“First one seeks to become an artist by training the hand. Then one finds it is the eye that needs improving. Later one learns it is the mind that wants developing, only to find that the ultimate quest of the artist is in the spirit.” Larry Brullo
Are you creative in any way? Do you feel a need to express your creativity? How do you express it? How does this connect to your spirituality?
Creativity is not a simple subject. In this time when rationality is still valued in the dominant culture, the non-physical aspects of creativity and spirituality are not always considered important. In this country, arts programs are the first to be cut in the public schools despite numerous studies that indicate how artistic activity is significantly valuable to the development of young minds.
The Spiritual and Creative Are One
Despite that, the creative and the spiritual often intermingle, for they both come from an internal, non-physical connection. On the non-physical level, I cannot tell them apart for they both seem to come from an inner knowing. The idea for a poem appears any time of the day or night and is streamed to me from an inner source. It flows onto the paper. I do not think about it initially. I may edit it later, deciding what to keep, but I never interfere with the original flow.
As Julia Cameron says, “Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control.” We have to trust that inner part of ourselves. Not only does creating require faith, but it requires us to experiment, to play, and to explore the unknown. Even the most realistic painting is not just a pastoral scene, it is also the reflection of the artist’s vision and skill.
Recently, I attended the Marsha Powell Festival of Religion and the Arts at VCU in Richmond, Virginia. I spent three days immersed in lectures and activities including a wide range of artistic expression and theory on how art and spirituality are intertwined in various settings and in the artistic mind.
Understanding the Creative Mind
My husband Charles Davidson, a Van Gogh scholar, was on the first panel along with Cliff Edwards, another Van Gogh scholar, and Laura Kreiselmaier whose presentation was on the concept of transliminality in art. They provided a fascinating look at Van Gogh.
Anyone who has read about Van Gogh knows that he had a volatile temperament, so the concept of transliminality that Laura introduced was intriguing. Transliminality is the tendency for thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations, images, ideas and intuitions to move in and out of one’s consciousness. This happens more frequently with artistic people than with those who are not, and it certainly describes my experience with art.
Artists Awaken to Spiritual Creativity
Because I spent many years as a modern dancer and choreographer, it is virtually impossible for me to hear music without dance images coming into mind. A part of me always wants to move to music and so my mind does the choreography even when I’m sitting still. I also feel a sensual response to any music I find pleasurable.
Speaking about her art, Georgia O’Keefe said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—the things I had no words for.” So what was the source of this knowing? How did she or any artist know what color or shape to use?
Certainly training contributes to an artist’s expression, but there is a deeper, spiritual source that also guides what is created. Vincent Van Gogh was a deeply spiritual man. At one point he even wanted to be a minister. This intertwining of spirituality and art is deeply explored in Charles Davidson’s wonderful book Bone Dead and Rising: Vincent Van Gogh and the Self Before God.
The Spiritual Dimension Awakens Art
Van Gogh’s paintings are vibrant and alive with energy and light, especially the flowers and landscapes. The artist clearly sees more than what the average person sees. His pictures tell us about what he feels when he looks at the scene, person, or object. Because he is so intently connected to nature and sees beyond the surface of life, he offers us more than what we see, he pictures a spiritual dimension as well.
What was so wonderful about the conference I attended was that I saw many ways that artists are touched by their religious and spiritual awareness. One artist, Ernesto Pujol, creates silent performances in public places, recognizing that our endless chatter and doing distracts us from our spiritual and creative centers deep within. His work was inspired by Buddhist mindfulness.
Fleming Jeffries’ sees drawing as a way to slow the mind and get in touch with the unconscious. Much of her art is about connecting deeply with nature or her environment. Currently living in Qatar, she must navigate with empathy the complexities of living and creating art as a non-Muslim woman in a Muslim society.
In a world that is still so attached to rational thinking, we need to develop our creativity, in whatever area suits us, in order to develop our whole selves. One does not have to be an artist to be creative. Business people, technicians, doctors, teachers and all people have opportunities that arise where they have to use creative thinking to solve a problem.
But it is perhaps art—dance, visual, theater, or music—that touches our hearts most deeply and is a place where we can all experience the Divine and our own spiritual creativity.
© 2015 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5
Related Articles: Transliminality, Awakening to Wildness: One With Nature, The Relationship Between Spirituality and Artistic Expression: Cultivating the Capacity for Imagining