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Article: The Intersection of Abstract Expressionism and Ancient Ritual

The Intersection of Abstract Expressionism and Ancient Ritual

The Intersection of Abstract Expressionism and Ancient Ritual

Since the dawn of time, humans have felt the need to communicate and express themselves in a visual fashion. Cave paintings, the Venus of Willendorf, even the written languages - all forms of art. Some may think contemporary art more esoteric and enigmatic than its ancient ancestors, but it is no more or less important, simply another iteration of art in the undulating landscape of history.

While the very definition of contemporary art holds that it is created in the present era, we as humans hold layers of ancient history within our bones, handed down by our ancestors. Some of us find comfort in the glitzy, modern, tech-focused way of living; others in a more grounded approach, closer to the earth and her cycles.

Personally, I find myself straddling two worlds. Creating ritual out of painting, infusing my contemporary paintings with an ancient spirit. Hidden within my paintings are universal feelings of loss, grief, hope, and love. Freyja's war cry and Skaði's vision of a mountainous landscape. And sometimes, simply the beautiful colors from my late spring garden.

And yet, at times, it feels as though my work is just what it seems on the surface: smears of paint on a canvas. But I have to remind myself that I don’t always have to be conscious of a piece’s meaning in the moment, sometimes the meaning will come later. Sometimes the meaning will pour out of me in the middle. Or sometimes, it will even come to me before I even put brush to canvas.

What I mean to say is that not everything is as it seems. Especially with abstract art, 100 people can see a piece of art and interpret it in 100 different ways. That’s part of the beauty of it for me, the ambiguity.

And although nine times out of ten, I have my own personal connection to each painting I create and ascribe my own meaning to it, that doesn’t negate the connection and meaning that you feel, as the viewer. The piece will shift and mold itself to you, as everchanging as the sky.

But while the end result may be viewable by others, and something that you, as a collector, can purchase and hang in your space, the painting has lived an entirely different life before it is shared with you.

Stepping into my studio, turning on music, lighting a candle or incense, putting on my apron, tying my hair back. Assembling the interior frame by hand, cutting the linen, stretching, and stapling - my fingers sore from the effort. One layer of gesso, sometimes two. Selecting colors, mixing them on my palette, adding water, selecting brushes.

Adding one layer of paint, then another. Switching colors, changing brushes. My hands and mind and soul working together like a symphony.

Making something out of nothing. Taking something that was previously floating around in the eather and bringing it to life here in the physical world. It’s one of the most amazing feelings as an artist.

And while it may not seem like it on the surface, each step is infused with intention, reverence, and spirit. I’m not religious in the traditional Western sense, nor am I making a sacrifice to an ancient god in a faraway land. But this ritual of painting, of connecting to creativity in such an intimate way? It’s my version of that. My way of communing with something larger than myself. It centers me, keeps me whole, keeps me grounded.

It keeps me dreaming.

And, in the end, I guess that’s what I hope for my work after it leaves my hands - that it helps you dream a little, too.



Until next time,
Sara

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