She was an artist who left the Big Island because the art scene here was too shallow for her liking. Unless she was going to paint turtles and trees and red, oozing lava flows, her art would not sell well here. Her art was more of an unconscious expression, more personal than that. She moved back to the mainland, to the big city scene where the art of the unconscious was more appreciated.
What is artwork? Where does it come from? What is it expressing? If one is living consciously, art takes on a different work than unconscious artworks. When the artist remains in the dark about its origin–herself–artwork from the unconscious feels like a sacred mystery. The talent may come from genetics, technique, from schooling or ignoring schooling; the imagery may come from the personal unconscious and/or the collective; but the passion to hone all of that and commit it to a physical medium comes from confusion.
Just as not all animals are amakua, not all events are synchronicities, and not all people are wholly Spirit-alive, not all art is sacred. But some is and you know it when you see it. You know it when you experience the depths of it touching your core. What is the sacred spark that lights certain creations, but not all, when all are of that light?
Not all ideas work all the time; not all prayer works all the time; not all experts get it right all the time; not every day comes the next event that transforms a person, a nation, a world. Our lives, our world, are pockmarked with flashes of Spirit-alive genius, heart actions, and events that allude to Spirit as a fact and a force transcending and including us. Pockmarked, because we are not Spirit-alive. We are self-alive, treating Spirit as an Other that comes and goes, if at all. The touch of Spirit is a hole in time. Time is a barrier; time is the self.
The sense of the sacred, the aliveness of the sacred, is us once removed talking to ourselves, filling us with the wonder and the mystery and the sense of home that we are, but that we hold at bay, as a connection to higher power, so that we can remain as we are: identified and ranked. The sacred may keep us humble, but we keep us in need of humbling. We keep us partial and apart and in awe of that which is also us speaking through our layers of denial, our trap of time.
The sacred is timeless Spirit speaking as if through creations and events here and there because that is how we perceive through time. When the sacred comes through animals it feels like relationship. When it comes through place it feels like coexistence. When it comes through ritual it feels like we built toward it, perhaps with mutual understanding or directive from “the other side.” And when it comes from our own hand as an artist, it feels either humbling or special, like we’re chosen, depending on our disposition.
All of that is rare now. Mainly, we live in the shadows of what others experienced and made, so some of us define all artwork as sacred—or at least all artwork with depth. Often, however, that depth is personal and being misidentified as transpersonal. And often, however, the transpersonal is tapping into the collective unconscious, which is mistaken for that which transcends and includes all.
If an artist has touched something sacred, the artist has not touched Truth. No one can. The experience “of” Truth is always at least once-removed. Literalist artistic expression and that which contains metaphor, and conjures feeling through archetypal imagery, share the same depth where Truth is concerned. The artist painting sea turtles isn’t concerned with this at all. The other artist believes she is touching a much deeper truth. Both are painting themselves. And customers are buy themselves.
Ours is an economy of reflection.