Hi there, my name is Mitra Cline and I work in Santa Barbara. My mediums include painting, photography, and mixed media with an interdisciplinary art-making method.
I always had a passion for art ever since I was a child. I spent hours drawing and painting; my family supported my creative endeavors. As I grew older, I pursued artistic interests and eventually decided to attend art school.
My art emerges at the intersection of personal identity, communication, and culture. I document my journey of artistic development in this blog – Aesthetic Blossoming.
Beyond the drive to create aesthetically beautiful art, my creative process is complex. While I make beautiful art, I like to evoke a profound sense of the unfathomable within the observer’s psyche and my own. I like a sense of wonder and amazement by presenting the unexpected, where our understanding reaches its limits and the mind is left in awe of the mysteries that lie beyond our comprehension. It can change how we see the world. My art allows me to transform my reality and find solace. Additionally, it gives me a sense of purpose as I attempt to unravel its mysteries. Moreover, I thoroughly enjoy it, excel in it, and can contribute significantly to it.
I hold an MA in Humanities with an emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and a BFA focusing on painting from the Kansas City Art Institute. I am the founder of Foreverbird Studio and work as a graphic designer, consultant, mentor, and teacher.
Throughout my career, I have learned from various artistic practices and traditions, always looking for new ways to express myself and learn from others. My unique perspective as an artist sets me apart. Being original comes with challenges along the way, from self-doubt and creative blocks to the pressures of the art world and the demands of clients. Sometimes the roadblocks are people threatening to break the spirit with their opinions of my work.
Despite obstacles, I have celebrated many meaningful accomplishments throughout my career. I have been in numerous group exhibitions and galleries, and my artwork has found homes with friends, family, and strangers.
Because I have always been passionate about art, my long-term aspirations include continuing to grow and evolve as a person and sharing my changing perception of reality. I wish to uncover the beauty that often goes unnoticed and encourage others to appreciate it. I hope to explore new mediums and techniques, pushing the boundaries of my creativity and expanding my artistic horizons. But it’s not all about me. I think only art can express important messages and help promote positive social change. Each generation of artists passes on wisdom to the next. I hope the artists of the future will remain valued members of the community.
Ultimately, I dream my art impacts others to develop their creative ideas, just as I have from artists before me. Depth Psychology says great art is highly nutritious. What you eat nourishes your body, so what you imagine nourishes your psyche. The famous Swiss Psychologist, Carl Jung, said, “There is no difference in principle between organic and psychic growth.” Jung also wrote that creativity is an instinct, not an optional gift granted to a lucky few. If you don’t find a way to be creative, that instinct becomes repressed and frustrated. You feel its loss as a deflation, the spirit leaking out of your sense of self. You feel empty, disengaged, and unfulfilled.
In order to live a fulfilling life, I prioritize self-reflection, authentically expressing myself, and taking action toward achieving my best vision. Although being vulnerable can be challenging, it’s through this process that my artwork develops. This is where the true magic lies. Beyond my current project are three smaller projects that talk about how depth psychology techniques, Active Imagination, Dream Tending, and Mix Method/Art Practice Research bring unconscious issues to the surface.
How do we live our best lives from childhood to death? We must look to the humanities to know what is possible in life. In particular, we must seek out the great work of others. One example of great creative work is The Red Book by Jung (2009) which contains illustrated stories and is the creative source material for what became active imagination therapy. About this therapy, Hillman (1983) said, “radical activation of imagination was Jung’s method of Know Thyself” (p. 56).
In depth psychology, Self is a term for the all-encompassing organizing central psychic pattern. Self is more powerful than ego, the smaller part of the psyche identified as an individual personality. If a person cannot connect to Self then they are likely to feel estranged from vital life energy (Jung, 2012). Jung’s active imagination method allows the ego to connect and communicate with the Self. This is important because it is the source of vital life energy.
Close reading is one form of active imagination. In a group setting, a close reading of words illuminates how each person’s unique life experience effects their understanding of reality. Another active imagination form is stick to the image, and it means returning to one reference for ideas (Chodorow, 1997). While at Pacifica Graduate Institute, my centering image was Inanna, queen of heaven and earth.
By looking closely at the ancient story of Inanna I discovered new information about my female body-mind-soul. Most importantly, I learned that the task of the heroine is, “to heal the internal split that tells us to override the feelings, intuition, and dream images that inform us of the truth of life” (Murdock, 2013, p. 11). In Sci-Fi Heroine, I show how Murdock’s model of the heroine’s journey syncs up with the award-winning film Gravity (Cuarón, Heyman, & Cuarón, 2013). I illustrate the plot points in the heroine’s psychological process with still images from the film.
I am engaged with art that creates feelings in me of equity, interdependence, unity, passion and love. The lover archetype complements the heroine’s task of unification and the artist’s passion. While it seems these are all positive at first, each archetype also contains the negative side of rejection, abandonment, betrayal, and injustice. It is suffering or trauma that sparks psychological development. “The actual process of individuation—the conscious coming-to-terms with one’s own inner center (psychic nucleus) or Self—generally begins with a wounding of the personality and the suffering that accompanies it” (Jung, 2012, p. 169). Experiencing new things triggered by unwanted real or fictional events is how potential behavior patterns become specific and manifest.
