Archive for July, 2012

The Fool: Mining The Underbelly

Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2012 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

from a study for “Below,” from The Fool, Kimberly Nichols

In the body of artwork I am currently creating titled The Fool, I am exploring the experience of falling in love using the Major Arcana of the tarot as a developmental metaphor for the process from honeymoon phase to maturation. The Fool in the tarot is named in a trick-of-the-tongue fashion for he gets his moniker from his wide-eyed sense of wonder in the world and natural aptitude for blind faith and curiosity rather than the more negative connotations of the stumbling infant. The Fool in this case is about innocence and submission to the fruits of the journey that lie ahead, with eagerness and yet light of foot.  The series is not one to be rushed and I am enjoying the process of discovery that has unfolded with the conceptualization of each elemental piece. Before I even embark on the building of the actual work, I am hunting for, concocting, and discovering photographs that will lend themselves as inspiration to the final pieces while I reflect on materiality. Reflecting on these photographs – whether their subject matter were discovered randomly or composed purposefully by me –has become a surprise addition to the puzzle in that they have added whole new levels and depths to the thoughts already roaming through my mind at each stage. They have led me to understand that only a small portion of my art is about the making and the visual fruition of “the piece” and that a large portion of what I am doing is striving to observe and make relevant our social, spiritual and psychological common space. The piece becomes the vehicle and evidence of my archaeological dig.

At the moment, I am faced with the devil card and it has caused me to start rooting around in the underbelly; a place I have discovered that, although terrified me at first descent down the ladder, can actually be a rich pot of silver-mirrored glass for those who dare to look deep enough into themselves. It’s uncomfortable and it’s murky, but there can be no light without becoming familiar with its depths.

from a study for “Below,” from The Fool, Kimberly Nichols

What lies beneath? What is BELOW? In the land of myths, the devil card represents a place where the parts of us dwell that are left un-dealt with and in the very unresolved-ness of their nature, cause us to repeat patterns in our lives that keep us from growth. It is the place our lessons glint up at us from a primal core if only we are bold enough to look and take them in. It is the land where the underworld wolf lives, holding his hands out offering poisonous berries in one palm and tantalizing currants in the other. It is the land of liberation and experimentation, risk and trust, and getting dirty in the mud. It is also the land where those who have died reside still, pricking our hearts with sadness, memory, love and emotion. It’s a dark place full of the muck of life and its stench invites us to ponder the uglier sides of our selves with free reign, without which we would have nothing to compare the sunny side and without which we would only be stunted and idealized versions of ourselves.

from a study for “Below,” from The Fool, Kimberly Nichols

On the dualistic, fractured plane, we live our days with notions of conflict between good and bad, right and wrong, sinful and angelic. But on the unified plane we know that each side of all of these opposites wash each other out in a sea of equality because judgments are a man-made, ego based notion. Without value-attachments or preconceived notions, there is nothing to fear in the underbelly. When it comes to love, it is the place where all relationships that have come before lay in their beds, unkempt and unmade to offer up portraits of the parts of ourselves we wish to avoid yet have the opportunity to hone and refresh in order to evolve and endure. Dotted with vulnerability and insecurities the fields down there lie stark and bare, yet are refreshing in their raw grace.

I oftentimes find that my art takes me to places that I would avoid in ordinary everyday life; places that hit the raw nerve like the nether regions of my soul. But I also find that the process of facing my own inner humility in being afraid of and then embracing these places through the lens of creative exploration produces a catharsis that transcends the initial dread. One foot in front of the other and The Fool carries on…