I ran into a whole article on Starbucks choice of logos, which was the two finned mermaid, with her two fins spread wide apart. As a result Starbucks was made to tighten in the camera shot of the mermaid so this obvious spread eagle scene was obscured. They were sending a very sexist image in this and rather vulgar to some. The point being that the mermaid still speaks quite loudly as an archetypal image even today in her artificial, sexist way showing us what our society seems to value most in women and what her power is to entice, sell, and enhance.

Ancient folklore tells us that mermaids are spirit and matter fused. They gesture back to the beginnings of life; which began at sea. The mermaid is the water mother. All the Great Mothers are born from the primeval ocean or the watery abyss, the primordial womb of life from which all created forms emerge. The mermaid inspires imagination and passion and when responding to this call one walks on the edge of the abyss courting both potential and disaster. The mermaid beckons you to transform and to touch your spiritual life newly with new eyes.
In the culmination of pieces of these small tid-bits of the image and symbolism of the mermaid the mermaid message came full circle to me. I have been given these images of the primordial mother…the Great Mothers birth place…through the archetypal image of the mermaid. You see I was afraid to begin my art series on motherhood. So afraid was I of the feelings that would engulf me in the process that I kept the process at arms length. The universe is bringing me to readiness slowly and showing me through these mermaid images and meanings that there is mother that birthed me, mother that raised me, and the Father-Mother-God that loves me and holds my true being which is vaster than one life time experience of a mother…or in my case…two mothers. I have set down this inner pressure to complete this series in a hurry…as it has felt like I have needed to start right away…heal right away…grow right away by creating this art series…but the artist is not ready and the universe is right here with me giving me clues and supporting my process towards readiness.

I think that the universe is giving me an opportunity to dance with motherhood in a safe arena. The arena of creation where motherhood isn't attached to a person or personality, but to the soul and the universal creator and creation. In this way perhaps when I am doing this art work on mothers I will have a safe place to go to in the image and message of the mermaid. The mermaid says to me that I am beckoned inside myself to go towards the the place that I am most vulnerable...and that is the pain around my birth mother and my own mothering mistakes of my children. Mothering has equaled pain in my belief system and I am called by the siren song to venture closer, to peer deeper first at this larger mother who holds my soul self and then at the mother who held my infant self and then at the adopted mother who molded me into the woman I am and then at the wounded mother I became. Mermaids are spirit and matter fused so inside of me there must be a larger mother who is all loving, who can and does rise above the limitations inside one's self. The mermaid whispers to come to my own transformation and to see my spiritual life with new eyes. It is the dance of courtship between my potential as a human being to move beyond the limits of the pain I hold inside of me and to sit beside it with full awakeness and walk through the fear of being undone by this act. Walking through the fire I walk towards the freedom that comes when one chooses to release fear and embrace a new way of seeing.

So...for now I will embrace the a hankering to paint another acrylic of a mermaid that began to pester last week...won't leave me be...guess I'll be doodlin and paintin mermaids agian this month...looking for what she has to teach...

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