I’ve been reading an article by artist and “wounded healer” Paul Levy titled “Homage to the Creative Spirit.” It’s lengthy and difficult to fully understand, but has some interesting insights into the role that artists play in today’s world.
According to Levy:
. . . The creative artist intimately experiences the profound depths of the woundedness of the collectivity and the time in which they live. Artists are able to find within their own subjective experience a unique and creative response to this wound. Artists take the burden of the collective creative responsibility onto themselves so that others might see through the transparency of their art what is lacking in their own lives. Reflecting the malaise of the culture, modern art depicts the sickness of the times. Artists, like the archetypal figure of the shaman, carry deep within themselves a regenerative force, accessed through their own woundedness, that is capable of bringing forth a cure not only for themselves, but also for the community as a whole.
The artist casts a liberating fragrance, spelling out what is hanging in the air. When a group of people abdicate their individual responsibility to be creative, a great artist like Vincent Van Gogh becomes inevitable as a compensation for this one-sidedness. Art is the compensatory dream of the collective culture, a means by which the collective unconscious informs collective society. Art should not be viewed as an isolated phenomenon separate from the field of consciousness in which it arises; rather, artists and their work emerge from a synergy of interweaving socio-cultural factors. Artists are dreamed up by the spirit of time and place.
Basically, Levy is saying that art is greatly influenced by the issues of our day. As artists, we pick up on and depict the sickness of our times, and then create a cure through our art. Maybe not consciously, but perhaps unconsciously.
I like to think of myself as an individual acting alone of my own free will — not an agent of change influenced by the greater collective. Certainly I’m aware of the issues of our times, but do those issues make their way into my art? Maybe, but am I then transforming them into art that heals? I don’t know. Is all art healing?
Levy says that artists are also transformed through this process:
The act of creating draws artists out of themselves while simultaneously helping them to come to themselves, as if in creating the work of art artists recreate themselves anew. Reversing our normal way of thinking, Shakespeare is created by Hamlet, Beethoven is composed by his symphonies, Rembrandt became who he was through his self-portraits and it is the egg that lays the hen that gives birth to it.
If what Levy says is true, that art reflects the collective unconscious, what art do you think most represents our times? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.
I highly recommend reading Levy’s entire article. I think you’ll find it to be worthwhile and thought-provoking.
With love and appreciation,
Painintg at top: “Inner Circle,” 24″ x 36″, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas