Category Archives: Archetypes and Symbols

Staying in the Moment: Loving Collage

Collage and mixed media

Anima: Collage and mixed media by Kartika

A dinged up piece of cardboard that’s been discolored by the elements can ignite a creative spark in me as easily as looking at another artist’s work or hearing a song that sends chills up my spine.
Quote by Baby Smith from Masters of Collage – collage, mixed media artist

It’s Saturday morning – Joy! I will soon be on my way to the “Flying Leap Art Studio.” This is my routine – at the end of my work week, the rejuvenation of my artist begins with a day making collage and allowing myself to relax into the energizing spaciousness of the right side of my brain. I will work with others, usually a group of like minded women who “get it”, who are on the same page and whose sanity and sense of being right with the word depends on being able to be in the present moment – being in the space of creativity.

Creativity is really about being in the moment with the process. It’s about allowing ourselves to become submerged, willing to be present, fine with spontaneity, flexible, open to change, able to take risks, be silly sometimes, and have fun while being serious.

I found a wonderful book on collage, “Masters of Collage” by Lark Crafts. It’s a visual delight and inspiration to artists of all mediums. Perusing this book makes me fall even more in love with collage art. This medium has unlimited possibilities, offering us an immense arena in which to play, explore, and discover what we love. Mixed media artists are engaged in the world of objects, always looking for interesting, sometimes old and rusty things, things to recycle in order to create the new and beautiful. Collage and mixed media is all about arranging and rearranging objects and images, training ourselves to see things differently, urging us to experiment with shape and color, inviting us to explore and play with simple and mundane objects.
Master of Collage by Lark Crafts

Compared to other art forms, collage seems a democratic and unthreatening medium. It requires few tools or supplies and practically anyone with an appreciation for found objects and a love a composition can do it. And yet, the process of creating a collage is not quite as simple as it seems.
– Randel Plowman, Curator

Mixed media collage by Kartika

Mixed media collage by Kartika

Collage like other art forms helps us discover ourselves, our inner landscape, what we love, what we fear, and what we find important. We are inspired to discover our archetypes and symbols. We begin to find our thumbprint, or unique signature. What colors do we consistently choose to be a part of our palette? Do we plan ahead or follow our instincts in the moment? Do we like to work alone or with others? Do we find ourselves blocked by fear of failure? The process of self-discovery is endless.

Collage and mixed media by Kartika

Collage and mixed media by Kartika

Learning to see – to become observant – is the greatest lesson an artist can learn. Working in the collage form has sharpened my perceptions of the world outside my studio.
Quote by Mitzi Trachtenberg from Masters of Collage – collage, mixed media artist

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Bloggers for Peace: Art is a Universal Lanquage

Art for Peace

Art for Peace – Collage by Kartika

Bloggers for Peace

This week, I decided to take up the “Blogging for Peace Challenge,” and have committed to blog once each month on a topic that I feel relates to peace.

While for me, art making is a way to enter into a peaceful state because I can temporarily let go of the restraints of daily living, I believe art enhances human relationships and can build connection and communication between people. I also see art as a way for humans to connect with and appreciate the natural environment. Just look at the fields and sky painted by Van Gough – we can see he was in communion with nature. Artists have this gift, this opportunity to share such visions, to move us into states of consciousness where we may not ordinarily go.

We are united in this need to experience beauty, and through human history, the arts have been a universal vehicle for us to both appreciate the creations of others and to create our own unique visions of what is meaningful and beautiful.

Art is timeless

I find it fascinating that we can admire and be moved by the works and artistic expressions of artists from all over the world, from the beginning of time – we can feel connected to the Navaho women who weaved rugs and the Greek artisans who made drinking vessels centuries ago.

Those simple cave paintings created thousands of years ago still move of us. We find them beautiful in their elegant simplicity. And contemporary and modern artists borrow from the styles of all generations of crafters and artisans and artists to inspire their work.

