Carol Spicuzza

C.G.Jung tells us that each period in history has its sacred myth and that these myths evolve over the millennia. The myth forever transforms, as it must, to reflect our ever-changing psychic needs. According to Jung a new sacred myth is in the process of evolving and is inextricably bound to the process of individuation. As some artists work intimately with the unconscious, they are in a unique position to be the first to perceive these new trends within the psyche. My paintings are a documentation of these trends as presented to me from the unconscious. Of course, the images are colored by the lens through which they are seen, this lens being the individual artist. Only by their effect on the viewer can the value and clarity of this lens be determined.

“Art is the spiritual counterpart of the evolutionary process. It helps the cultural mind evolve. It wants to serve cultural consciousness by impacting it. Creative energy isn’t just for the artist but is working through the artist and demanding access to the culture.” -- Gary Sparks, Jungian analyst

Carl Jung defines spirit as that factor which creates images in the inner field of vision and organizes them into a meaningful order. Each ensuing image is a progression and development. This is the action of the spirit. Thus the spirit leads you somewhere.

It is the artist’s task to release these images that lie deep within the psyche and express them in a way that speaks to and can be accepted by the viewer. The artist endures the primordial fire of the creative process and, in so doing, endeavors to allow others access to an understanding of the spirit of the age in which they live. In every age there is an unknown aspect of the spirit waiting to be discovered. By sharing his or her experience of the spirit, the artist provides a point of departure and recognition for those who, willingly or unwillingly, are encountering the spiritual world. This recognition can be essential, especially for those who are not contained within a church or dogma.

These paintings are created over the course of many months of receptivity to the inner world. Therefore, the images that are received cannot be considered mere fantasy but are the depiction of actual processes occurring within the psyche. These processes have their own timetable that cannot be dictated by the artist. They also have a goal—to be incorporated into the life of the artist and, perhaps also, the viewer.

My main faculty of orientation to the world is intuition and this intuition is central to my creative process. I do not approach my subjects; they approach me. This occurs in four basic ways: dreams, numinous experience of the object, suggestions from the inner voice and spontaneous visualization.

The concept for an image usually begins with a dream or a numinous experience of the object. The numinous experience can be described as a feeling of being transfixed by an object. The object seems to exude an aura of meaning and existence beyond its apparent worldly one. A vital connection to the object is felt that belies its mundane reality. There is a feeling of being caught in an electrical current, an energy that would convey the significance of the object in the form of a feeling, a knowing of the heart, not the head.

My state of mind is essential to the process. The object is never looked at directly, in a seeing way but is looked at in an indirect way, perhaps best described as gazing at a thing without seeing it. I suspend the intellect and accept the reality of the unseen, remaining in a state of suspension where I do not distinguish between what we think of as the real and the unreal, the seen and the unseen. Every fantasy is given the dignity of an object. Through the suspension of the intellect I attempt to maintain a state of receptivity in order that the unconscious can come in and guide me. Upon confronting the object, my eye turns inward to experience the response of the unconscious, to intuit where the thing has come from, where it is going and what wants to be associated with it. In primitive cultures this sort of experience was attributed to the "magical" qualities of the object. It was as though the object spoke to them.

The other two ways in which a subject approaches me - suggestions from the inner voice and spontaneous visualization - usually occur as the work is in progress. To best illustrate the dynamics of these four basic elements of my creative process, I will describe the creation of The Sower. The Sower began with a dream: Small white seeds are arriving in my mouth. Should I eat them or let them out? They have a paradoxical nature - they are the seeds of the seedless watermelon. They are arriving from visuddha, the throat chakra. I envision the seeds coming out of my mouth by their own power.

I kept the dream always in the back of my mind, a kind of gentle holding on to the idea without concentrating on it directly so that the quiet voice of the unconscious could make itself heard and guide my attention to the elements that wanted to be included in the painting. Next the numinous experience of the object came into play. A child's painting of someone planting a seed transfixed me. Because of the naïve and incorrect perspective of the painting, the arm of the figure seemed to be below the level of the earth. This was the concept that began my composition - a seed is being planted far inside the earth, on bedrock. The inner voice suggested that the figure planting the seed should be green. The red rocks of the painting came from a second numinous experience of the object. I saw this kind of rocks in a book and felt the electric current, the signal from the unconscious that they wanted to be included in the painting. As I was planning the composition of the rocks, the bear insinuated itself in the form of the opening behind the figure. This was the first spontaneous visualization. After painting the green figure, the factor of spontaneous visualization came into play again as, in my minds eye, the hair took on the characteristics of a tree's foliage and roots began to reach downward. I added these elements to the painting also.

With this final addition the painting felt complete. From a combination of seemingly unrelated things, the painting arose as one thing. It speaks to an unseen relationship among the objects and conveys an unseen truth that speaks of a larger truth. Such an expression cannot be arrived at by reason but only by way of receptivity to the unseen. It is an irrational process that relies on a relationship to the unconscious. One must be creative and receptive at the same time, a process by which something that is not wholly understandable is conveyed.

But my creative process does not end there. I then use the inner voice to guide me to relevant texts in analytical psychology. Jung prompts us to first create and then to try to understand our creations. This means exploring the symbolic meaning of the work. But why? The answer is made clear in Jung's definition of the spirit. He tells us that spirit is that factor in the inner field of vision that creates images and organizes them into a meaningful order. Each ensuing image is a progression and development. This is the action of the spirit. Thus the spirit is the factor that leads one through life. It is the guide on the path of wholeness. The artist is personally guided through a relationship to the spirit but also, by sharing his or her experience of the spirit with society through art, the artist provides a point of departure and recognition for those who, willingly or unwillingly, are encountering the spiritual world. In this way the artist allows the spirit access to the shaping of the culture and offers people the possibility of an understanding of the spirit of the age in which they live.
And where would the spirit lead in regard to The Sower? To this end I look at the painting's possible meaning by turning to Jung and other authors on analytical psychology. In these texts one finds that the paradoxical seed (the seed of the seedless watermelon) of the dream points to the nature of the Self or wholeness. The Self is a union of opposites, the seen and the unseen. The seed comes from visuddha; in visuddha the unseen becomes a reality. The Sower plants the seed on bedrock. Bedrock would be synonymous with the archetypes, which form the bedrock of the psyche. So one could say that our wholeness must be grounded in the archetypal nature of existence. It must reach from the highest to the lowest and encompass the entire spectrum from the spiritual to the instinctual. The rocks in the painting represent the slot canyons of the American southwest. A slot canyon is very deep and narrow. It is formed by runoff from nearby mountains. In my imagination it is a place that is like a cave but open to the sky. The cave represents the spiritual place within where we connect with our wholeness. In the cave we are initiated into the mysteries. To be initiated in a slot canyon might mean to be initiated in a more conscious condition, a condition where one is aware of the paradoxical nature of the Self. The figure herself is green, a symbol of the loving nature that is capable of uniting the opposites. Her head is a tree, which is the symbol of her spiritual development. The tree shows her spiritual development to be rooted in the earth, a symbol for the lowest principle. The figure bends very low, so low that her head touches the earth, a gesture of the humility necessary to accept the very lowest in oneself. She sows the seed of this hoped-for inner union. It is sown under the auspices of the bear, our most ancient symbol of the feminine. The bear is the spirit that connects the past and the present, giving new expression to essential things from the past that must be carried forward. The bear is also our ferocity, our ability to stand true to what we are fighting for.

In this sort of creative play, seemingly unrelated things become connected and their relationship, though immediately felt, becomes clearer through investigation of the historical material. It is through these investigations that the fuller meaning for our spiritual development begins to appear.