Draw a monster.
Why is it a monster?
– Janice Lee, Daughter
The heart of my work and research delves into personal and societal healing through a combination of artistic exploration, psychological theory, and contemplative practice. When a group or individual feels their identities threatened, violence is often the result. Based on politics, religion, sexuality, gender, or nationality, those who are not Us become demonized. Feelings and beliefs that one cannot accept become disowned and projected shadows. Monsters outside and monsters inside. Ideas surrounding Monstrosity can be a powerful place for creating encounters with the unfamiliar, not just with other people, but also with the alienated parts of ourselves. We share thousands of years of narrative and myth filled with vivid, frightening, chimeric creatures plaguing us with their menace and anger. It’s often overlooked that these characters are themselves victims, created from abuse and violence. What can come from encounters with the authentic emotional reality of Monsters?
Where ‘IT’ was, there shall ‘I’ become.
— Sigmund Freud
In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell examines how we are both the Hero and the Monster that threatens to swallow us.
Jung’s concept of cross-cultural archetypes includes the Shadow, a central facet of identity describing our repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and inner chaos. Unable to accept these denied fragments, they may appear in dreams or visions as demons, dragons, or other dark figures, or may be projected outwards onto others.
The research of Carol Gilligan highlights these outward projections as blocks in the healthy process of widening one’s Circle of Caring – who is considered human, worthy of compassion and respect. By facing a monster (3rd person), talking to it (2nd person), and finally being it (1st person), this disowned fragment is reintegrated – transcended-but-included in the process of ever increasing personal wholeness.
This is exactly what encounters with Monsters have to offer: the opportunity to humanize and connect with others, with the disowned parts within ourselves, and ultimately the chance to become whole.
Since childhood I’ve been faithful to monsters.
I’ve been saved and absolved by them because monsters are the patron saints of our blissful imperfections.
— Guillermo del Toro
I was drawn to mythological and cryptozoological creatures from around the world long before I ever considered why. I was absorbed in drawing at the same early age, and monsters were always favorite subject matter. As my practice matured, rendering detail became a source of meditation and focus for me. While I took formal training in meditation at a Buddhist monastery, monsters remained recurring subject matter in my personal work. I was years into my meditative practice before I saw its direct link with my lifelong drawing practice, each being powerful activities for grounding mindfulness. Since then, I’ve developed and taught my own Drawing as Meditation workshops, leading participants in a process of slowing down and seeing the world around them through the practice of observational sketching. I’m now combining my educational mission’s focus on mindfulness through art with my own work’s focus on the Shadow.
Mindfulness practice is meant to go beyond the zendo. Psychology is meant to go beyond the couch. Art is meant to go beyond the classroom and the studio. ideally, art can involve the wider community in exploring healing, wholeness, and presence through artistic practice.