Longing and the Secret Garden

Finished my painting this weekend. ‘Everyday Gems’ 24×48. It’s inspired by my class on Joseph Campbell and his work on comparative mythology. At some point in our lives, we each go through the process of finding something valuable that has been lost. It can be a literal search for lost treasure or an inner quest to discover precious qualities.

I’m looking back at my art in a mythic way and noticing a theme of longing and a secret garden feel. As a visual artist, I use recognizable imagery in my work. One long-lasting fascination is with plant imagery. Consciously I had no solid intellectual reason why I work with plant imagery other than the aesthetic appeal of the shapes. The natural world is always showing up in my work. Here are some images from the recent painting in progress.

longing and the secret garden

Reading about the role of plant images this week was a close read for me. Campbell’s use of plants in his descriptions adds deeper meaning to leaves and flowers – giving life the spiritual concepts. In a sense, these subtle slow growing spiritual energies presented in plant form also define the ‘edge’ as described by Campbell: “The edge, the interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered because it is a mystery that transcends all human research” (page 162). The plant’s life is more mysterious than animal and yet it is living like us. I’m interested both the clear statements and the ambiguity that Campbell makes in regard to plant images. For example, is there gender in the plant or is it god-like and beyond gender? What else did Campbell see the North American history of interaction between planter and hunter?

  1. She gives nourishment, as the plants do. So woman magic and earth magic are the same. P. 209
  2. (Jesus says) “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” P. 127
  3. One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity and is contemporary life and dedicate ourselves to that. P. 182
  4. The North American culture is a very strong example of the interaction of hunting and planting cultures. P. 127

Source: Campbell, J. Ch. V, “The Hero’s Adventure” (41 pages) and Ch. VI, “The Gift of the Goddess” (19 pages) in The Power of Myth.

Final Painting Everyday Gems 24x48
Final Painting Everyday Gems 24×48

Here is a video of my presentation from my class where I explore some of the visual themes in my work both past and present. My perspective is shifting from inside of the garden to outside looking in. I’m not sure where this transition will lead. I do feel that the research had expanded my imagination in a natural way and I am happy with the resulting shift in the subject matter and composition of my new paintings.