"Household Duty" © Kirsten Francis (color reduction woodblock)

A recent exhibit of the work of Kirsten Francis got me thinking about personal mythology. The figures of the artist’s personal mythology people her work: people, birds, cats, crows, and even a Jaguar skin that she wears in her self-portraits. Her work is riveting. I try to understand why; I think it is precisely because her mythology, although deeply personal and mysterious, somehow matches my own, but something else is apparent here, as her work also draws upon some deeper, universal archetypes.

Many artists have a direct and active connection with what Carl Jung called archetypes. An archetype is a kind of form that represents a singular aspect of a personality. It is a symbolic model or form that carries an idea that is somehow universal to all people everywhere; in this form the idea is capable of superseding culture or language. Archetypes pop up like flowers in the spring, out of our unconscious. One of the jobs of the artist is to clear their vision so they can see the archetypes in their personal experience and use them in their work.

"Catch & Release" © Kirsten Francis (color reduction woodblock)

The ability to represent the ideas contained within an archetype in its symbolic form is one of the reasons that visual art — when it no longer addresses just the issues of the day, but reaches into universal ideas and experiences through the use of mythology and archetypes — can be so powerful. Artists use personal mythology and archetypes in their work, sometimes directly like Kirsten does, sometimes indirectly, as in the work of abstract artists.

The wonderful thing about being a visual artist is that things that you experience have a chance to come out as images in your work. It’s healing at one level, when you use art as a form of therapy; at another level, it allows the artist to connect with deep thoughts and with the collective consciousness of all people everywhere. Every form of art can express personal and universal mythology, and it is through the evolution of this mythology that the artwork shows us how we can connect with each other, resolve the past, heal wounds, and discover our own power to create and evolve.

Copyright 2010 Aliyah Marr

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Kirsten Francis website

Buy Kirsten Francis work on etsy.com

See her work at the Encinitas library till the end of February. Her prints are definitely better in person, with incredible color and detail that is missing in the photos here. The prices are extremely reasonable; her work is a good investment for the beginning or experienced art collector.

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