Getting out of the box!
I just went for a walk in the forest of the Canadian Shield right behind my home. It was a beautiful warm autumn day, so I spent time laying on a granite rock looking at the passing clouds. In the clouds I saw a lobster, a dragon, a pacman eating a little fluff and other fun things. We all do that. Whenever we see something, our mind automatically wants to make associations, we can’t help it, the mind just does it.
It’s like when we hear a new musician, most of us will say ‘oh that’s sounds a lot like x’. Why can’t we just listen, hear it for what it is? Why this habit of comparing, judging, measuring, associating?
With my art I’ve been confronted with this phenomena since the day I showed it to the world. It is fascinating to listen to the many comments I get from people from all walks of life… or, I should say, from all kind of brains. Along the way I decided to write them down so here are some of the ‘associations’ that I have heard many times. These are the most common associations that people make when looking at my art and I find them really interesting.
Is it native art?
The most common question I get is “Is this native art?”. Well it’s not, simply, because I am not native. The reason why people see native art in my work is very simple: All my themes relate to the themes of nature and spirit, which are also valued and commonly used in the native community and in their art. Visually my vivid colours, strong lines and symbolic images remind of traditional native artwork. I joke saying that it would be easier to find my place in the contemporary art world if I was native. The whole network of galleries and associations that support native artists is vast and most important to me: they would ‘get’ my art immediately. I find most galleries and even regular people want an easily recognizable artistic context or movement that they can associate with my art, but can’t find one when they are in front of my work.
Is it pagan?
This word doesn’t feel like an accurate description of me or my art either, although I have to admit I think I have a bit of witch’s spirit in me. I collect herbs to make teas, I create my own remedies, burn incense and sage for clearing space; I like being naked in nature, I like crystals, I enjoy playing with my tarot cards, I even have a reiki doll that I use for sending healing to people (and myself). My art honours nature as the greatest place to be and is the best teacher to me. I feel that the word pagan is a bit like the word hippie. I think pagans and hippies are amazing people but they also have a bad rep or stigma attached to them and I just don’t want to associate with that negative stereotypes that they carry. Though my kids do call me ‘a hippie in denial’!
Is it psychedelic?
I have to laugh at this one! I’ve been asked many times if I use drugs. Some of my paintings are a bit trippy, they vibrate, they give you feelings of expansion and kind of put your brain into a different open state. I don’t plan any of these effects when I paint, but I feel that it’s a good thing! To be clear, I do not use drugs, none of my artwork is a depiction of drug trips. I have nothing against drugs when they are taken as entheogens (a chemical substance, typically of plant origin, to produce transcendent states of consciousness for personal growth, religious or spiritual purposes). Many people have had some of their most profound life experience while taking psychedelics or healing plants like Ayahuasca. For me this has simply not been my path and therefore isn’t really part of my art, or where it comes from.
Is it Celtic?
This is a bit like the ‘Native’ appellation. Celtic art is very intricate and geometric and very much in touch with mother nature. People often recognize these themes in my art and associate it with Celtic art. Actually a few of my paintings were directly inspired by Celtic art, traditions and stories, but not all of them.
I think this is the most weird one but you would be surprised how often I hear that question : “are these the zodiac signs?”, while pointing at one of my mandala. Obviously they do not know anything about the zodiac (I don’t know much about it either myself) and they certainly have not looked at my artwork more than a couple of seconds. I presume that my images look like weird symbols to them and the only things they can associate it to are the astrological signs!
Are you surprised? I’m surprised when I hear it! I hope anyone that understands and resonates with my work would never even consider calling my art dark. Sometimes I worry that I am too much of an optimist, drawing colourful and positive images. I have found the type of people that call my art dark are fearful of the life, freedom and power that I emphasize in my art, or they have strict religious convictions that predisposes them to associating negativity and darkness with these things. They see my image of naked women just having fun around a fire as angry witches throwing spells. In my Moon Ritual which depicts women celebrating their connection to the moon they see a bunch of witches working dark curses! For some my nude images and vaginas are the work of the devil, while to me they open important dialogues about our discomfort with something as natural as the body. My wild woman with her raven appears to them as scary in these dark moonlit scenes while all I am doing is representing the most primal mystical life.
Luckily most people appreciate my art without putting me into a box that their brain created to explain what they see. The truth is that I am still trying myself to understand who I am, and if there is an answer to that question I know it won’t fit tidily into one box. I am my own kind, creating the art inspired by living a simple, healthy and happy life. And that’s good enough to me!