Myth and Wonder - The Visionary Art of Helena Domenic

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Art and Ritual in Art Creation

I was recently asked, along with a group of other artists, by Renee Phillips of Manhattan Arts, to describe what kinds of rituals do I use when sitting down to create, if I used anything to set the mood, any special music, and so forth. The array of answers was fascinating as artists shared what rituals they use, if any, ranging from artists who just plunge in and begin working to others who need meditation and other tools to begin.
For me, the art making process itself is ritual. The studio is my sacred space, where I am free to create and follow where my inspiration leads. My studio is also a space where I store objects that are sacred to me, such as my statues of Isis and other Egyptian deities, as well as an Ancestors’ Altar.  I have some art by several friends who are also artists hanging there, and this helps with additional inspiration. 
What I do once I enter the studio may often vary, based on what my intent is for the day. I like to light incense, acknowledge my ancestors (both genetic and those I have claimed, such as Frida Kahlo), and set some music to play. I have a playlist on my iTunes that include music from performing artists that never fails to get me in the mood: people like Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Brandi Carlisle, Angelique Kidjo, and many more. Depending on the subject matter, I may use music to correspond to that work. For example, when I was working on my “Wild Wizard Woman of the North” painting, I played a lot of Icelandic music such as Vartina and Gjallerhorn to tap into the appropriate Norse mindset. I also like to play a lot of Celtic music. I enjoy Afropop a great deal, and may play that when I am making my mixed media sculpture pieces.
I began sculpting as a natural progression from creating masks with my students in my African Art class. The masks are something I still love to do, but they have evolved into shrines that I have been creating for the Yoruba Orishas. I tend very much towards Yemoja, being a water person, although I have created shrines for Oshun and Obatala as well.  I also created an ancestor’s shrine two years ago after my father died for both of my parents.

These works are a kind of ritual in and of themselves, as they take many steps to complete. I also need to research the colors, numbers, and symbols associated with each Orisha. I will admit a great deal of personal gnosis (knowledge I receive in meditation) goes into these creations as well, so they may not fit strict traditional associations.
The art, music, and culture surrounding the Orishas is worth a post all on its own. I have done considerable research in this area, so look for a future post on this topic. In the meantime…..

I would like to orchestrate a painting ritual with some friends perhaps sometime in the summer, where we each bring whatever we do to the table and share our work with each other. Watch this space to see what happens!

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