“Instincts can malfunction
become defective, deficient, half-baked
There should be a recipe for motherhood
The precise amount of ingredients
Or else sweets for no one”
~ Susan Levin
The unconscious, like an artist, takes in discards and fragments of experience. The unconscious digests and cooks these fragments and produces dreams from them. In what may be our deepest soul’s instinct, we take in the raw ingredients of experience and we begin to cook them, to symbolize them, dream them, transform them. The uncooked stuff of life may become ‘symbols of transformation’ (Carl Jung, CW5). Our minds and our souls need the raw stuff of real life, we need the as yet undreamed, the fragmented bits of life and truth, to nourish our souls. The fragments may become the very ingredients of the soul’s transformation.
Artists of the soul develop the capacity to bring their dreaming into their waking lives; they consciously set about collecting old bones, found objects, fragments of psychic life. Such artists begin to dream the inner life of things. First they notice them; they notice what others do not notice, they notice the fragments and they then seek to reunite them in new wholes, new works, new dreams. Artists leave behind the object world, with its exact measurements and precise ingredients, and they enter the dream world, a realm of fragments, images, symbols, archetypes. In taking an imaginal journey into the dream world the soulful artist begins to free associate and symbolize, creating new works of imagination.
Susan Levin is such an artist. In her book titled Art from Dreams, Susan Levin takes in the stuff or her raw experience and begins to cook and dream it. The book begins with an image titled ‘Mother.’ In this image (above) Levin brings together found objects, her raw experience, her dreaming, and her imagination into a work of art, offering sweets for the imagination of others.
In the dream realm, we may confront the discards and fragments of our own experience. Many of these fragments hark back to early mother of reverie. She is mother to the infants imagination, never quite mapping to the mother of the real (Melanie Klein). She is the personal form of the archetypal mother. When we first encounter the mother archetype, she is not known in whole form. Instead, she is split in two– good and bad, gentle and fierce, enveloping and devouring. It is through working with dreams, imagination, and reverie that the two mothers may become known as one mother– the form of the archetypal Mother from whom we were born and to whom we will return.
In Levin’s painting titled ‘Mother,’ we find images of fragmentation. Yet even in the fragmentation it is evident that the creative process of transformation has begun. Disjointed bones have entered the vessel, an archetypal place and space of transformation. It is here, in the vessel, that instinct, once ‘malfunctioning,’ now begins to function, giving form to the unformed. Dream is art; art is dream. Art, here, joins the dream’s transformations; art, here, is a becoming one with the soul’s instincts.
Susan Levin invites us into the alchemy of her imagination: retracing memories, working with paradox, dreaming the soul. She spirals around a center, confronting the unknown. With this work, Levin discovers a place of her own, a womb, a cocoon from which she can be reborn. She hints at such rebirth:
A swan chariot
on dancing butterflies.
To my coronation!
To be an artist of the soul is to enter into the dream rrealm: to encounter the raw visionary level of dreams, imagination, sensation: pre-verbal, prior to symbolization, not yet adapted. Society has always been a little afraid of such an encounter: for in the depths one may encounter a new idea, a revelation which holds the potential to transform not only the self but society as well. Carl Jung’s own soulful confrontation with the imagination, The Red Book, was hidden away for many years, kept private, locked away. It is only now that his imaginal journey of transformation has made it into the public eye. In Art from Dreams, Susan Levin follows a similar path. Her art offers a ‘Jungian journey of collage, assemblage and poetry.’ It is my hope that more artists will bring their soulful transformations out of the closet, sharing with others their processes of transformation. The emergence of such a possibility is itself a social transformation, a revelation in which we may no longer need to bar the inner mother from being expressed, in all of her fragmented, disjointed, and split forms. So that we may dream her, so that she may become whole in some new and previously unimagined way.
Art From Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage, and Poetry by Susan Levin. Levinarts. Paperback. (Book provided by Publisher).