For years, I've written "We are all one" and "We are here to love," but it wasn't until I was in Kenya in early 2014 that these abstract concepts came alive. Looking into the children's beautiful ebony faces, innocent eyes, and bright smile, I fell in love a thousand times. My experience in Kenya was profound. I am still processing it, as you will see in some of my recent work.
The Midlife Painter: Postcards from the Psyche
When I paint, I meditate. Petty concerns of the day drop away, and I am on holy ground. I paint portraits. Most of the people I paint come from my imagination; and as I paint the fog slowly dissipates to reveal the face of God.
I am a seeker who paints intuitively, and for me art is a means of self-discovery. Each reflects an aspect of who I am, causing some to describe my work as "postcards from the psyche."
Rarely do I begin a painting with an outcome in mind. One color signals another and one image invites a second until the painting whispers, "I am complete."
Over the past eight years, three Jungian archetypes have bubbled up in my work. They are persona, shadow, and anima. Learn about these archetypes and you'll understand my journey. Know my journey, and you'll understand my art.
Postcard from Persona
Personas refer to public image, and in my 20s and 30s I was a master of persona. To most, I led the perfect life. I had a successful career, a fancy car, an exquisite home, and a beautiful wife who loved me. Closing in on my 40s, I learned of the high toll personas can exact.
I called it a midlife crisis. Blaming work for my unhappiness I complained I had no purpose in my life. Securing the names of two counselors, an industrial psychologist and a psychiatrist, I made appointments with both.
After giving me the Myers-Briggs test, the industrial psychologist informed me I was already in an appropriate job in the right field. The psychiatrist was more perceptive suggesting I was searching for something more than a new career.
Before I knew it, I blurted out that I was gay. The faÁade I had spent my whole life building began to crumble. In the rubble, I would begin to unearth the real me.
The word "persona" comes from the Latin word for mask. Masks often appear in my work. In my "red face series," I've painted red masks over the faces of my subjects, reflecting my shame for my inauthentic past.
Postcard from Shadow
The shadow is Carl Jung's term for those areas we banish from our personas to the unconscious parts of ourselves. As we build our persona, we build our shadow. They are the front and back covers of the same book.
When I project a positive can-do attitude, I ignore my shadow, which reflects my darker, more pessimistic side. Painting is helping me integrate my shadow into conscious awareness, and into my persona. Getting in touch with my shadow is helping me live a richer, more meaningful life.
If you find one of my paintings disturbing, look at it more closely, and you might discover something about your own shadow. Shine light on it, and you might discover gold.
Postcard from Anima
Jung taught that men possess an "anima," a feminine, soft, supportive, and passive aspect of their personality, while women have an "animus," an array of masculine, aggressive, competitive personality traits. When we allow both the anima and animus to unfold and flourish we become more psychologically complete and balanced.
For the first half of life, insecure in my masculinity, I ignored the more feminine parts of my personality. As I began at midlife to get reacquainted with the feminine aspects of myself, I began to get in touch with my feelings and creativity.
Now my art is reacquainting me with my anima. Gentle, nurturing, creative, emotional, and heart-centered, she is my muse, lover, and teacher. Through her, I am learning to live life more gently, and through my art I am integrating her into my soul.
Looking into life's rearview mirror, I see how far I have traveled. Looking ahead, I see how far I have to go. This is a spiritual journey. The journey to authentic self and God are one in the same. My guides, persona, shadow, and anima are with me, revealing themselves through the symbols that appear in my art, encouraging me to render the unconscious, conscious so that I may become the full expression of all I am.