One of the fascinating concepts I learned about over the years in dream study is that of the shadow. The negative or dark shadow, according to psychologist Carl Jung, holds those unconscious aspects of ourselves that we don’t want anyone, and most often not even ourselves, to acknowledge. These aspects are typically unconscious and something we judge as “unacceptable”, so we stuff them way in the back of our metaphorical closets.
As the concept goes, if someone really annoys me or gets on my nerves, there is something of that person’s traits that trigger my own dark shadow. Although I will deny this until I’m blue in the face, the heat or emotional reaction is the clue that this may be the case. If I find the courage and curiosity to explore and own up to this, I can grow into a more psychologically whole person.
In the opposite vein, if I really admire, am drawn to, or respect someone, there is something of that person’s “exceptional” traits that are part of my golden shadow. Again, the emotional reaction is the clue and exploring these traits can help me to own those parts of myself, too.
Honoring Shadow Energies
I’ve found shadow energy in so many dreams, as well as in waking life. This encaustic painting, She and Her Shadows, is my attempt to honor the discovery and doing of this internal work. The painting is 11.5″ wide X 18.5″ tall.
Ode to Scarlet Created for Dance of Dreams Exhibit
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the “Dance of Dreams” Art Exhibit Reception on September 27, 2019. The show ended October 31, 2019.
As part of the reception, Special Guest Dancer May Kesler performed interpretive dances focused on two of my 12 dream art paintings. It was a wonderful treat to collaborate with May on this creative art and dance adventure.
The first dance, “Journey of Dreams” focused on the many places, situations, and feelings we experience when we close our eyes and sleep. This dance companioned the painting, Dreamtime Journey.
Ode to Scarlet, the second dance, wove the story of a series of dreams over the past 30 or so years. A scarlet snake appeared in each dream, and over the years, my relationship to and with it changed. At first, it startled and scared me. Over the years, we eventually found a way to co-exist into a deep friendship, before it died in my arms! This duet dance companioned the painting, Shedding Fear.
Finally, we honored this entire dream series by symbolically transitioning the Scarlet snake image to its new life as a symbol of healing. This new 3D artwork was unveiled and fastened to the top of a walking staff, becoming a Staff of Asclepius. The Asclepius symbol takes its name from the Greek diety associated with healing and medicinal arts in Greek Mythology.
Thank you to Shauna Simon and the Simon Says Yoga family for hosting this exhibit of my dream-inspired artworks, and most of all, for their welcoming spirit, enthusiasm, and support for local artists!
Janet Fox Featured Artist Reception – Dance of Dreams Art Exhibit
You’re invited to my “Dance of Dreams” Art Exhibit Reception at Simon Says Yoga to see many of my dream-inspired artworks. Special Guest May Kesler will perform interpretive dances for two of the dream paintings. Located at 4611 Sangamore Rd, Bethesda, MD 20816, the exhibit continues until October 30, 2019. The turquoise and copper painting on the right side of the image is part of my painting, Dreamtime Journey.
Alexandra Sherman, September’s Featured Artist, will also close her art exhibit at the September 27 Reception.
Shedding Fear is an original encaustic mixed media painting inspired by a series of vivid dreams which began many years ago. In each of the dreams, a bright red snake takes center stage. Most often, it is a scarlet boa constrictor. In the following dream, however, a scarlet cobra is the main character…
Once upon a dreamscape, a woman discovers a giant cobra in her house. It is about 10 feet long and if she startles it, the cobra puffs up its cobra neck, hisses, and scares the bejeebers out of the woman.
She loses sight of the cobra. The woman and her male companion now crouch on the top of a tall bookcase, hunched into a ball because they are close to the ceiling. They want to be sure they are as far away from the cobra as possible. Then the woman takes a peek at the bookcase shelf right under them and realizes the cobra is right there, all coiled up, too! Now what?
The woman and her companion have now magically moved around the room and then around the house in and out of various rooms. Scarlet cobra is always close by and after a while, it doesn’t seem to mind us, and we don’t mind it either. We get used to each other, and Scarlet only hisses if I get too close. I marvel at Scarlet’s bright color; the red is so vivid and energized. I realize I’ve seen a bright red snake, but a boa constrictor, in my dreams before. So I realize I am in a lucid state. I’m no longer afraid of Scarlet and realize she’s not really poisonous, after all. I awaken with a feeling that something important has shifted.
A colorful dream character calls out
This dreamscape especially grabbed my attention because I was aware that I was dreaming and in a lucid state. I only occasionally have lucid dreams, so I definitely pay attention when I do. Within the dream, I remembered encountering scarlet boas before, but the only places were within past dreams. And having previously explored and created art based on those earlier dreams, I have an idea what this colorful character means – for me. Some examples and art inspired by those previous dreams are Transformation of a Scarlet Boa.
