Archetype in Art

by Skip Conover  (Twitter: @skip_conover) Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover Translations by Google Translate (R)

Archetype in Art


In order to understand where this blog is going, you will need to know the definition of “archetype“ in Jungian Psychology.

Have you ever wondered why it is that some art can bring you to tears, while some is simply boring?  The secret is in the power of the archetypes the artist uses, whether or not s/he knows s/he is doing it.

Have you ever wondered why Tarot is so persistently popular, and some form of it has lasted for thousands of years?  The secret is in the power of archetype.  There is nothing particularly mystical or “magical” about this, except to be a good Tarot reader you must at least intuitively understand the archetypes.   I can enter an auditorium with 1,000 people present.  As long as all will give me the benefit of the doubt that Tarot might work and might be accurate, I can throw the Tarot cards across the stage (without any particular layout) and do a reading.  Everyone in the room will think that I did the reading specifically for them.  The reason is that Tarot relies on some of the most fundamental archetypes in our subconscious minds, like “Mother” “Father” “Teacher” “Wise Old Man” etc.  As I do my reading, the subconscious mind of each of my listeners will relate to some things I say and disregard the rest.  Astrology works in the same manner.  You can read your horoscope in the newspaper day in and day out.  You will remember the times the Astrologer got the prediction right, and forget those where s/he was wrong.  So it is with my Tarot audience.  Everyone will “hear” a different reading, one tailored especially to them, because their subconscious minds will latch onto some of my observations and disregard the rest.  In my reading of the cards strewn across the stage, the object for the Tarot reader is to just give enough of a reading so that everyone will connect to it.  It doesn’t take that much.

So it is with art, whether it is written, painted, sculpted or whatever.  There’s the famous photograph of the Catholic nuns pointing up to the statue of “David.”  The caption reads, “I don’t know what it is, but I know what I like!”   Michelangelo’s spirit is surely immortal–he speaks to us through more than 500 years.  Michelangelo grabs us at the subconscious level, and shakes us to our foundations!  The same can be said for “Aphrodite of Rhodes.”  These artists shake us to our foundations!  What is it that causes that reaction.  It is simply that they have activated the archetypes for man and woman at their most basic level.

The art need not be a recognizable figure either!  Jackson Pollock understood that in his “drip” paintings.  In his later work, Pollock intentionally tried to avoid any image that is recognizable.  And yet, I have attended an exhibition of the greatest modern artists of all time at the Boston Museum of Art, and I found that Pollock’s work moved me far beyond any other.  It brought me to tears!  It talks to my subconscious mind in a way I cannot describe beyond these meagre words.

Another piece in the same exhibition also moved me.  It was a simple wooden table and chairs, but executed at something like ten times normal size.  It consumed an entire room.  When you walked in, you immediately walked under the table, with the chairs surrounding you.  I was immediately transported to the feelings I had as a 2 or 3 year old child, walking under my parents’ table.  That piece “constellated” the archetype of childhood.

This blog is the culmination of 15 years of independent study of Jungian Psychology.  I have no degree nor any genuine official credentials for what I will tell you in this blog.  I am an artist in a variety of media, including paint, sculpture, business, and writing.  But I have made my living for my entire career, leaving aside 3 years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, as a writer.  These are my own observations of what I believe to be true.  You can take them or leave them as you wish!  But, if you are an artist in any medium, you would do well to heed what I say.  Your livelihood might depend upon it!

This entry was posted in Archetype, Art, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Claude Monet, David Gerritsan, Frida Kahlo, God, Jackson Pollock, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Joseph Campbell, Jungian Psychology, Mandala, Michelangelo, Numinous, Successful Art, The Whale and the Horse, Venus de Milo and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Archetype in Art

  1. Keiko says:

    I’m so moved by reading this. How lucky I was to join “Archetype in Action”. Thanks for giving me hope and courage to go on.

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