Symbolism and Stories in my Art

There are lots of symbols and stories being told with my art. I’ve had a long facination with symbolism.

One of my favorite books on archetypes and symbolism is “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. One can learn many lessons about life from reading the stories in this book. The author’s explanations about the symbolism in these stories is really amazing. I love that the theme of some of these stories is in similar stories throughout the different cultures of the world. Which to me demonstrates how we are all connected. Connected by the stories passed on from generation to generation.

I use tree images a lot in my work. One of my recent paintings titled “Women in Rhythm” for Bend’s City Walls at City Halls art exhibit called Place:Twelve, used tree symbolism and tells a story.

Let me explain some of the symbolism in this painting and what it represents to me. I don’t usually explain the symbolism behind my paintings because I want the viewer to make up their own story for the painting but I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts regarding this particular painting.

The  theme for the show is about how our past inspires our present and the future. Thirteen artists were juried into the Place:Twelve show. I’m honored to be one of those artists.

Each of the artists was to choose a photo from a book about Bend’s history and then paint  a conceptual painting inspired by the photo.

I chose a photo of Klondike Kate.

Kate Rockwell aka Klondike Kate
Kate Rockwell aka Klondike Kate

This is what I wrote about my painting which was difficult to write because I hadn’t finished the painting yet when I had to submit the artist statement for it.

_____________________

When I first heard about Klondike Kate (Kathleen Rockwell), I was just a child. I might have learned about her from lessons about the Yukon Gold Rush and its many characters, from both that period or from the movies.

When I moved to Bend and saw a sign posted near Brothers indicating that Klondike Kate’s home was in the area, I was surprised and delighted that this lively and colorful woman had lived near Bend. She moved to Bend from Brothers, Oregon in 1917, but she also lived in Seattle and New York, as well as in Dawson City, in the Alaska Yukon.

A July 21, 2010 Bend Bulletin article about Kate said that she was “A truly liberated woman, adventurer and entrepreneur, hero and harlot, Kate had few peers yet many friends.” She was a humanitarian who helped during an influenza outbreak in 1918 and befriended Bend’s voluntary fire department. She even helped purchase Bend’s first Fire truck. The “Klondike Kate Awards” are still presented by the Bend Fire Department today to people “who are not members…yet who have made significant contributions or volunteered resources.”

My painting is in honor of all Bend women who give of their time and effort to the community. They can be inspired by Klondike Kate, a woman who spent 30 years here, and who lived her life on her own terms, as an adventurer, a business woman and an entertainer. Kate lived through life’s ups and downs, through fortunes gained and lost, and through hearts filled and also broken. She was a strong woman who gave to others and who helped the Bend Community with her humanitarian contributions to the fire department and the local hospital. She made people laugh and feel happy and that is what I want of my art; to lift the spirits of others!

_____________________

I chose the photo because I liked that Kate helped the community and that she was an adventurer and traveler. She seemed to have a colorful past with being an entertainer and business woman. She had lived in New York City and Seattle and so have I.

So my idea was to show an image of Klondike Kate and somehow show how she has inspired others with her humanitarian contributions to the community. I wanted to show how she has helped to inspire the giving, nurturing efforts of today’s women who give of their time and energy to helping the Bend community.

So I started a painting that had women holding hands which represents the past,  the present and future beings being connected.

P1020571

I pretty much finished this painting when I decided it didn’t feel right. It felt too cliché and forced. So I tossed it aside and started fresh.

This time I began with the idea of Klondike Kate being a tree with deep roots. The roots symbolizing the past and the history of Klondike Kate. I used her hour glass figure as part of the trunk of the tree. The tree’s foilage is colorful and bright to represent Klondike Kate’s past as an entertainer and her colorful personality. Her arms are spread wide open to symbolize her open, generous spirit.

women1
This shows the first couple layers of painting.

I wanted her to be surrounded by women figures holding hands t0 symbolize the connection we have to each other. One of the women holds a heart which represents a caring nature.

women2
More layers added.

The row of house-like forms across the horizon represents the Bend community. I added a river running infront of the building images and behind the figures to represent he flow of the past to the present and future. Bend has the Deschutes River running through it so it also represents this area.

I started to add a bird in a nest to the lower right corner to represent the nuturing nature of women but I deleted it because I decided it didn’t need this image.

women3

Below is the final painting “Women in Rhythm”. I framed it with a white mat and a plain black wood frame. I like the simplicity of this because it keeps the focus on the painting rather than the frame.

Women in Rhythm, Acrylic on Paper, Framed 30" x  24", $825
Women in Rhythm, Acrylic on Paper, 30" x 24" framed, $825

So do you usually like it when an artist tells you the story behind the painting or do you like to make up your own story?

I think it’s fun to get a hint of what the artist was thinking and usually I get that from the title of a piece. Generally I don’t want the whole story because I like to make up my own interpretation when I look at art. So I hope I didn’t spoil it for any of you by telling you some of the symbolism behind this painting.

Place:Twelve Art Exhibit

Opens on Friday, May 6th and runs through the end of July.

City Hall in Bend Oregon

Artist Reception, May 6th from 5-9pm

Emoji, icons and symbols

Being a lover of icons, symbols and shapes, I thought I would revise a post that I did on my old blog.

Sometimes I like to put an emoji in an email, blog comment or in some feedback on Etsy.com and I keep having to go back to my old blog to grab one. Guess I could cut them and paste them into a document on my desktop to have handy but instead I think I’ll post them here and bookmark it. That way I can grab them whenever I’d like. You can too.

So here are the one’s I’ve found so far on the web. I’ll add to it as I find more. If you know of some other ones, let me know. Thanks!

Also, these will work on a Mac but not all will work or show up on a PC.

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Spirals, symbols and shapes

Thin-Spiral

I can’t remember when I first started drawing the spiral shape in my art.

spiral necklace
my spiral necklace

Or when I claimed it as “my” symbol. I love that little swirly shape. I wear it around my neck. I bought my spiral necklace in Greece in 1995 (you’ll hear more about that trip in my Part 4, One Artist’s Journey post on Feb. 11th). I love wearing it. It’s my favorite necklace.

I put the spiral in my paintings a lot!

lgrugerhansonspirals The swirl, the curly one, the spiral… what does it mean?

For me, it represents energy and growth. The spiral swirls outwards. Meaning expansion.

Holding the Energy

I like making my painting series titled “holding the energy”. These are little yoga figures holding a spiral. To me it means being able to stay calm, harness the energy,  stillness. I like the idea of that. Being still. Holding the energy. Being aware. Expansion of Self.

holding the energy
holding the energy

I think the spiral has gotten a lot of bad rap. You hear things like, the “downward spiral”, “spiraling out of control”, the “death spiral”,  the “spiral of barbarity”.

But I take a more positive outlook about it. I was going to say “positive spin’ but that might be a little cliche.

I like this quote:

“Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year: The same energy that God invested in you at birth is present once again.”
– Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Time is like a spiral. I like that. Energy is like a spiral. I like that too.

I found an article online about a spiral energy theory that says, “gravitational forces of all the stuff of the universe and their constraining gravitational force upon themselves cause light and particles to form spirals as they move through the universe.”

I’m not a scientist but I like the sound of that. That there are gravitational forces causing spirals of light to move through the Universe. I know I have simplified it. I’m an artist, I like metaphor.

I just like the idea of spiral light energy radiating and connecting us all to each other. That’s why I have spirals and connected dots in my paintings.

What are your favorite symbols and shapes?

You can read more about spiral symbolism and other things on symbolism at what’s-your-sign.com