Saturday, February 2, 2008

Adam Kadmon, c'est moi

Thinking about the potential “creative component”—a fine art work of some kind related to the content of the art history study—I’ve been struggling.

There are artists like Michael Ray Charles and Kara Walker who’ve taken racist iconography and have suborned it and made it their own, transgressing the transgressors. While that approach has worked brilliantly for those folks (although not always for others), the thought of making more images using elements whose origins rest in ignorance, fear and hate was too toxic for me.

But I didn’t want to do something weak and inadequate—a “happy face” uplifting gloss— in response to the difficult content I’m studying.

I met with a potential instructor/mentor for the creative component of this semester’s work. I showed him the two prototype pieces I finished for the Book of Hours project, and he said, “These are beautiful—what do you need me for?”

Well, my art history prof won’t mentor or evaluate creative work…and so, without a fine arts prof involved, while I might do the art, I won’t get the stamp-of-approval for it.

And if I want to teach creative work, I need that MLA to serve as a useful credential; therefore I need more not less review and mentoring from the fine arts side of the academic fence.

Once he heard that my art history prof wouldn’t review creative efforts, Don Haughey was ready to help. He sparkled with interest about one approach to the problem—the possibility of my using elements of these medieval texts, as well as medieval Jewish Kabbalistic imagery focused on “Adam Kadmon” or the primordial, ur-Adamic prototype Kabbalists posited as one of the stages of the material universe manifesting—but as an armature for a self-portrait.

The transgressive element is, of course, a modern woman using “male” medieval imagery as the landscape for her form of expression, in a reflection of one of the portions of Genesis—“…male and female He created them.” The redemptive element is my use of the same, and of some items from Christian medieval iconography.

And the detox? By focusing on the proto-creation, the “creation before creation,” I can indulge my hopeful side and my strong faith that creative energy is a positive, healing force (even when it shows up as Kali Ma ringed with skulls.)

As we discussed this approach, I told him, “It scares me.”

Why? You, dear reader, might find this funny (reading it as you are on a blog the whole internet-connected world can see) but I’m scared of what a self-portrait might reveal to the world at large.

Don said, eyes twinkling, “But think about the self-discovery!”

No less scary, that. And so, because it scares me, I’ll have to do it. And Don said “Yes” to working with me.

Stay tuned…more to come, of course.


Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

I think this is a great project, Lori. (oops almost wrote a whole post here on why I think it's good. Hm, hm, how can I tell you all this?)
so for now: GREAT project.

marlyat2 said...

All this seems very interesting--and what I've seen so far is lovely.