When we visit museums and see artifacts from around the world, whether from Asia, Europe, Africa, or elsewhere, we get a glimpse into the souls of our ancestors. They have all been creators, they have all created beauty from the depths of their souls. They are like us, they are our family. They share our wonder when standing in front The Pieta, they share the need to experience and express the sublime through beauty in all of its forms.

Art is not a luxury that humans can live without. It is a necessity and the artist will go to any lengths to bring his visions into form.

Making art is part of our human DNA – humans are designed to create and to share their creations with others. In this way we come together to appreciate one of our common denominators – our creative potential and the joy of making things, the need to be inspired, and the impulse to follow the muse wherever she takes us. This is the way art can be a bridge to peace and harmony.

forpeace6

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Collage Mandalas

Collage Mandala by Kartika

Collage Mandala by Kartika

“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day…I guarded them like precious pearls….It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation.”

Carl Jung

Over the years, I’ve become fascinated by the mandala in its various forms of artistic and symbolic expression.

But, I was afraid to create my own mandalas because I have little patience for measuring and precision in art making, and so many of the mandalas I admired in the traditional Indian and other Eastern styles are a form of sacred geometry where the angles are mathematically precise.

The Tibetan mandala painting below is an example of this deeply symbolic and complex form of sacred art, often used as a tool for meditation. The mandala in Eastern culture is symbolic – the circle is a symbol of the eternity of the cosmos and the square is a symbol of the earth or of the man-made world. In Sanskrit, the mandala literally means circle and center.

Tibetan Thangka Painting

Tibetan Thangka Painting

However, I was drawn to creating my own simple versions of collage mandalas, and decided to refuse to intimidated (okay perhaps a bit) by masters of the form worldwide. As I read more about this art form, and see the endless ways the circle is used symbolically in all cultures over the world, the possibilities and interpretations are endless.

Mandala Collage by Kartika

Mandala Collage by Kartika

The sacred circle

A circle is the reflection of eternity. It has no beginning and it has no end – and if you put several circles over each other, then you get a spiral.
Maynard James Keenan

Carl Jung became deeply involved with the mandalas as a way to connect with the unconscious and to engage with the universal archetypes that are are the basis of all levels of Self. He had patients create mandalas as a tool for self-understanding and healing.

Currently there is a re-awakening of mandala making – people are realizing that anyone can draw a circle and begin the process of creating a personal mythology that links them to spirit and self understanding. We have been inspired by the traditions of mandala-making and are finding our own ways to create beautiful expressions of the sacred circle.

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What Does Virginia Woolf Mean When She Says, “As a woman I have no country?”

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”

― Virginia Woolf

As you know if you’ve read my recent blogs on “To The Lighthouse,” I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about Virginia Woolf and could use some help here – please let me know your thoughts on this quote. I would love to hear what you think she means. I find this quote fascinating and mysterious…

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To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – A Meditation On The Feminine Psyche

Virginia Woolf

If the ideal of manhood involves reaching destinations or conquering heights, and is a constant process of becoming, women by contrast are expected to impress by their qualities of being, by beauty rather than intellect, by serenity rather than achievement.
Introduction to “To The Lighthouse” by Julia Briggs

Well, I just finished reading “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Wolf, and was inspired to read a bit about the author’s take on life and about her own struggle with finding an identity apart from the expectations of women in Victorian society. Writing the novel, was a way for Woolf to confront her own struggle with her identity as a woman. It was also semi-autobiographical, as her characters represented parts of herself and the key players in her life – particularly her mother.

It seems Virginia Woolf’s mother was very much like Mrs. Ramsey, who is the archetype of Mother and whose role is to support and nurture her husband, children, and all those who fall into her circle. It is not an exaggeration that the life of the Mother as an archetype is dedicated to creating an atmosphere that restores, heals, supports growth, and provides the basis for the happiness and fulfillment of others, whatever the cost to the self. This expectation that women are designed to easily and willingly accept and embrace this role prevailed in Victorian times, as it has and continues to throughout history. It was considered the natural state of a natural woman to eventually become a wife and a mother and to support men to accomplish their greatness and fulfill their life purpose. Like the Madonna, this archetype offers compassion and unconditional love to others.

