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The Artist - point-of-view (POV) - a non-manifesto

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The Artist as Hero/Shaman/Lunatic

Functionally, according to Mircea Eliade, [t]he shaman is medicine-man, priest and psychopomp; that is to say, he cures sickness, he directs the communal sacrifices and he escorts the dead to the other world. [Mircea Eliade, "Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries" (1957) P. 87] Further, the tradition of the artist as hero has associated closely with it the idea of the artist as "quite mad". Classic to this image (right or wrong) is that of Van Gogh, cutting off his ear -- long after having threatened to cut his friend, Gauhgan's throat. Indeed as Silvester points out: The figure of the shaman is closely associated with madness. When an initiate becomes a shaman by Eliade’s first method (spontaneous vocation), he “takes the risk of being mistaken for a ‘madman’”. [Eliade, P. 80] The behaviour of someone chosen in this way becomes more and more strange. Such a person “seeks solitude, becomes a dreamer, loves to wander in woods or desert places, has visions, sings in his sleep, etc.” [Eliade, P. 75 – as quoted by Mary Nicole Silvester (2006), "The Artist as Shaman: Madness, Shapechanging, and Art in Terri Windling's 'The Wood Wife' "] In this casting the image of Jackson Pollock readily comes to mind especially by Krasner's comment that when they were walking in the forest did Jackson seem most at piece. I would go so far as to say that in that non-judgmental and natural environment that Pollock's personal demons were at their most subdued. Finally, we should briefly note the various formal roles of the various types of shaman. These include shaman as intercessor, redeemer, diviner, shaman, etc. In role of intercessor, the guide puts themself between the person and the forces at work. As diviner, the guide determines the nature of the problems besetting the person. And as healer, they effect a change to "cure" the condition. I have of course over-simplified the complex nature of what we will deal with as shamanistic activities. There are naturally, differing scales and scopes of the person/village/world/universe that the actions of the shaman affect.

Ritual: Redux

As artists one of the primary rites of passage that we go through is that of training and learning the materials of art, etc. For the most part, this is the “watch and ask” method. An important aspect is look at various artist’s works and to make copies and studies of them. As such the liminal state is clearly that of entering into the art lab and beginning to acquire the skills that particular teacher can embue to us. In the same way that various shamans, healers, diviners, or elders will have their own areas knowledge, our teachers are of any stripes; eg, figurative, abstract, sculptural, diagrammatic/graphic, etc. And in that *liminal* state there is a sense of communitas – but, always a sense of competition: Especially when it comes to juried shows. This would run parallel to competitions for feats of strength in a tribal situation, but again the health of the community as a whole is the essential difference between that of the artists and their various cliques. But, of course, the "story" that we tell as artists has the full range of possibilites - from fantasy to surgeon's texts on brain surgery, and everything in between. If the range of the WORK is in a realm of all things such as "recruitment poster", "novel cover-art", "pictures of the king", "police suspect sketches", "sketches of one artist by another", "photographs of a woman and her children", "of...." then the range of the artist as producer of the thing observed literally has at its base some odd psychological, physiological, and even biological drive that has existed since (perhaps) even before we attained the capacity of speech. ... that?