Remembering Our Selves through Art

Remembering Our Selves through Art

by Sydney Francis, MFA-IA

When I first earned my Bachelor’s degree, I was enamored of psychology, psychoanalysis and postmodern theory.  I was particularly interested in a concept called the psyche-soma split, the perceived divide between our mind/spirit/emotions and our body.  According to psychoanalysis, the psyche-soma split causes a lot of misery and discomfort in life due to the perceived bodily disconnect  from a feeling of oneness and wholeness. In theory, we are born from a state of perceived oneness and as we go through the necessary phases of individuation in life we increasingly feel disconnected and alienated from “the other.” (An interesting read on this subject is Morris Berman’s book, Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West.)

According to Jacques Lacan, one of my favorite psychoanalytic theorists, the disconnect becomes psychologically fixed with “The Mirror Stage”.  The Mirror Stage happens around 2-3 years old when we as children start to recognize ourselves as separate individuals. Symbolically, we see ourselves in the mirror and start the process of recognition that we are separate and disconnected from our caregivers and the world around us.  

"The Mirror Stage", oil on canvas, by Sydney Francis

"The Mirror Stage", oil on canvas, by Sydney Francis

The first part of this individuation process is that we start to think of ourselves as the person we see in the mirror-- a figure Lacan called the imago,  But we are not actually the person we see in the mirror.  Psychologically speaking, we are more than our mirror image, we are bodily sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts and spirit, beyond a mere image of ourselves. The imago or self-image is like seeing ourselves through a filter which does not allow for a complete somatic-psychological totality of ourselves.  In today’s lingo the mirror image or imago is an avatar of who we really are. We are not our mirror image, although in a disconnected way we often think of ourselves that way.

In terms of our psychological development, the individuation process initiated by the mirror stage is necessary and desirable. However, as we develop our sense of self and further individuate the perceived alone-ness and sense of separation increases.

Acrylic on Canvas by Sydney Francis

Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas by Sydney Francis

In 1996, I went back to school to get a Master’s Degree. My secret hope was to find a cure for the psyche-soma split through art.  Although, I could not have articulated it that clearly at the time. I studied psychology, psychoanalysis and spirituality and art for several years, primarily concluding that the body, mind, emotions and spirit are connected.  A good example of this psyche-soma connection is when we feel anxious we associate the feelings with a stomach ache.

One of the ideas I proposed in my MFA-IA thesis was that if we further expand on our personal individuation processes into adulthood, through self-reflexive work, journalling, mediation, or mindfulness, we will eventually be led back to a connection with our higher selves and a new sense of oneness. In addition, what I have learned from teaching art over the last 20 years is that creativity is one way to connect to the source, to the feeling of oneness, to a sense of something larger than ourselves.  

"The Eve of I", watercolor, by Sydney Francis

"The Eve of I", watercolor by Sydney Francis

There is also a shortcut to feeling reconnected to feelings of wholeness.  The short cut is through Right Brain work, in particular learning to draw from the Right Brain (pioneered by Betty Edwards in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.)  I have written about this several times in the Stay Inspired Blog (The Joy of Seeing and How to Get Inspired and Stay Inspired Part I).   

Right brain drawing works and here is why:  The right brain perceives things holistically; in makes connections; it thinks globally.  So when you take the time to do right brain drawing, you are spending time in a connected and holistic mental space.  And this shift of thinking, allows you to experience a different reality than what your linear, time-based, analytical left-brain is leading you to perceive and experience.

"Front Porch", acrylic ink by Scott Moore

"Front Porch", acrylic ink by Scott Moore

The more time you spend in your holistic right brain, the more you will perceive and experience the connections.  Because that is what the intuitive, non-temporal right brain does.

So if you are feeling disconnected from the larger whole, take up some right brain drawing.  It will help you connect with an intuitive, non-temporal, holistic experience that will spiritually nourish and revitalize you.

"Peaks Aura", watercolor by Sydney Francis

"Peak's Aura," watercolor by Sydney Francis

“Your body adapts to what you eat. Your mind adapts to what you consume. Your soul adapts to what you love.”

“What you feed yourself today is who you become tomorrow.”

-James Clear

0 comments

Write a comment