I began this 3x4ft piece at my husband's album release concert, which took place a couple days before the winter solstice 2015. During the week leading up to the event, I prepped the canvas with some deep greens, blues, & ambers. I still didn't know what I was going to paint during the concert, but the colors were somehow perfect. I remember walking through the isle of the art store, Christmas music playing on the speaker. A sweet, old-fashioned song came on, so familiar yet, I couldn't identify it. I kept humming it all day and into the night.
I create mostly at night, when everyone goes to sleep. The energy is simpler, the subconscious is more accessible, the dreams come out to play. Also, I work faster when no one is around. I got out my sketchpad and began to draw the image of a deer. As I sketched I hummed. I thought about an article a friend had recently shared on the story of mother deer. Unlike other does, female reindeer have antlers. Across the expanse of Northern Europe into Siberia, the female reindeer was honored, as Danielle Prohom Olsen writes, "... the anima of wild places, forests and mountains, the other worldly steed for fairies and magical folk." I continued to hum that enchanting song.
As I looked at my drawing, suddenly, the memory bubbled up and showed me where the song came from. It was 'Love is a Song that Never Ends'... from the animated film Bambi. I was amused. As a kid, I watched that movie hundreds of times. I'd felt all of the wonder of that movie in a song I couldn't name, all the while I drew and wove the subconscious with the conscious. There in front of me was this deer, staring back. This is what art is after all, it’s the weaving the subconscious into the conscious, & it's especially fun when you discover it as it's happening.
In grad school I studied psychology, where the subconscious is widely considered to control our choices, our reactions, and thereby our perception of the world. It's the part of us that receives programming, in childhood, in trauma, in watching television, advertisements, and in hypnotic states. Bridging this into the realm of art therapy, the canvas becomes a place to reveal the subconscious, to shape it, define it, to delete old programs, and to align it with our optimal conscious experience. This gives the art maker the ability to influence events in his or her life that they would not normally be able to access. This is no different than practical magic. Now, I talk a lot about power and magic, which are taboo topics for some. Let it be noted that the power accessed through art is personal power to create good for one's self, it's not about influencing, feeding off of, or dominating others. Power used with those motivations is black magic, and black magic is not loyal to its practitioner. The lesson there, whether through art, music, song, stories, sculpting, gardening, etc... let your creations enrich you, let them sooth you. Live from your abundance within.
The fairy-like figure in the fore ground of this piece is holding her hands in the mythical bird mudra. The mudra itself helps the individual to focus on his or her purpose regardless of circumstances. I discovered this mudra in a curious way. I'd recently began doing some basic mudras to help channel my emotional energy and build resonance in my prayers. One particular night, I was feeling anxious, there was a fluttering in my heart, and stomach. Instinctually, I held my hands in front of me and formed them into a bird, the kind of bird that casts a shadow puppet of a full wingspan. It felt like childhood, it felt simple. I flapped my finger-wings over my stomach, my chest, & in front of my eyes. It surprised me how long I stayed with this process. It gave me relief. I didn't know that I was performing an ancient mudra, but I knew how I felt... solid and very much in my own energy, released from the fears and projections of others.
Within a month, I had a dream that I was floating in this "stuff". This stuff was inorganic (whatever that means), thicker than water, it was mostly dark maroon and brown with tiny streams of symmetrical designs and patterns. As I floated, I felt the fluttering again, I felt vulnerable, lost, and insignificant. Slowly, a shape emerged from the stuff, and lifted me out of it. It was a large globulous bird, not like a real bird, but instead, the way a child would draw a bird. It arose from the very same stuff in which I was floating. It took me higher and higher into the sky. The only difference between the bird and the stuff it emerged from, was its focused energy. That focus pushed the bird through and above all of the stuff. At one point, the bird flew so high that everything below began to change as well, it all transformed into beautiful vast canyons, with a deep and ancient rivers streaming through. The bird became brighter, it's patterns became only primary colors. I woke up.
Soon after the dream, I was visiting a yoga center and I saw a picture of two hands clasped like a bird, beneath the image, the words mythical bird. I researched the term & found it to be a mudra, also called Garuda Mudra, that supports an individual in focusing on his /her dreams without being derailed by the distractions of the world. I realized again the weaving of the conscious and subconscious. I began thinking of the deer painting again. I knew how I wanted to resolve the image. Guardian Heart is about the power of the individual through harmonizing the conscious and the subconscious. Guardian Heart is a quality of being, it is the choice to be a steward of the earth, and of all that is sacred.
Some time passed after I completed the painting. During that time, my husband and I attended a Cloud Cult concert in Chicago. This band typically has two live artists paint as the band plays. One of the artists is the wife of the lead vocalist. In this particular concert, she painted a large deer, dimensions similar to Guardian Heart. My husband and I looked at each other in astonishment. Really? Is she really painting a deer? She was, and it was beautiful to see the deer medicine overflowing on to her canvas. My husband joked, that maybe there was a deer spirit going around and visiting all of the concerts in Chicago. So it goes, the magic flows with "the anima of wild places" leading us along, letting us ride her back, and walk alongside her. Thank you Guardian Heart for gracing me with you presence, and for reminding me to be present to the magic of life.