Curiously, when I’ve shared this dream with others, they’ve responded generally in two ways. If they have a fear of snakes, they react by stepping back and saying how much snakes scare them. Others are fascinated by snakes, leading them to take a very close look. Both can lead to lively conversations!
While researching this topic, I came across, “Snake Dreams and their Meanings,” by author Amy E. Brucker. In it, Ms. Brucker explores various snake imagery throughout history. I was intrigued further by her focus on the healing aspects of the snake.
So in this episode in my scarlet snake dream series, I had a healthy fear of its danger. But, somehow, I also learned to live with this it in my space. When I shift my perception from fear to healing, the dream takes on a whole new feeling and ah-ha! Perhaps in my own shift, my companion learns to live with the healing snake energy, too.
What do we fear?
This is an intriguing question with as many different answers as there are people. There are so many things to be afraid of… being terribly sick, having a horrible accident, losing someone close, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, etc. We each have our own fears to face. And how can we go about shedding fear?
One of my favorite quotes byauthor Marianne Williamson, in “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” (1992). I’ve also seen this quote mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
And here’s a fun take on snakes – Bela Fleck’s Snakes Alive musical creation.
About Shedding Fear
This 15″ x 15″ encaustic art piece is also inspired by an actual snake skin, one that I found in my garden compost bin. I assume the snake that molted was either hiding really well or long gone. Looking at this snake skin up close, it was very thin and fragile. With rectangular, oblong, and smaller oval segments, I marveled at its construction and form. The head portion had space for the snake’s eyes and mouth. I had to hold it very carefully, very gingerly. Which also got me to thinking about fear. Could fear be thin and fragile, too? If I could just let it go, would it shrivel up and crumble?
Next, after creating the main painting of the shed skin up close, I created the miniature snake from paper clay, then painted it to resemble a Scarlet Boa, but with a bit more red.
Then to finish it, the miniature Scarlet Boa needed to be resting on, wait for it… a bright red feather from a fluffy scarlet feather boa!
⇒For information about viewing or purchasing this or related artwork, contact Janet Fox. Check out my Encaustic Portfolio for several smaller companion pieces.
Sometime in the 1990’s, I went to a workshop to learn how to make a seven-sided drum head. A Native American man led the workshop and shared a beautiful story of a quest. Each side of the drum head represented one day in the story. Although I no longer recall his story exactly, it influenced my version…
Once upon a dreamtime, a very curious girl was outside, dancing freely and twirling around in her secret garden. She spent many hours there, tending to the flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit, and all the creatures living there. The girl loved to bathe in the aroma of the sweet flowers, run through the basil, dill and thyme, and gently crumple the rich soil between her fingers before planting seeds.
After many days and nights, she became restless. She wondered what was beyond the garden. Leaving the garden she loved and knew so well was scary. But something was calling to her, so she called up her courage and prepared for her journey to find what was calling – to find a treasure.
On the first day, she heard an infant cooing, so she followed her to the east, all the way to the sea, but she did not find the treasure.
Next, on the second day, she followed a little girl to the west, over the farthest and highest mountains. But the treasure was not there, either.
Then on the third day, she met a fierce maiden, and together, they went to the north, over the frozen tundra and icy glaciers. Once again, they did not find the treasure.
Now on the fourth day, she saw a great commotion and in the middle, found a bride. Together, they went south and through the great tropical forests to the farthest point possible. They looked and looked, but they did not find the treasure there.
On the fifth day, she came upon a mother. Together, they flew up, through the clouds, past the moon and the sun and stars and back. No matter how far they went, they could not find the treasure.
But she would not give up. On the sixth day, she met an old grandmother in the shadow of a tree by the seaside. They went down, under the sea and to the bottom of the deepest ocean canyons and caves. But after all of the swimming and searching, they still did not find the treasure.
The seventh dawned and the girl was very discouraged. She had gone in every direction she knew of to find the treasure and didn’t know where else to turn. Then in the middle of the garden, in the tall grasses, she noticed a Scarlet Boa. She had seen it before from afar, but during all her time exploring in the garden, she had not found the courage to look at it up close. Mustering all of her energy, the girl gazed at it and soon noticed its beautiful skin of smooth scales in all shades of red, rose, and burgundy.
While the girl did not know it, the Scarlet Boa had been with her on all of her travels, watching over her for her safety. She began to understand that it was her spirit animal, her friend and protector. As the girl watched, the scarlet boa began dancing and twisting around in circles. She was mesmerized and lost track of its tail… and then she realized that was because it was swallowing it!
