The Transformative Power of Art

by | July 22, 2013 | Articles

 by Ashley Beedon

Aurochs, Lascaux Cave paintings (image: public domain)

Aurochs, Lascaux Cave painting (image: public domain)

Throughout my 22 years of life, I can say visual, musical, and literary art have been responsible of the handful of profound experiences I’ve had, which only continue to grow.  This power of art catalyzed my spirituality; it provided me a vocabulary of the profound transformations taking place, realizing art and creativity are not something separate from us. Since a child, I had always found something magical about the arts, it felt alive in a way that nothing else had in my life. I went on a hunt, searching for what I would classify as “good” art, or something that made me feel that exploding passion of emotion inside, something that had that something extra you couldn’t put your finger on, but made you say “Yes! That’s it”.

I never seriously considered art as a profession until I started my first year of college. I was pursuing science, another one of my passions, but something was missing. I had been ignoring this burning creativity within me; I didn’t feel alive anymore. With a great leap of faith, but seeing no way out, I choose to follow this creative path. I began my education with basic artistic training and art history courses. I learned things about art I had never thought of before, how it was a reflection of the effects society had on people’s emotions and experiences. A whole new dimension of history unfolded before my eyes; a new understanding of our reality. However, something was still missing. The way the art was discussed, the original magic and spark I had seen before, wasn’t there, no one acknowledged this. It was when I saw the ancient Sumerian “wide-eyed” temple figures, along with the Lascaux cave paintings that I once again saw a glimmer of this something that can’t be defined. This is where I began my journey through the arts, to discover who I am, and who we are.

The cave paintings at Lascaux: a time before written communication, what inspired these people to express what they saw, what they felt? What changed, what role did this new form of expression and communication play within humanity at this time? I like to think of this as the prime example of what our greatest gift is as human beings. This magic is the ability to create, to take something intangible, and make it tangible: to create something from nothing. This magic experience of taking something internal, making it physical, and being able to share this “something” within us, with others, and have them experience it. This interaction is what connects us, connects us not only to the very energy and creation of life, but to each other as one. The Sumerians depict this with the ancient sculptures of figures having wide eyes; the temple figure, possibly describing their awakening, awakening to themselves. Being able to see for the first time consciously with intelligence, not just for survival, but seeing the potential and power we have to create.

As I developed my knowledge and understanding of the arts, my spiritual experiences grew exponentially. Suddenly I had a means to study tangibly these profound experiences I’ve had but had no means to explain. Principles that lay inside me, some subconsciously, began to emerge as I had words to explain them, and visual examples to compare to. This is why I couldn’t imagine my life without following my creative passions, because I found the art to be paralleled to my own spirituality, and my own existence. Art was offering me a platform for personal transformation, which I wanted to share with others.

I took an Art of India course and it became apparent how important the arts were to not only ancient civilizations, but to Eastern culture. They made this connection between the arts and their spirituality, and understood that they couldn’t be separated. What I realized was lacking within our arts education, was this spiritual connection. This is why I found my art courses to be so unenlightened, because this intrinsic philosophy was forgotten. Art in the western world has been dominated by a commercial society, which caused this authentic aspect of art to slip into the shadows. I like to compare this to the boom of yoga practice because our society is starving for this spiritual connection that has been hidden for too long. Why is no one talking about the otherworldly connection the artist taps into when feeling inspired, or the profound experiences we have while looking at art, listening to music, or watching a performance? These are questions we have to ask ourselves to bring meaning to artistic practice, and the experience of art.

Throughout my studies, I realized I was less interested in the pieces themselves, what techniques they used, comparing styles, etc., but more interested in the artist themselves. What were their experiences growing up, what was going on during their life when they created their art, what was it that they were trying to express. I almost found the artist more interesting than the art itself, because my curiosity was geared around what was the magic they were expressing? Where did it come from? Were there any common factors or experiences between artists and the time their work was created? However, these experiences were not limited to visual art; but were paralleled with music and literature.

Before my interest in visual art, music was the artistic medium that dominated my life, having played piano since I was six. I was asked in High School to write a reflection on an experience of visual art or music that changed me, and how. I instantly thought of J.S. Bach’s “Fantasia in C Minor”, a song that I heard, fell in love with, and learned on piano.

