The first sympathetic magic painting I made was in 1996 when a friend was about to have an operation. I wanted to be sure it would be successful, and that she would be healthy, so I focused my intentions on those thoughts while doing the painting. Whether or not my act had any power everything did indeed go well.
Other sympathetic magic paintings I did afterward were also for different reasons. One was for a man who has been locked away in prison for years, beyond reason. I have never met him, but he is a dear friend of Judith Tannenbaum’s, a writer I met at an artist residency in 1997, and with whom I have become very close friends. Having taught poetry in the San Quentin prison and through her friendship with this man she has an inside understanding of the prison system and its injustices.
At the residence I had the privilege of reading her manuscript, which came out in print in 2000, entitled Disguised As A Poem, (Northeastern University Press). It is a memoir of her teaching experience at San Quentin. I was very moved by her story and by her, who now, over the years has proved to be a genuine and loyal friend. I also felt the suffering of her friend, and my wish in doing the painting was to bring light into the prison cell, to him. I can’t say that the outcome was successful, but prayers are there like floating stars not always visible to the eye.
I’ll say more about this process another time, but for now basta.
You can see the painting of this on the artworks link. http://www.barbaraschaeferart.com/5.htm
The painting was published in the Hyden's Ferry Review.
At the inauguration of my exhibition, the lovely and brilliant, Angeles Arrien
spoke about how in indigenous cultures, the role of doctor, or healer, was identified by different types. She related my work, or the work of a painter, as being that of a hand doctor, meaning that what has been created with the hands has the capacity to heal. Whether or not the paintings have the capacity to heal others as well as the artist who made them I am not sure, but this idea that Angeles presented, above all, has stayed with me since that night.
I do know that, literally speaking, hands do heal, because with my own hands, through the practice of Reiki, I have healed a chronic vertigo (dizziness) condition of 6 years, that had invaded my sense of well being, and no one else could heal. I like the idea that my paintings can heal since there are enough clever ideas out there that may bring to the foreground the problems in our very disturbed world, but they often seem to exacerbate the issues rather than offer insight or solace.
One of the most important questions that I’ve been asking myself for a long time, is how can I best serve, or what do I have to offer others from the best of myself? One of my great mentors, the late Italian composer, Giacinto Scelsi, said that the work of an artist is that of a channeler, and should be approached with extreme seriousness and responsibility, and not of a virtuoso with an inflated ego. The work of an artist, like that of meditation, he said, affects the whole electro-magnetic field, which means that it arrives on some level by the mere act of doing it. Despite my belief in this idea, I have found it difficult to find my way into this world. So did he, and his work was known only in small circles, until after his death.
A practice that I’ve experimented with that relates to healing is what I’ve called my Sympathetic Magic paintings, but I’ll tell you more about that next time. I don’t want to inundate you with too much at once, and of course it will give you reason to return.
The photos of my exhibit are still up; just scroll down or look under the title, Opening Night, October 3, 2003.
Originally, when I first saw the space at CIIS, on Minna St, I was concerned that my paintings, which are a series of long and narrow unstretched canvases, were too big for it. However, they fit so well that they brought warmth to the space and looked elegant. I was happy for them, as one would be for their children who now occupy their own rightful place in the world. And oddly enough, in observing them there, they no longer felt like they were mine, but entities unto themselves.
As I’ve said before I wish for them the same thing I wish for myself; to find love and their place in the world.
The opening went exceptionally well. It was a full house, and friends came from a far to celebrate with me. I received so much praise in one night that it was almost too much to take in. As I’ve already said, the paintings were inspired by Riane’s book, The Chalice & The Blade, and I was honored to have her there, along with Angeles Arrien. They both spoke on my behalf and I spoke as well, surprising myself by talking more than planned, but the people were interested in the work and asked questions.
Many thanks to all those at CIIS, including wonderful Adriana Marchione and Mark, who was so essential to the hanging of the paintings, and to the Trasformative Learning and Change program for sponsoring the exhibit. And infinite gratitude to all my wonderful friends who were so helpful and supportive.
Of all the exhibitions I’ve had this was the most joyous.
Here are some shots of the exhibit. Sorry they aren't perfect, but at least you get an idea.