“THE ARK”, 2023…

The theme of an ARK has begun to emerge more recently in my work since opening the gallery in La Conner in the spring of 2021. Themes arise spontaneously in my paintings. I rarely, if ever, consciously intend to paint out a theme. They just happen. I generally only recognize an emerging theme well into a painting or even after the fact. It is not a conscious process. Once two or more paintings with the same theme or symbolic meaning have occurred, I recognize a theme is developing that will continue to express for some time, often for years or even decades.

In art work themes are often expressed symbolically. The symbolic content of a theme provides information about an internal process of development taking place within the individual. This growth process happens beneath the threshold of consciousness. Carl Jung asserted that at the precipice of each new stage of development a symbol emerges in consciousness, within the individual or the collective, through dreams, visions or outer world events that presage the content of the next phase of development. The more relevance and meaning a symbol contains in relation to the human collective, the more that symbol is said to be “archetypal”. An archetypal symbol goes way beyond the concerns of a single individual. An archetypal symbol has universal importance. Thus the appearance of archetypal symbols and themes in art, dreams and visions are of potentially great import in helping us to understand not only what is currently happening, but what is to come as well. Now, one does not have to be a Sherlock Holmes of psychology to understand how potent and universally relevant is the symbol of an ark. The ark is a universal symbol of safe haven during a storm. Literally every recorded culture on earth has a myth of a great global flood. The western Judeo-Christian tradition has the added the component of Noah, a man with advance knowledge of the flood who famously built an ark filled with creatures and everything necessary not only to survive the flood, but to reboot the biosphere after the waters subsided.

As intimidating and contentious as this subject is, interestingly, the arks in my works thus far are all very colorful, whimsical and even playful. There is nothing dark or foreboding about them at all. Quite the contrary. This alone says something very important to me about the kind of internal resources and psychological resilience that is really needed in a current situation.

I will post two other versions of “The Ark” with commentary over the next week or so, so check back. In the meantime I shall leave the discussion here with this question. Should we be afraid of an increasing presence of a literal or symbolic ark in our life? Probably not, because fear is generally not helpful. Should we build an ark, at least metaphorically speaking? Probably…

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