While I was away from home over the last few weeks, I found myself pondering the difference between working in colored pencil (as I did in the Gaian Tarot and other pieces), and in my new love, beeswax (encaustic) collage and assemblage, and how both are examples of talismanic, or magical, art. The following Artist’s Statement came pouring out of me, and it strikes me now that it’s a kind of manifesto for transformative art. I hope you like it.
Artist’s Statement ~ Joanna Powell Colbert
In every work of art that I create, whether it is a colored pencil painting or a mixed media collage, I weave in mantras, blessings, spells, and prayers. The music I listen to while making art winds its way into the fabric of the finished piece, as well as the phase of the moon, the season, and the hour of the day. I am conscious of tending the web of life as I play with color, texture, shape, and form.
I most often visit the themes of the Sacred Feminine in myth and folklore, seasonal cycles in nature and in human life, and our beloved Northwest earth and sea. I am fascinated by the rich, archetypal symbolism of the Seeker’s Journey that is found in tarot cards. I brought my love of the natural world to tarot tradition when I created the Gaian Tarot.
When I work with colored pencils, I lay down creamy, waxy layers of rich, transparent color. I inhale the scent of wood shavings from the pencil sharpener, and listen to the picking of acoustic guitar overlaid with sweet harmonies of roots music. I hear the tapping of a woodpecker and the cry of gulls. Pleasure and satisfaction comes in meditative pencil strokes, in the placement of this color against that one, and of small hidden details that delight those who notice them.
Mixed media is messier, quicker, and in some ways even more sensual than drawing with colored pencils. The roughness of clay and recycled sari ribbon, the scent of melted beeswax, the glimmer of gold leaf and iridescent threads, the stain of walnut ink, the weight of stones, driftwood, seed pods, and sea glass picked up on my walks around the island — all these are woven into the piece as I twist and twine them together. Into the making goes the stillness of heron, the scent of wild roses, the hoot of owl, and the muttering of mantras as knots are tied and bundles are wrapped: “May all beings be happy. May all beings be blessed …”
My art is both an offering and a talisman, a touchstone for prayer, possibility, and blessing. Like an ancient icon, it can be a portal to a realm of dream and memory; of half-forgotten, half-remembered glimpses of our true nature.
Art heals. Art opens a door.
For every act of creation is an act of magic.