In my life, witnessing the death of a friend gave me the courage to make a challenging decision in life and attend graduate school. In my first quarter of school, still in grief and experiencing the opposing emotions of my loss and his freedom for suffering deeply, I found American Morning Paintings. They commemorate the death of George Washington, a founder of our free nation. The paintings feature a goddess crying at his grave; she represents liberty, and in her grief, she embodies the imperfection of humanity (Schorsch, 1979). The grieving goddess is an alchemical symbol. Jung used the term alchemical symbol to describe images that could enable transformation, unlike the basic symbol that only points to the unknown (Rowland, 2012). Thanks to the grieving goddess, I now understand how image and behavior unite and intertwine to create meaningful transformation in an individual life. I found a path to transform everything into love.
“Living images, particularly those who carry the intelligence of the ancestors, are at the core of our personal maturation” (p. 55).A known expert on dream tending, Aizenstat (2012)
Wanting to mature with the ancestors’ intelligence, I focused on one image at a time. I need help managing my chaotic dreams, and a goddess with wings appears in active imagination to solve this problem. She is my imaginary personal assistant, a playful fairy named Tink. She carries a skeleton key and has access to everything in the universe. She lives in a giant treehouse with an infinity pool. She can calm me down when I get overwhelmed and comfort me when I feel alone.
Discovering how to amplify the power of living images, aka dream images, like Tink, came about unexpectedly. It began with a nightmare. In my paper, Red Mask, I explain how collaborating with two very real women, a goddess trifecta, helped me hear imaginary voices.
An imaginary voice is a thought, feeling, or image. Negative inner thoughts can be unexpected and overwhelming when you are alone. Group creative work helps externalize difficult emotions like spite, crippling self-doubt, fear, and defeatist apathy. Sharing experiences is transformative, and its potential impact compounds as the group grows.
Watkins (1998) said we must differentiate between our relationships with real people and dream images that look like them. I am careful not to project my thoughts and feelings onto other people. The skill to differentiate between self and other requires a fluid definition of reality.
The Sufis explained this water-like quality by speaking of the science of imagination as also being the “science of mirrors, of all mirroring surfaces and of the forms that appear in them.” Images appear in the mirror though they are not part of the mirror itself. (Watkins, 1998, p. 135)
Mystical experiences of alternate realities, like in dreams or art, can foster curiosity about the world and make the unknown interesting, not scary. Campbell (2002) said:
Let us accept the suggestion and recognize, then, that what is intended by art, metaphysics, magical hocus-pocus, and mystical religion, is not the knowledge of anything, not truth, not goodness, or beauty, but an evocation of a sense of the absolutely unknowable. (p. 151)
Now I am getting to my heart, an irresistible attraction to what is beyond my understanding, the numinous. I believe new perspectives create new realities, or visa Vera, making the previously impossible possible.
From the magical moment we take our first breath until our last, we are experiencing change. With time, the cumulative experience of life and death becomes more familiar. However, the process is often described as scary, painful, and confusing. Creating art with alchemical symbols facilitates the natural transformations of life in profound ways. Trusting my authentic creative rhythm, and embracing fear, is extremely valuable because it honors the role of the shadow in creative cycles. My art practice connects my body-soul-spirit. Jung (2009) put it another way when he said,
“The way of life writhes like the serpent from right to left and from left to right, from thinking to pleasure and from pleasure to thinking. One cannot live with forethinking alone, or with pleasure alone. You need both”(p. 247)
I am not the only female artist who works with dreams in the creative practice. In particular, the artists interviewed in Ariadne’s (2006) book, Women Dreaming–Into–Art, are role models and inspire me to keep on creating even if I do not think I know what I am making. Their work is stunning and is so much more than technique. Ariadne said, “Acting as inner change agents, these artists both model and facilitate for others processes, which ultimately promote self-reliance and confidence” (Locations 226-228).
Art-based research is information presented so that an experiential understanding is possible because only art itself can embody it. Many research practices use narrative to communicate the truth of social life in stories. Leavy (2008) said narratives “may be our own stories, those of others, or those that blur ‘the real’ and ‘the imaginary’ but are no less truthful in communicating human experience” (p. 39).
I looked at my recent drawing and I noticed a lot of rainbow. Why do I draw rainbows? At the core of each individual’s perception of reality lies a concept known as the “axis mundi,” a metaphorical pivot point around which their world revolves. This central concept serves as a unifying thread that weaves through their experiences, beliefs, and understanding of the world.When someone identifies rainbows as their connective thread or axis mundi, it signifies profound insights into their personality and outlook.
Just as rainbows bridge the gap between rain and sunlight, this choice suggests that I might possess an innate ability to bridge different perspectives and find harmony between seemingly contrasting aspects of life. I may hold a unique talent for synthesizing diverse ideas and bringing people together.
