ESSAY SEVENTEEN – THE ARTIST’S SOUL
The Caloosa, a civilization exterminated by the Spaniards three hundred years ago inhabited the Southern part of Florida in the heart of what is now called The Everglades. Only recently, archeologists have started to uncover their culture and gain some understanding of what they were like.
There is evidence that they believed that we did not have a single soul, but that we had three separate souls. To the Caloosa, the First Soul is our eye, looking out at the world, the Second Soul is the shadow we cast upon the Earth as we pass along, and the Third Soul is our reflection, such as looking down into the water. The more I think about this, the more it seems to be a very evocative description of the soul of the artist. While we may never know the specifics of how the Caloosa incorporated this into their daily and spiritual life, I am drawn to its application for the artist.
If the eye is the first soul to the Caloosa, it is equally important to the artist. Our eye is our primary means of sensory input, and it bombards our mind and brain with constant stimulus. Unfortunately, it is this “always on” aspect that often causes us difficulties as artists. We see so much, that in order to make sense of the world – to allow ourselves to concentrate and focus – we narrow our focus and look but do not see. We selectively “filter out” what we don’t feel we need, and consequently, much that is out there never enters our inner mind and awareness. We may call this discrimination but it is the rare adult who is capable of looking upon a scene with fresh and non-judgmental vision. If we wish to be an artist, we must train our eye to see as we did as a child, unencumbered by our preconceptions, so that we can witness wonder, once again.
As we walk the Earth and meet new people, do new things, and interact with life, we always cast our shadow. Unlike our physical body, which has mass, energy, and substance, our shadow is a more nebulous aspect of self. Certainly, it is present in all that we do, but it “casts a shadow” on those experiences, and can make them less than what they are. While the eye may see too much, our shadow, obscures, conceals, and beclouds that which may give us greater understanding to our life. We should never allow our presence to obscure the world we pass through – an artist who does not see both herself as well as the world around, has little to portray. As an artist, we must learn to shine the light of our creativity into the dark and gloomy areas we ourselves create. By looking at ourselves fully, both the positive as well as the negative, we start the process of knowing ourselves.
When we view our reflection, it is not our real self we see, but our subjective self. It is you, looking at you. This reflected image is the self of dream, spirituality, fantasy, and alternate reality. It is not surprising that when people talk about moments of revelation or flashes of insight, they also often report that they could see themselves as if they were separate or “out of body.” Perhaps at that moment of self-awareness, one becomes one’s own reflection or third soul. If our shadow is our participant in the making of our history, our reflection is the source of memory. It is how we transform the objective reality of history into the personal and subjective essence of personal memory. History is objective, memory is subjective – as artists, the subjective is critical to our existence.
The next essay will cover some additional ways we can access our creative, subjective memory, and utilize it in our Art Quest. As always, written comments are welcome.