Yesterday running through the grocery store, returning to the line I had kept waiting, a young woman asked me if I was a writer, and I responded I'm an artist, but that I write about art, and she told me that I must be incredibly creative, and when I asked why, she said because God sometimes whispers beautiful things to her.
I was touched, and surprised, but then again, not, and for the cynical minded, I suggest stepping away, because this type of experience is not so rare for me, as I have had a fair number of what would be described as irrational, mystical, or even supernatural experiences, some of which relate to creativity.
Often when I am painting animals, I experience a complete flow of working to the degree that I feel I have little to no critical thought as I am working, and am almost working, with no mind... Some artists claim to channel during their work- I can't make that claim, but I can say that literally I can feel possessed by the energies at times, and I am making virtually no effort to do the work- I feel I am a vehicle for the expression.
While I have written in the past about what I consider to have been a kind of dream vision I had in my 20s, a time I was not doing art, where in the dream I found myself painting outdoors, in nature, and sunshine, with lots of people, and I felt an absolute ecstatic joy- not just joy but something one does not experience in normal life, waking up suddenly, in tears, wondering what it meant. Only years later in rediscovering my abilities and love of art, did I see that this was some kind of message.
And while this experience touched me deeply, at that time of my life, I consider myself having been brainwashed to a degree, to cynically disregard and scientifically explain away what happened, and not letting it touch me to the degree it does now. I was not yet prepared to open myself up spiritually, although I was Catholic, but to be open to mystery, and grace, as I do now.
I had one particular experience however, in my late 20s, in which I had a prophetic dream, that changed my mind about these kind of experiences, and forced me in a sense, to take them more seriously. I was approached by people in a dream who said they were my protectors. They told me that I had to know something about a person I was involved with, that he was hiding from me, again emphasizing, that I had to know this. I woke up suddenly (as I have from these few strange experiences). I had to confront this person, and while he did not admit what I was told, for some time to me, it was in fact true. I had no reason to have thought any of this, and what they told me was very specific information, that I never would have imagined.
Within ten years later I had another strange experience running the gallery in Japan. One day, the head monk of a famous temple there, came into the gallery, at the same time when an elderly woman from the neighborhood was visiting. In Japanese, he talked to us about certain mystic powers of Buddhism, and proceeded to "show" us as he physically contorted the quite frail elderly woman, though not touching her, bending her backwards, in a way that clearly she could not do on her own, in her physical state, at her age. Both the elderly woman and I were shocked. Why this monk decided, on this day, to show this to me-- I was not Buddhist at the time-- was beyond me. But I saw something mystical happen, right in front of me, that I cannot deny.
So all of these strange stories, why am I talking about this so much? What is on my mind, is the relationship between the imagination, dreams, mysticism, and art, for artists today, in an age when so many people, refuse to believe in mystery.
I have had other experiences under that category of "supernatural", that unless all of this was a hallucination, I have seen fit no logical, rational explanation. So for me, believing in spirit, mystery, past lives, and also knowing something about some of the mysticism of Tibetan Buddhism, it is not hard for me to let in.
Whatever you want to call it, perhaps mystery is easiest, but these factors are very much alive and connected to life, inspiration, and creativity. It's probably easy to assume that the more open you are, the more you might be able to let in, and receive. At any rate, I am always curious about the overlap of mystery into our lives, and creative work.
I dream a lot about art. The most interesting thing to me, is looking at the art in my dreams, ( which I understand, in the dream, was my creation). Perhaps this is not that interesting to non artists, but the artworks we create, are experienced as unique expressions of our imagination, hopes, wishes, or even sometimes nightmares and fears. It is a birthing experience for artists, and sometimes incredible for us to see what was in our mind, manifest. For me seeing these images in my dreams, is such a strange experience. I can recall being in my dreams, looking at and processing, that this was my idea, and I try to remember the creative process- during the dream. When I wake, it is oven hard to recall what I saw. I hope sometimes to recall one enough to replicate it in a waking state.
Recently I did a drawing based on repeating themes in my dreams, around travel, miscommunication, living in Tokyo, airports and hotels. I thought maybe expressing it might stop the recurring dreams. Last week I had the same dream, as I have, hundreds and hundreds of times. It hasn't stopped.
The other night I dreamt that I was doing Buddhist prostrations, wearing the robes of Tibetan Buddhists, with the knowledge in my dream, that I am preparing for my death. I do Buddhist practice, but have gotten out of the habit of doing prostrations, which I tried to do initially regularly when I started my Buddhist practice / study, several years ago. Prostrations are an offering, an act of reverence, an act of humility, and important work in the aim of challenging ego. My dreams direct me and reflect my deeper struggles and aspirations. I have started doing my prostrations again.
In my twenties I loved the Surrealist painters. Dali and his religious dream / nightmare paintings, Ernst, Expressionism, how much of this work, was inspired by dreams, and nightmares, and mysticism? Now with apps that distort photography, we are expanding our imaginations ever further- look at Cindy Sherman's work on Instagram. We are in new territories of imagination in a sense with the internet and virtual worlds. I find it all fascinating. I even dream now of texting, and social media.
I wonder, how much mystery, and imagination, and dreams, continue to inspire other contemporary artists, in a way it does, for me...? I wonder how many people miss the mystery in their lives, because there's no rational explanation for it.