Pictures of A Childhood

When I am working on my bark abstracts, I strive to create a diversity of imagery, color and texture to allow the viewer to project what he or she sees in my work. Using my macro lens and choosing trees that I perceive have a creative display of icons is the first step in discovering what I choose to photograph. The post production work seems to flow without conscious intent of a particular goal. I feel liberated to let my creative mind chart the journey and often am surprised by the results not knowing the destination. This process is analogous to what Freud termed free association and C.G. Jung defined as active imagination. The images, archetypes and symbols in our dreams are what Freud termed “the royal road to the unconscious.” One of the most influential theorists Marie-Louise Von Franz worked closely with C.G. Jung when they met in 1933 until his death in 1931. Dr. Von Franz was born in Munich Germany, the daughter of an Austrian baron. She was a brilliant Swiss Jungian Psychologist and scholar who founded the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. As a psychotherapist, she is said to have interpreted over 65,000 dreams, primarily practicing in Kusnacht, Switzerland. She wrote over 20 volumes on Analytical psychology, most notably on fairy tales as they relate to Archetypal or Depth Psychology, most specifically by amplification of the themes and characters. She also wrote on subjects such as alchemy, discussed from the Jungian, psychological perspective, and active imagination, which could be described as conscious dreaming. In Man and his Symbols, von Franz described active imagination as follows: “Active imagination is a certain way of meditating imaginatively, by which one may deliberately enter into contact with the unconscious and make a conscious connection with psychic phenomena.” Using active imagination the longer you look at this abstract, the more images you will see and I am always interested in your projections and or stories about the characters or scenes you perceive in my painterly photographs. The more you allow the unconscious mind to connect with these archetypes or iconic images, the more material will emerge. Like dreams when asleep or what is referred to as conscious dreaming or waking dreams the more access you will have to your unconscious giving form to internal conflicts as they emerge from the dark into the light illuminating our path to self discovery. Alice Miller, the author of the popular book, The Drama of the Gifted Child and authority on child abuse found the key to her own survival through the creative activity of painting in watercolors. In her fascinating book, Pictures Of A Chlldhood, she explores the connection between childhood and that creative activity that “somehow permits us to come to grips with the demons of our past, to give form to the chaos within, and thereby master our anxiety.” Having realized in the early seventies a lifelong desire to paint, Dr. Miller found an unfamiliar world emerging from her paintings;not the “nice” world of her childhood to which she had always testified, but one of fear, despair, and lonliness. Meditating on her spontaneously executed watercolors-sixty-six of which are reproduced in full color with their implications in Pictures of my Childhood, Dr. Miller has written many groundbreaking books on child abuse including Breaking Down the Walls of Silence, Banished Knowledge and Thou Shalt Not be Aware where she explores a historical psychological analysis of the most destructive personalities of our time including Hitler, Eichmann, Hoss etc who were battered children who would never be capable of dealing with feelings, images and memories that were split off causing them to be able to destroy human life on the monumental scale history clearly indicates they did. Dr. Miller has dedicated herself to working with prisoners encouraging them to pick up a paintbrush to illuminate the truth about their history eliminating the fear that blinds so many and compels them to live emotionally disturbed lives often filled with destructive impulses and demons of their past. Dr. Miller offers a profound analysis of the roots of creativity in the authentic self’s struggle for survival. Working with children demonstrates that they reveal their traumatic experiences through drawing, painting and play therapy. They portray the suffering of their situation very quickly with a brush but would object fiercely if confronted with the fact that they had portrayed parental abuse. A child’s defenses often prevent these experiences from becoming conscious and to explain it to them without the trust that grows with a therapeutic alliance would be counter-productive. However, therapeutic work with willing parents can create significant change if they are able to cope with the truth about themselves and their own history. If not, the sad truth is that many children are removed from custody of parents who will not understand or accept their abusive and damaging behavior. Like adult offenders, they cannot free themselves from the compulsion to carry out criminal acts without experiencing the feelings repressed in childhood. While this is something often avoided in psychiatric hospitals and in prisons, what Dr. Miller refers to as the “enlightened witness” can bring about the necessary changes. Many people are surprised to find out that their hand knows more than their head if they succeed in suspending their critical faculties while they engage in an artistic process. After reading Pictures of My Childhood many people wrote to Dr. Miller encouraged that her book stimulated their interest to play with colors and to paint spontaneously. They eventually were astonished at what that emerged. Art can help us escape from our inner prison. Because painting or playing with color can precede speaking like the author, many have been able to break down the walls of silence through this process. Alice Miller’s mission became helping offenders in prison bring their frozen feelings back to life by means of artistic expression. She believes this is the best safeguard against almost inevitable repetition of their crimes . In her book she reports successful accounts of her work including one man who uncovered the tragedy of his childhood and after years of a profound analysis was no longer compelled to continue his patterns of abuse. These cases may be small in number, but if we save one child or living sentient animal from the hands of cruelty, our efforts are well worth our commitment to healing those who are open to recovery. I have a series of new painterly photographs that I hope you will enjoy discovering what you perceive in my abstracts. I will suspend writing what I see so you can enjoy playing with your “active imagination.” I always look forward to your imaginative responses.

Pictures of A Childhood

Julie Marks

Los Angeles, United States

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Artist's Description

Alice Miller, an eminent Psychiatrist who wrote many important books on child abuse including Breaking Down the Walls of Silence, Banished Knowledge, and many others discovered her own traumatic memories of abuse through painting and published a book, Pictures Of A Childhood with over 60 plates of her paintings. She is a gifted writer and has contributed profoundly to the field of psychiatry, especially disclosing her own journey to emerge from the dark memories buried in the unconscious giving form to terrifyng images illuminating her path to self discovery uncovering traumatic memories of child abuse. Her fascinating watercolors were the key to connecting her childhood memories as she came to grips with the demons of her past. Dr. Miller first book, the Drama of the Gifted Child is most known;however, her many books on domestic violence have helped many including prison inmates, some of whom she was able to rehabilitate uncovering tragic accounts of childhood that led those who were unaware of the roots of their violent actions to understand their patterns of abuse. Helping offenders bring their frozen feelings to life is the best safeguard against repetition of crime. If we save one person or sentient animal that is a victim of abuse and human cruelty, our efforts are well worth our devotion and commitment. Like dreams, my painterly abstracts contribute to my personal revelations through free association, active imagination and projections of a vast array of imagery using natural elements found in nature like bark, rocks, plants etc. I look forward to reading your perceptions as you exercise your creative imagination. I have found that my visual acuity has developed as the world has taken form in many “Rorshach” projections that I see in my abstracts. Iconic vision, seeing a distinct image before the gestalt (the image as a whole) is a type of perception we all have in varying degrees. The more we use our projective vision, the more we will perceive in the natural world and in our artwork. The more I look, the more I see. Sometimes I will revisit one of my pieces and more images will appear in unexpected places. It is a fascinating journey in the conquest of inner space.

Artwork Comments

  • melynda blosser
  • funkyfacestudio
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