© liz davidson 2006-11 all rights reserved
This was the first major series to emerge after I decided to stop designing clothes. The paintings were started in the summer of 1991 after I heard the American poet Robert Bly and the Jungian analyst Marion Woodman speak at a conference on Creativity. The theme of the conference was ‘The Shadow’ which, in Jungian terms, refers to that part of ourselves which we simultaneously repress and refuse to acknowledge as being part of our own nature. Bly and Woodman were emphatic in their belief that these acts of repression and denial take energy which could instead be harnessed for creative outlets. Needless to say, I came home and eagerly began looking for my Shadow. I figured, let this stuff out and boy watch me fly — no holding my work back now! Reality was a bit different!
I had long been fascinated by the copy process — enlarging, reducing and combining images to make new images, as well as the juxtaposition of word and image. I had used photocopied images on my clothes since 1988. Words began to appear on the clothes in 1989, but I knew that I wanted to use my words and not someone else’s. While I stopped making clothes in 1990, I remained fascinated by the potential of photocopying as a medium. I made some very large copies of an angel (the angel I would call The Keeper of the Secrets later in the series). I put the copies on the wall of my studio then promptly forgot whatever it was I intended to do with it. There she sat, on my wall, until June 1991 (after the Bly/Woodman conference) when, at last, I knew what to do. I cut her out and pasted her onto a canvas — then added arms — then color — then gloss and matte varnish.
The images used in this series were taken, for the most part, from a wonderful series of Dover books (mostly 19th Century woodcuts) often used by artists, illustrators and graphic designers because they are all copyright free.
But still, something was missing.
Taking a break from the work, I began to read “Left Hand Mind”, a book of poetry written by a friend, Richard Sommer and remembered talking to him about his process in writing this book. We all have a dominant and a non-dominant hand, for most of us the dominant hand being the hand we write with. The book explains that using the non-dominant hand enables a person to bypass the logical, analytical part of the brain and to access the more intuitive, feeling part. I sat down at my desk and started to write with my left hand. Finally, the words that I had been trying to unlock had come, with a particular clarity and in a voice that was almost child-like and naive — now the challenge was transferring them to the paintings. In the earlier versions, the words were written with my right hand so that they would be legible (although I wasn’t sure I really wanted anyone else to read them). By the time I got to the fifth painting I knew the style of writing had to be less personal; more removed from my own rather distinctive handwriting.
When I finished the paintings I placed a roll of paper 25 feet long across the studio floor. I glued smaller photocopies of the work in sequence and realized I had the story of a journey — my journey — but one that I feel we all take as human beings. Before laying down the small copies atop the larger images I had been doing the work but not getting a sense of the whole.
After the images were coloured and new words were put on the pages my friends Sharon Taylor and Marusha Cole, who are book binders, showed me how to make covers. And that is how the book “Secrets From the Soul” came into being.
For a while now, I have felt the need to delineate the essence of each poem or narration (or, as Stansje calls them, psalms) to provide a link between them and to draw even more concretely in psychological terms the heroine’s journey. We are all familiar with the hero’s journey in which he typically travels a great distance and faces many odds and often rescues the maiden — but what about the heroine’s journey? To me she always seems a bit helpless, and when recounted, her journey doesn’t seem to extend much beyond marrying the handsome prince. What else is there for her to find, to challenge her, to help her become more fully “her”? I found myself wondering what is that archetypical journey all about — why take it — what are the hazards and rewards? To me this journey (The Secrets of the Soul) is essentially feminine, why is that? By feminine I mean not just in a biological, sexual role — but also in the essential core material that both males and females possess, just as both male and female possess core masculine material. I wanted to focus on the largely unchartered feminine core.