Calling in the artist’s muse

Sherry Bezanson of the Ladysmith Arts Council writes about the evolution of the muse in her Community Art Showcase column.

Most artists have asked for assistance or called in some type of energetic encouragement when faced with a creative conundrum: perhaps an unfinished or lacklustre canvas or project.

Traditionally, in Greek mythology, a muse was a goddess, one of nine of Zeus and Mnemosyne’s daughters that were considered creative guides for the arts, and in particular, for poetry. The muse was called upon for a blessing and for support and often considered essential for the creation of art.  A muse was used to provide insight and to inspire new creative forms.

Today, this definition has expanded to include all arts. A muse is invoked during any phase of a project; it is a call for help or inspiration, or an invitation to creatively influence the artist. A muse assists the artist to ponder deeply or meditate, to allow the creative juices to flow without the interference of the mind or the inner critic. Calling on muses is an invocation for divine guidance in the execution of any artistic endeavour.

Although a muse was traditionally a deity or goddess, this form morphed centuries later to include human forms: a mistress, wife or a lover. A muse was traditionally female, likely due to men being those allowed to practise the arts. They were often seen as vixens that were subordinate to the artist and provided sexual stimulation. In the 21st century, that image is unsavoury, as women are richly creative in their own right and are no longer hampered by the defined and limiting roles of the past.  Few women want to be cast in such an objectified and idealized role that, temporarily at best, elevates them to short-term pedestal status as a vehicle to another’s imagination.

Instead, in today’s world, a muse might consist of solid flesh beings or divine guidance from beyond.  Modern muses are often other artists of both sexes such as Georgia O’Keefe, Emily Carr, Eric Clapton or even a blog sharing artistic thoughts, words and photographs.  The definition of a muse has changed and shifted and is far less romantic and idealized, and sexualized, than in the past.  There is more equality and less idealism. Most artists today find inspiration in a variety of ways.

For the Ladysmith Arts Council members, the muse is often the selected titles for the upcoming shows at the Waterfront Gallery. Feb. 2 is the opening night for Saints, Goddesses, and Bodhisattva’s. This title conjures up a variety of creative possibilities for any artist. Images of sacred personages or journeys from various religious or spiritual paths will richly inspire an artist to celebrate the holy and mysterious. Bold linear acrylic artist Phillip Mix of Chemainus is the guest speaker for opening night.

Art intake is Jan. 29 and 30. Come join in on a community connection and activate your muse.