In his groundbreaking work on the concept of the ‘shadow’, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung is quoted as saying: “In order to experience one’s light (i.e. the full realization of one’s potential) it is necessary to journey through one’s darkness.”
My creative path has led me ‘underground’, to the subterranean levels of human experience that are rooted deeply in the unconscious. Going into my personal ‘darkness’ is not, as one might imagine, a frightening experience. It is rather a remarkable adventure that has underscored the fact of how complex the human psyche is and how little we truly understand ourselves.
As my process takes me down into interior regions of the Self, my mission is not to meet and slay the metaphorical dragon (as in the case of the ‘hero’s journey’ in myths and fairy tales) that rules the underworld-- but to make a friend and ally of this fierce and loathsome creature. As the German poet Rilke has written:
“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses only waiting to see us once, beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something something that needs our love.”
To see and experience my work as it is meant to be seen and experienced, one must be prepared to look into one’s own personal darkness or ‘shadow.’ For until we are ready to explore the total blueprint of the human experience, not just the ‘tip of the iceberg' that represents our conscious self, the unconscious will continue to be the ‘enemy’ that represents a dangerous and forbidding terrain.
We exist in a culture that surrounds us with strident philosophies, concepts, and theories; intellectual pretentions and verbal overkill. Although the written and spoken word is the main source of communication in civilized society--energy coming from the mouth or pen is often used as a ‘weapon’, capable of ripping one apart with callous and cruel intent. I became an artist because of an incessant ‘voice’ inside of me that demanded to be heard--captive of an internal energy that could never be expressed in words.
Through a series of intense dreams and inner experiences, I came to the realization that inherent in each of us lay ‘buried treasures’ hidden deep within our unconscious (“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasures that you seek”….Joseph Campbell). It was impossible for me to access these ‘treasures’ through any form of intellectual process. I had to drop below the neck, into my heart and belly--into the quiet and darkness of the unconscious.
The great Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, in proposing the concept of the ‘Shadow’, has said that “in order to reach the light one must first journey through one’s darkness”. Awaiting me on this memorable journey was the gift of symbolic language--the ‘language’ of creative expression. My sculpture and painting represent the ‘artifacts’ that I have come upon in this journey through my darkness--’artifacts’ that allow me to comprehend myself and the human condition in a profound manner that transcends verbal description.
“No one has ever written or painted or sculpted or composed a piece of music except to get out of hell.” --- Antonin Artaud
The cloud of darkness cast by individual and collective madness can be seen and experienced as a projection onto every level of contemporary society. When viewed from this perspective--as a prevailing cultural condition--the term ‘madness’ can no longer be simply consigned to that category of disturbed individuals who bear the stigmata of a psychologically diagnosed illness.
In his book, The Politics of Experience, psychiatrist R.D. Laing presents a chilling profile of what constitutes the so-called “normal” man in our society:
“In the society of men the truth resides now less in what things are than in what they are not. Our social realities are so ugly if seen in the light of exiled truth and beauty is almost no longer possible if it is not a lie. Given the conditions of contemporary civilization, how can one claim the ‘normal’ man is sane? The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind is the condition of ‘normal’ man.”
Cultural conditioning has successfully buried or disowned the unconscious as representing a vital part of our perception, our experience, our very being. In our society where the cultural icons of the intellect, technology and materialism reign supreme (each having its roots in the conscious mind), the unconscious is perceived as a dark, unknown, fearful region. Because of this perception, creative expression which has its source in the unconscious has suffered on both the individual and collective level. Creativity is an inborn, essential energy that is necessary for the survival of our physical, emotional and spiritual body. We are born with the instinct to create and yet, in our culture, this instinct is left to shrivel and die. A vital part of our education--not only for artists but for all who are alive--is the integration of our conscious awareness with our unconscious--opening up channels for intuitive, symbolic expression.
The “Shadow” is an extension of our unconscious which represents our hidden, unexpressed potential--that potential energy which fuels our creative gifts. The “Shadow” speaks in symbolic language--a language that bypasses the spoken word; a language that is primal, chaotic and uncompromising! Symbolic language challenges the cultural bias toward the intellect, and its need to explain, analyze, dissect, and control.
“The gesture that divides madness from reason constitutes itself a form of madness because this act of separation cuts across the essential unity of Man. At present there is no common language between the sane and the mad. Exchange has broken down and the language of psychiatry, which is a monologue of reason about madness, has been established on the basis of such a silence.” ---The Age of Reason by Michael Foucalt
If the artist has a healthy, ongoing relationship with his “Shadow”, his work will challenge the prevailing morals, truths, definitions and icons that embody the cultural machine. He gives up conscious control and is willing to venture into unfamiliar territory. He recognizes the necessity to listen to interior forms of guidance instead of voices from the outside world.
“For the function of art, when it is effective, is to give us a chance to break with old habits and loose the shackles of “reasonable” social behavior, the better to retreat down dark passageways and rejoin the part of ourselves which moves toward us with a savage laugh.”---The Outsider by Roger Cardinal
If creativity is an essential ingredient for healing body, mind and spirit, then acknowledgement of the “Shadow” as part of the equation for healing must be considered. It is ironic that so many people are ready to explore far-off, foreign lands--even outer space. Yet when faced with the opportunity, perhaps the necessity of ‘exploring’ our inner regions, our “inner space” (a space as vast as our universe) this ‘journey’ is dismissed, forgotten, denied. It would seem that to acknowledge and understand the totality of our being our task will be to light a candle in that darkness.
Please contact Tom using the Contact button to discuss purchasing any of the sculptures or paintings you see.
"Alas for those who cannot sing but die with all their music inside them."
This is a hands-on, clay sculpture workshop, that utilizes a variety of exercises designed to overcome fears centered around one's creative potential.
Participants will be guided in accessing their unique creative gifts and encouraged to embrace their 'demons' in a challenging yet safe and supportive environment.
Each particpant will create a series of small, 3-dimensional sculptures by hand that will embody level of energy that are typically unavailable in our conscious lives. No prior experience in any form of art is necessary. The only requirement is that one must step through the doorway of the workshop and be PRESENT>
If you would like to sponsor a workshop, please contact Tom directly.
Workshops can be made available in the San Francisco Bay area, the Monterey Bay area, the South Bay,
and the Los Angeles area.