Moreover, rainbows are often seen as symbols of hope and transformation, reflecting a person who harbors an optimistic and transformative worldview. Just as a rainbow emerges after a storm, I may possess the resilience to find light even in the midst of challenges, embracing difficulties as opportunities for growth.
Rainbows also embody a spectrum of colors, each representing a different facet of life. A person who sees rainbows as their axis mundi might have a deep appreciation for the multifaceted nature of existence, valuing diversity and understanding that every hue contributes to the beauty of the whole.
In essence, my choice of rainbows as an axis mundi reflects a person who is not only adept at harmonizing disparate elements but also possesses an inspiring ability to find hope, transformation, and unity in the complex tapestry of life.
Discovering what is meaningful to me and others is important for healthy connections and communication. You will see the rainbow symbol in the collection in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Collection of rainbow images by Mitra Cline.
Why do I share my art research? I am an artist and a scholar. I join a history of feminist scholars and theologians that use autobiographic information in their work. The feminist scholars share my desire for social evolution in the form of spiritual awareness or, in Jungian terms, Self-awareness. I define feminism as “the radical practice of co-humanity of women and men” (Gross, 1998, p. 3). I agree with this logic:
Our specific situations as women in a patriarchal society affected our interests, our concerns, and the results of our scholarship… Eventually, we also came to see that not only gender but also race, class, culture, sexual orientation, and the like, had their impact on scholarship. Therefore, we are likely ever again to be naive enough to believe that the scholars experience does not affect her scholarship. (Gross, 1998, p. 3)
Discerning what personal disclosure is relevant to a scholarly argument or work of art is important. A relevant example of creative scholarship is Woodman, an author and Jungian analyst. She described the feminine as the earth itself, soulful living energy pulsing in our material world. She shared her personal life experience to explain how connecting to feminine energy helped her overcome an addiction to anorexia, changes in her marriage, and a diagnosis of fatal cancer (Reid, 2010).
For my final art project in graduate school, I wanted to know, ‘What do empowered women value most?’ The unanimous results were 82.7% value love most, and 98.4% would sacrifice material wealth. In addition, when asked, ‘Who supports you most?’, many wrote “Myself” in the comments. Ironically, the option for “Myself” was exactly the word I had self-consciously edited out of the answer options (Cline, 2016).
I created the survey questions based on the story of Inanna. I selected this historical goddess, seen in Figure 2, and the method of looking closely, and I sculpted her likeness to find more understanding. Clay has many unique qualities, and the feeling of it in the hands is pleasurable. As the goddess emerged from the clay in my art project, I felt my body was changing. In the process, I became curious about what she was holding in her hands, and her hands changed into something unlike the original.
Figure 2. On left is historical goddesses and, on right, my clay goddess (Cline, 2016).
The goddess made two modern signs, peace with the left hand and a salute to live long and prosper (Stieber, 2015) with the right. Looking at the finished image, I notice she is in front of a doorway like a gatekeeper, and accompanied by two sets of twin animal guardians. Her wings outstretched, she also forms a cross. Everything is soft and vulnerable in naked clay. She is the queen of heaven and earth, the original empowered woman. Her secrets of self love will unlock the door to health and vitality.
I shared the sculpting with my survey participants by making a short film of the process titled, Feminine Values. I included photos from hiking with friends, and words from the survey in a poem; “Nature Supports It. Divine Support It. It is Love. Live Long and Prosper in Peace” (Cline, 2016).
The participates added creative ideas in the survey by writing answers to the prompts. I believe engaging directly with others in creative work is vital to feeling good and enjoying life. We learn to savor the memories and precious moments of life with ourselves in community while improving the quality of our connections with practice. Selecting clay for the goddess is important because it makes her one of a kind and not reproducible, reminding us to be grateful for each moment together. A more poetic expression of this concept of original value is, “A single rose can be my garden . . . a single friend, my world” (Buscaglia, 2001-2016, para. 1)
Benjamin (1969) says,
That which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art”
“The instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics”(Benjamin, p. 224).
To label something as a copy, comparable, and reproducible is to diminish the value of a things core essence. We must be able to discern between what is art and what is politics, and playful, creative research helps me to see the authenticity in everything.
For me, play is an infectious embodiment of priceless life energy that creates community and results in meaningful connection. In Creative Influence, I talk about playful art that I made inspired by artists from the Civil Rights Movement. Resisting exploitation, artists influence others to speak their truth.
The artist authentic voice is needed, because if we allow the market value of art to “define and control our gifts, the less gifted we will become, as individuals and as a society”(Hyde, 2007, p. 205)
Original Odyssey Card
While at Pacifica Graduate Institute, I invented and produced a card game that will be discussed in Original Odyssey. Games are a method I use to introduce creative concepts into a traditionally logical business world. Like great art, games require creativity, collaboration, and contribution. In addition, more widely accepted qualitative science has linked playing games to improved mental health, making logical people more willing to be playful (McGonigal, 2011).
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | 805.455.6004 | mitracline.com
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