Monday, November 22, 2010

Art as Personal Mythology

The Valley of the Muse by Rodrigo de Toledo

  On a slight variation of my usual art/theatre/film/music circuit, I've finally attended a lecture on the artistic process.  I went to Rodrigo de Toledo's sabbatical lecture "The Self Mythological Realm - Branding a Designed Universe".

  Rodrigo is an associate professor of graphic design in the School of Communication.  This is how he described his talk.

"The research conducted during the sabbatical focused on formal aspects of visual and graphic language, and the visual representation of archetypical and mythological symbols. The project resulted on a new body of visual work, which will be showcased during the presentation."

  I  was excited to hear about this project because I'm very intrigued by Jungian psychology and archetypes as well as modern perspectives of Jung.  I'm interested in art that has a whole other narrative that isn't immediately apparent.   And finally, I think hearing about people's sabbatical projects is fascinating.  They've spent a lifetime building on their knowledge, they're at the edge of human knowledge in their specialty, and now they've spent a year pushing past it.  This is the epitome of niche domain.

  Rodrigo spent a long time developing visual symbols to represent things in his life, like the past, present and future, memories, and avatars, spirit guides, etc.  The shapes were based on organic and mechanical structures.  The resultant pictures -which kind of look like mandalas, tangkas, or icons- aren't just colors and shapes that look pretty together.  Everything had a meaning behind it, a whole historical narrative.

  Someone in the audience asked if it wasn't selfish to spend so much time exploring one's own inner world, when there is so much to be done in the outside world.  I would say that it's extremely important to square things up with ourselves first, so we know what we're doing and where we're going.  Identifying the symbolism of items along one person's journey is personal, yes, but it is also universal.  Here we are, living similar lives just with different details.

  It's helpful to know where people have been.  And if they are going to spend a lot of time identifying, categorizing and illustrating their symbols, all the better for us who aren't going to do so.  How wonderful that someone so visually articulate explored why symbols evoke a certain feeling or memory.  

  "Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious," said Jean Cocteau.  Absorbing, creating, and listening to art is something that helps us attune to ourselves and our personal mythology.  It's almost better than therapy--it's certainly more beautiful!

Rodrigo de Toledo's work can be viewed and bought at here.  More about the artist is available on his website,

The Mind's Cave by Rodrigo de Toledo

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