One of the novel’s male protagonists, Charles Tansley, asserts,

“Women can’t write, women can’t paint.” He represents a prevailing mind-set that denies women’s capacity for achievement and self-realization outside of the role of mother.

And, Woolf’s mother, like Mrs. Ramsey, embodied these qualities of the Madonna, or of perfect motherhood, and earned the devotion of her children and husband. Yet, the author found herself longing to take a different path from her mother, an inner-directed journey much like Lily Briscoe’s path, the female character in the novel who chooses to be single and is devoted to her art. Lily is Mrs. Ramsey’s opposite. Like Woolf, Lily loves the iconic Mother archetype in the form of Mrs. Ramsey, and in Woolf’s case as represented by her own mother, while at the same time, both Woolf and her fictional character, find aspects of this ideal of selflessness and willingness to cater to the demands of the male ego abhorrent.

A modern woman often feels a similar pull of forces within her own psyche. Questions arise, “How do I juggle my career or my life’s passion with my desire to be a mother and a supportive partner to my husband?” Women may wonder if they can do justice to both worlds: can they follow their dreams to be artists, adventurers, writers, senators, and choose to marry?

As women, we are still questioning who we are apart from the expectations of others. We wonder if we can “have it all” – if we can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, have our cake and eat it too. And, do we really want it all – is society now telling us we should achieve like the classic male archetypes of doers and shakers? Are we after all missing out by neglecting home and hearth?

Women in today’s world are aware they have choices and must consider the consequences of their decisions. They are seeking to understand their genuine wants and needs, and men too are continuing to re-evaluate their expectations and what it means to enter into a mutually supportive relationship as a unit of separate individuals with needs of their own. We are in the midst of evolution and exploration on our journeys toward self-realization.

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To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – Thoughts on Feminine Archetypes


Virginia Woolf describes Mrs. Ramsey’s state of transcendence

I’m slowly moving my way through Virginia Woolf’s novel, “To The Lighthouse,” and am happy to say I’m fascinated by Woolf’s ability to penetrate the inner lives of her characters. In particular, Mrs. Ramsey, a key figure in the novel, represents the archetype of “Mother.” She is a fertile and compassionate care taker, whose mission is to nurture others. Even as she struggles with her desire to be whole unto herself, she is pulled over and over again into the fray of life – to her duties to her husband, to the tasks of childcare, and to her habit of fixing the lives of everyone who becomes part of her inner circle. Here is a passage that takes us into Mrs. Ramsey’s mind when she experiences a respite from doing and busyness,

“For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.”

As someone who has meditated for most of my life, I recognize the need for deep silence and non-doing. I also remember the pull I felt as a young mother myself when I wanted my time and my space but my child needed me. It was not always an effortless flow from self-absorption to self-sacrifice.

And then, as she continues describing to herself what I see as a kind of meditation,

“Losing personality, one lost the fret, the hurry, the stir; and there rose to her lips always some exclamation of triumph over life when things came together in this peace, this rest, this eternity;…”

And yes, I understand that shift from being in a hurry to relaxing into a state of effortless and rest.

Lily Briscoe achieves transcendence through art
So, the beautiful Mrs. Ramsey, mother of eight and wife to an insecure husband she feels obliged to adore, is a sharp contrast to Woolf’s character, Lily Briscoe, an artist and single woman. Lily refuses to assume the role that Victorian society assigns to women – it is women who are designed by providence to support the male dominated social structures by staying in their proper places, places that do not threaten men. The women of her time are expected to offer men assurance that their efforts produce products of worth and value, while woman are not expected to do the same and reassurance is not reciprocated.

Yet Lily paints without caring about the product. She is creative because the act of self-expression brings her immense joy and a sense of transcendence that she cannot find elsewhere. As a woman who has both raised a child and been married and is also one who must also be free to express my creativity and does not want to be involved in any career that involves the full time nurturing of others, I relate a bit more to Lily Briscoe than to Mrs. Ramsey. And like Lily, I adore Mrs. Ramsey – she is after all, the Madonna – an archetype that inspires awe and respect.