Suddenly, she knew exactly where to turn to find her treasure. There was one more direction yet to go, one that she hadn’t even thought of to explore.
The girl closed her eyes, quieted her mind, and began counting her breaths in and out. At first, it was quiet and dark but as her eyes adjusted, she began to see the tiniest pinpoint of light coming from a place deep within. As she ventured toward it, the light very gradually grew in size, beckoning her to come closer. As the girl did so, she was overcome by a loving warmth, the greatest peacefulness she had ever experienced. For she had discovered her treasure; it was inside of her all along. At last, she had discovered her center, and she was at home.
Finding “Home” within
Does this story resonate with you? In my experience, I’ve had many times when I didn’t know what to do, so I looked outward for guidance. I spent many days, months, and years looking. But somewhere along the way, someone asked me to hold up my hand and point to the place where I’d look next. And then, as my index finger pointed outward, they asked me what my other three fingers were doing.
Those other three fingers pointed back at me, directly towards my own center. Ah-haaa!
Looking internally, I began to discover the wondrous, mysterious world of my dreams. That was a long time ago and my dream explorations have been so lively and rich, with many ah-ha moments, especially when sharing with a friend or within a trusted dream group. I’ve also enjoyed dialoging with and honoring my dreams, especially through making art (many examples which are on this site). And although my dreams have personal meanings and significance, I’ve also learned that others taking on one of my dreams-as if it were there own-can find their own ah-ha’s. And I’ve discovered my own ah-ha’s when I’ve taken on their dreams, too. I feel so alive when this happens!
Snake images, often scarlet in color, have been a part of my dream world for many years. Once I get over the surprise and fear of the symbol, I often become lucid – aware that I’m dreaming while doing so. This awareness can allow me the freedom to interact within the dream. Snakes are ancient creatures and symbols. According to Wikipedia researchers, snakes in the ouroboros form – a circle or figure 8 allowing it to swallow its own tail – also symbolize eternity, the cycle of birth and death, the unity of all things, and more.
What is a mandala?
According to Wikipedia, in common use, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe. Carl Jung Resources describes mandala as “a graphical representation of the center, (or Self), which can appear in dreams and visions or it can be created spontaneously by drawing.” It’s easy to get absorbed in making a mandala – figuring out symmetry, adding symbols, filling in shapes with colors and details.
Seven Directions Mandala is an original encaustic painting, with pastel, shellac, and ink. I enjoy the garden, flowers, and energy in this story. The seven sections are for each direction, and the colors represent the energy chakra regions of a human. Somehow, all of these ideas came together for me in this painting. What do you see in it? Enjoy!
⇒For information about viewing or purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.
Sleep-time dreams have fascinated me since I was a child. Often, I wake up with an adventure of some kind to write down in my dream journal. But when I awoke on a late February morning, I had no memory of a dream. Instead, I learned that I had been talking in my sleep. Intrigued, I created Two Fish in the Pool. In my slumber, I had said these words: “I put two fish in the pool. In the POOL!”
Why two fish? What kind of pool? Why did I put them there? Did it remind me of anything or any place where I’ve been before?
I remembered a former home where we built a small fish pond with a waterfall in the back yard. We filled the little pond with a few beautiful koi and also some feeder goldfish rescued from the bait and tackle shop. It was very relaxing to sit by the pond, watching the fish swim around and come to the surface when we dropped food pellets into the water and sometimes chase each other. It was also a fantastic “in the moment” meditation spot: listening to the sounds of the water, the birds chirping, and the road in the distance. Combined with sweet aromas of water lilies and other garden plant, I would sometimes gently tap on my drum. If conditions were right, at a certain point it all melded together, like being in a symphony with the surroundings. It was such a refreshing experience and warm memory.
I also went googling to see what text, images, or ideas would strike my fancy. Searching for “two fish” led to me Pisces, the zodiac sign for people born between February 18th – March 20th. Since this experience occurred during this period, I decided to continue exploring this idea in my art studio:
The images of Pisces showed two fish swimming in opposite directions. But as I created some mock-up pieces, what I painted was less direction-ally defined. For although the two fish are going in opposite directions, they could just as easily turn and chase each other in a playful or frantic circle.
I’ve often dreamt of water, either being close to the shore, walking in the waves, or completely submerged and in a different underwater realm. This painting focused on the narrow space, just below the surface of the crystal clear water.
I used my favorite turquoise and copper orange family of colors in this 12″ x 12″ encaustic painting on a cradled board. After carving the scales, fins, and other marks into the encaustic, I filled in with more color. The finishing touches were those sleep-spoken words and, for good measure, a Pisces symbol ♓.
⇒For information about viewing or purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.