Learning about the German artist Joseph Beuys during my training as a tour guide at the Walker Art Center inspired me to examine art as a way of shamanistic practice.
Like shamans, artists have the ability to explore alternative realms. Artists can retrieve healing energies, knowledge, larger truths, and ancestral wisdom to give form to forces that can change our world.
It has always been my belief that art should have a practical purpose and researching Beuys’ ideas about the artist-shaman encouraged me to open up to new possibilities in my own art practice and to explore the way of the shaman!
Beuys did indeed believe that art could serve as a mediator between this world and other realms of existence.
He believed that for us to evolve we must be open to receiving the invisible energies that can serve the useful purpose of educating and healing! Moreover, artists could use symbols as a way to affect those purposes. Great stuff!
Starting with the idea of art as an instrument for healing, I looked at the idea of cures or remedies in Feng Shui. To summarize, certain imagery can be placed in certain corners of your living space, or bagua, to effect cures or enhancements in certain corresponding areas of your life.
For example, in Feng Shui a dragon holding a pearl is a powerful symbol for good fortune. Those receiving this magical remedy need only to place their painting in the proper section of the bagua. The Feng Shui imagery that we place in our power spots helps to shift the energy of our homes and work places and are visual reminders of our intention to manifest our dreams!
My method for designing paintings that become personal symbolic healing remedies based on Feng Shui principals, utilizes the following simple process:
• Define the remedy needed
• Set the intention
• Create a color palette
• Create imagery reflecting a desire/need
As well, painting images of helpful saints as a way of shamanistic practice also intrigues me. After discussing my ideas of the artist as shaman with a friend who is a writer, she commissioned me to paint an image of the patron saint of writers. I realized that art has long been used as a mediator between this world and other worlds in the same magical way that Joseph Beuys was aware of. Think of religious art.
Think also of the cave walls at Lascaux and how images of animals were rendered by firelight on the walls of the caves on the evening before a hunt. One theory is that this art was sympathetic magic used to envision and thus facilitate a successful hunt.
Feng Shui imagery, images of helpful saints, and animal totems are the artist-shaman experiments I am exploring now. Does this great stuff really work?
Does art really have the power to communicate, heal and shift awareness?
Can the artist-shaman’s connection to mystical energies, nature, dreams and visions, rendered in visual imagery, empower our consciousness with positive energies that promote progress and prosperity in our lives and in our world?