“Intricate ornaments, accidentals, and elaborate trills express the complicity which makes up any brilliant work of art. The notes fall perfectly into places unknown before this enlightenment: a new understanding, an experience of knowledge, and the eternal. A sole essence, elegant and elaborate, heard throughout: an overwhelming awe, perfection. The succession of notes in harmony and unison among veiled passions. Music, a connection of the heart to the mind, has always been apart of my everyday life. Many songs have struck me, but “Fantasia in C Minor” was the most prominent. It awakened myself to my essence, and to God. The song’s emotions, especially the passionate crescendo, lay parallel to those in my own heart. A revelation occurred, that I could hear God. The joy experienced in listening to Bach arose because of an experience of God’s perfection, the perfection of nature, and of us. Bach’s “Fantasia” changed me, it aided me in a discovery, a journey of my hopes and dreams. Its melody reminds me of my striving passion to success, to flourish in creation. I grew a mature appreciation for the arts and other forms of expression. “

Similar to this musical experience was my profound and memorable experience with literary art; for an English homework assignment, we had to analyze the poem “Ulysses”. It was my first experience of the cyclical reality we live in: the infinite circle, the infinite journey; I wrote of the infinite limit of the heart and mind.

 “Neither are restricted by physical boundaries. The capacity of love, ruled by the heart, is immeasurable and unlimited. The mind is also infinite because it is continuously expanding and gaining wisdom. As years increase in numbers, the heart and mind expand. However, time does not exist or affect the heart and mind because they are free and infinite. The physical body grows weak from the journey of life because it is affected by time, yet the heart and mind continue to arch through the infinite path of a circle towards the glimmer of the unknown.”

Around this time, I began discovering my own creative voice while exploring the process of writing poetry. I grew to discover the special gift of words and the magic behind them. The words started to reveal themselves as the “living word”. Each time I would read the poetry, the words would speak something new. This experience was paralleled when studying and enjoying many famous authors’ work, the words were alive through their work. The energy within the work was infinite, timeless, and existed only within the now. This understanding brought about a new level of awareness of this magic I found within the arts. This type of art was apart from space and time. It was not bound by our external, physical world. It came emerging from within, the space the mind and heart live, bringing life through us as we experience the magic within.

When we tap into this pure inner source of creation, we have the ability to communicate this powerful experience of transformation; this is spiritual art. What is so special about art? It is a gift that enters our ordinary experience and gives us magic. This creative force can overtake your life, sweep you away, and fill your soul with passion. It is about dreaming, it is about creating, it is about transforming the world around us through visual art, through the orchestras of resonance, and through the natural rhythm of dance found in each of us.

The Key

By: Ashley Marie Beedon

The words are a catalyst

Jogging my memory to times past

Or the future we go back to

I remember your words

Like no time has past

This space that lasts

An eternity

Weaving an intricate pattern

Back to the same spot

A hole, black in nature

The beginning

Holy is thy name

Letters and numbers

An equation of truth

Leading us back to you

The prophecy you leave

Through many faces,

A thousand

And those voices

Melt away

Bare boned and naked

A child lays

Growing and molding

Our humanity into monsters

Machines of the mind

Tricks and bricks

Building the prison of freedom

The lady of liberty

Did we forget her torch?

Burning with the flames of desire

She holds the light, life

A golden key, the ticket

Across the vast, void, west

A bridge, the journey, the endless experience

Compounding, compiling

more more more

like the sun rising

we are chasing a circle

the tail of gold past

the future of the son

part man part dog

half woman half song

across the golden gate bridge

across the sea and atop the mountain

shines a light, a temple

the tuck everlasting

the water of you

flowing, streaming

bubbling and boiling

it flows downward and upward

slips in your throat

liquid and cool

it warms your toes

the dirt and worms

you step on with your two eyes

did you know those are your four eyes?

Or a thousand eyes

You forgot to open them

You lost touch of them

The water is you

Break down the bridge

It is not made of gold

The gold is under the water

Jump in

Dive in

The water holds the key

The water is the key

The water is the gold

The gold is the light

The light is the home

The home is you

You are the home, you are the light, you are the gold, you are the water, you are the key.

Find the key in the temple across the bridge, and atop the mountain.

Stick the key in your heart,

And open your eyes.

Open your thousand eyes to eternity.

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