Both women are creative – Mrs. Ramsey has created eight children who are the recipients of a nurturing and attentive quality that I can only call love. Her creative acts include a kind of subtle orchestration of the people and events in her life that is designed to ensure that life itself continues to flourish in all the conventional ways. Her archetype is the force that ensures stability and continuity. Yet, once the play stops around her, she realizes the toll her role takes. Lily admires Mrs. Ramsey without envy – so far in my reading, she is firm in her sense of self and clear about the value of the path she follows.

I cannot wait to see how things unfold as I get more and more into heads and the hearts of these fascinating women, women we can all relate to as we see in them bits and pieces of ourselves.

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Archetypes: Understanding Ourselves and Our Art

Painting in gouache from my art journal – Fire

Bringing spirit into matter

“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”
― Joseph Campbell

I’ve discovered I both consciously and unconsciously use archetypes in my art. And, I’ve found that increasing my awareness of symbols and archetypes makes me more conscious of the themes and ideas that spontaneously arise in my own art making and helps me appreciate the work of other artists. It helps me get in touch with the energies within my own psyche. I see us all as composites of a variety of archetypes. Archetypes are the “generic versions of a person, and they represent the types of energies and patterns of behavior the person embodies or expresses throughout life or at a given time.

One of the tools I have used to help understand mine is, “The Voyager Tarot Cards,” created by James Wanless.  Tarot card decks typically contain the Major and the Minor Arcanas that represent the range of human archetypes. These types are universal and exist in all cultures and traditions. In the Voyager deck there are 10 Major Arcanas.

What are your archetypes?

Here are the Archetypes in the Voyager Deck—I see myself as a composite.:

Fool Child – Typically called “The Fool,” the fool-child represents the intuitive inspiration of genius. It symbolizes those who puts faith in the universe. The fool is able to relax and trust, to go with the flow of life.

Magician – The Magician holds the tools of transformation and materialization in any area of life. This energy can also be use to help others in your world manifest their vision. It provides opportunities and solutions to problems.

Priestess – The Priestess symbolizes the law of inherent wisdom, and is in touch with the subtle levels of reality, such as intuition and wisdom. This is the energy of the wise elder that is revered in all traditions—represents balance and clarity.

Empress – Represents the law of preservation and is the guardian of life and of the earth. This energy is in charge of protecting the earth and honors every aspect of creation for its inherent richness and beauty.

Emperor – Symbolizes the inner fire that builds and achieves professional recognition and monetary reward.

Hierophant – Symbolizes the law of life-mastery. This is the energy of meditative awareness that views all of life as an opportunity for growth—Life is your teacher. Use the lessons of life as a stepping stone to the top of the temple.

Lovers – Represents the union of male and female energies—the union of heart and mind, inner and outer. It represents to force of attraction between others and the embrace of opposites.

Chariot – Represents changes and growth and the movement to create, achieve, and evolve. The charioteer searches for self-realization.

Balance – Represents balance amidst the dance and continuum of life, between the left and right hemispheres of the mind. Balance is moving lightly with the wind like the flute to blend in with the leaves.

Hermit – Symbolizes the sage who shuts out distractions to complete the spiritual pilgrimage. This energy is about the completion of wholeness and using our work in the material world as a spiritual path to achieve our life purpose.

Fortune – The new physics shows us that all foretelling is never certain. Future projects are only projections. This is the energy of looking at life as opportunity and understanding our consciousness creates our reality.
Artists share their personal mythology with the world.

When we make art, we draw energies from the universal field of archetypes and symbols and our creations bring them back into the material world in a personal and unique from of expression. When I look at or experience the work of other artists, when I see a film, hear music, watch a play, or when I read a piece of literature, I get a view into the artists personal storehouse of symbols and archetypal energies. This enlivens that artist’s energies within me. Sharing art is a way of sharing the depths of our personal mythology and psyche with the world.

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