Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Persephone's Ladder

This is a painting that physically forced itself out of me in a most vehement and violent manner.  On occasion I feel that certain paintings rise up from deep in my psyche and use me as a vehicle to express themselves. I had nothing to do with this painting other than to let it pass through me onto the canvas, a painful experience. It now sits in the corner humming and buzzing with vibrations that are filling the studio and informing new ways of being with paint and canvas.

Persephone's Ladder / 60" x 40" / acrylic on canvas
I don't dare attempt to articulate what is happening in this piece but I came across this conclusion of a 15 page academic paper by Bonnie Bright which is a glimpse into some of what I have been experiencing psychically lately....

"In spite of our current collective cultural crisis, Jung inferred that the loss of instinct, the loss of soul, which is the root of our pathology, can be restored through reconnection with the sacred aspects of the natural and imaginal worlds. Darkness is an aspect of nature. In our descent to reconnect with our roots in wild nature, the deep levels of the psyche, like bees that are lost from the hive, we may encounter destruction, violence, devouring forces, dismemberment, death, and decay. We may battle dark forces, pit our strength against demons, gatekeepers, and those who seek to destroy instead of create. We may navigate unknown territory, dark waters, and close, tight spaces. We may even enter in that impenetrable dark night of the soul where all hope seems lost. But Jung urged us to look for the seed in the darkness that will come to fruition and light, stating, “a civilization does not decay, it regenerates” (as cited in Sabini, 2005, p. 183).
The hive is being dismembered through the loss of the bees, it behooves us to understand that dismemberment is the first act of initiation. What is broken into pieces can be re-membered and begun anew like the initiate who emerges as a powerful shaman. It is possible, through the process of descent to reconnect with the sacred earth, to restore our souls to their rightful wholeness, both individually and as a culture. By re-membering our roots in the sacred, by re- establishing right relations with nature and the imaginal, we renew our trust in the power of soul to help us find our way home."

This resonates with what I felt on a deep, intuitive level. The process of making this painting was excruciating and as I lay sobbing on the floor in front of it, I "saw" the ladder. Without hesitation, I grabbed for a chunk of charcoal and scrawled it in as a lifeline out of that hell that was burning inside and all around me...that imaginal ladder allowed for hope to enter into the painting and I knew I would make it out.

6 comments:

Annie B said...

So powerful. I'm doing some research right now about GLBT people who have been killed because of their sexual orientation and I feel like I'm roaming in hell-realms. I really resonate with the piece you quoted and with this work.

spiritinthesky49 said...

This is such a powerful piece! My god, you are such a prolific artist. You are such an inspiration!

Holly Friesen said...

Oh Annie, it takes such tremendous courage to tread through these hell-realms and I can only imagine some of what you must be experiencing by consciously choosing to be aware of all that needless suffering. I have been reading and researching the history around differet First Nations groups, in sympathy with the Idle (K)no(W) More movement. I have discovered shameful atrocities that are almost unbearable to read, never mind to have lived through. It is these unconscious human acts of cruelty and ignorance that I honestly believe is felt right in the earth itself and by ignoring or burying this pain we all suffer for it. These stories need to come out from the darkness and be fully exposed to the light of consciousness.

Maureen said...

This is so stunning and forceful a painting, so full of rich symbolism; the ladder, to my mind, being the most important element in the work, what gives the work its extraordinary power. I'm struck by how many narratives the painting claims every time I look at it, and I never tire of looking at it.



Annie B said...

Here's to courage, and here's to darkness, which is part of nature and surely must be part of light. Thank you for your light, and for your witnessing, and for your art.

Holly Friesen said...

Thanks, Maureen. Yes, that ladder seems to resolve the unbearable tension of the piece simply by existing. I too, am amazed at how many narratives have been derived from this piece by different viewers. I am always fascinated how painting leads me down new and undiscovered pathways if I allow myself to surrenter to it's lead.