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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Understanding Art Psych - The Psychology of The Revenant Cycle

There is truly a psychological component to art. Art creates emotion. Certain art can make us cry, make us laugh, make us angry. Some art does so intentionally. Other times its our life situation which causes it. Even a pastoral scene of a quiet valley with a bubbling brook can evoke memories that we may cherish or we may despise.

A good artist isn't always consciously aware that they are creating emotions. Its just part of their makeup. Some are aware of it though and can use psychology almost in the same way they use blends on paint. They know just where and how to make it work.

Once a very long time ago it was my intention to become a psychologist. I studied it, explored it and trained with the intentions some day of taking on that title. While I never completed that goal (thank goodness), I've always actively used the tools I discovered in those days. In fact its such a part of me now that I don't even realize most of the time that I am doing so.

As an artist, I find I am often exactly the psychologist I wished to be when I was young. It amuses me I had to come full circle to arrive back where I began.

I never would have made a good psychologist though. I would have become bored quickly and ended up telling my clients what I really thought instead of using tact and skill. But I would like to think I am a kick ass psychology within the bounds of my art.

The Revenant Cycle is psychological on so many levels that its hard for me to even grasp them all. For those not familiar, the Revenant Cycle is series of images that revolve around lost spirits. Using a combination of photography, specially created art, body painted models and digital imagery I've tried to bring about a story in images that tells the tale of some of these lost souls. 

To date there are four visions of the Revenants, each portrayed by a different model. 

So as you can tell there is a high level of psychology that pervades the subject matter itself. But there are other levels to this that are harder to describe. The models themselves have become part of the psychology of the images. 

Here I go back to my roots as a psychologist. Without even realizing it at first, I was interviewing potential models and choosing them based on their psychology, not just how they might look. I had not taken note of it consciously until the third session when I suddenly realized in the imagery, I was looking at the inner psyche of the model. This particular model was deeply troubled and facing some challenges in life that might well end his life as he knew it. This was the image where I suddenly realized what I was doing.

I had literally named this piece for what he was going through without even being aware that I had done so. It startled me when I realized it. 

Then I took pause to reevaluate the previous sessions and saw that I had been doing the same with each one. While I cannot share the intimate details of each of these peoples lives, I noted that each was going through some very specific things and that had translated into the final art. 

I have to admit that I almost shut it down at that point. I felt in a way like I had laid their souls open and did not have a right to do so. Then I looked closer and realized that each of these men was honest with me about who they were even if they had not said so in as many words and they had seen and each of the final images in turn and had accepted them. So I needed to accept them also. 

But when session #4 came along my eyes were a little more open and I realized that this was part of the reason for this series and I moved on and will continue to do so, allowing fate to bring me into contact with the models I am meant to meet. 

As a point of fact I've interviewed well over 30 potential models now for this series and only these four so far have come full circle and become art. I think there is probably a reason for that that I will not analyze at this time. 

Now another effect that I've noticed from this is within myself. I've come away from each of these sessions weary in a way that I've not often encountered. In fact with session #4 I've been so mentally and physically tired that I slept for almost three days after it. In retrospect I can see this mental and physical exhaustion in all four sessions, but this last has been the hardest. Perhaps its because I am more consciously aware of what is occurring than in the previous three. I am really not sure. But it is surely a fact that while art can be tiring, this has strained me physically in a way that few other pieces of art have done.

So I ask myself a series of questions. Should I stop the series at this point? Should I just chalk it up to experience and move on? Should I consider its all in my head and I'm the one with the real psychological problems? Should I be concerned with the way people are interpreting the work even without knowing these aspects of it? Should I change my methods? Is this harmful in any way?

I am not sure there are any decent answers to these questions. But I think as an artist they are valid things to think about and to share with other artists.

One of the points of this blog is to not only share ideas and concepts but also to share concerns that this artist has and to hopefully allow for insight. I encourage those who have not seen the final images for this series to take a look and comment as you will. Keep in mind that Revenant #4 is still in process and will take me another week or so (at the time of writing this blog entry) to complete.


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