Today was one of those days on which I didn’t get to do any creative work at all, in fact I only visited the studio long enough to turn on the lights and walk out again, but the day has fed my practice by triggering some thinking about authenticity.Â
In the morning I attended a lecture byÂ Dr. David ChidesterÂ of the University of Cape Town who talked about the dreams and curious adventures of Zulu shamans in South Africa and North America.Â His book “Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture” was released in 2005.
After the lecture andÂ a spot of lunchÂ I was able to chat with Dr. Chidester about authenticity and shamanism.Â Dr. C. has expandedÂ Mercia Eliade’s observation that shamans were viewed with suspicion by members of their own community – an idea which applies to the expanded global culture of the 21st century by raising the issue of authenticity when considering shamans who are disconnected from their own culture and absorbing and applying the traditions of others.
A shaman in this part of Southern California claims to be Chumash: he’s actually Mexician, but his shamanic practices seem to be effective for his audience, so is he legitimized by his ever-expanding practice?
This got me wondering about my art.Â I self consciously evoke the mythology of Neolithic Britain and Western culture in my work and hope to enter a dreamlike place and manifest characters from it who can emerge into our world in the paintings.Â Are my recent paintings “The Aviator’s Dream” and “Fama” an authentic expression of this dream-like landscape? Â To some extent they have generated themselves from my subconscious mind as I have made choices that contribute to their composition for a variety of reasons; some practical endeavors have been guided by the composition, some self-consciously mystical decisions, some ideas suggested by subjective connections that I made to material that already existed in the paintings. The landscapes of Death Valley and the Orkney Islands have influenced them, and the flora and fauna of my daily life are creeping into them.Â To me the paintings are an authentic expression of my imaginative state of mind at this time, expressing something of what Jungians call the collective unconscious, or what theosophists call the akashic record.Â
How do they become “authentic”? When they are sold and acquire a market value? When they are exhibited in a museum or gallery, made authentic by the approval of the gallery owner and the public?Â