The Muses

I am building a boat. Not a fine wooden skiff for sailing the marina. Nor a ketch to circle the world. Mine: a vessel for the mystic journey. Thin, sleek and I hope beautiful. Yet useless, at least as a vessel to navigate water.

Why, you might ask? I have to blame the muses. The idea surfaced in 1986 — long, over 18 feet and made of cedar strip. The complications, craftsmanship and time required all undermined its creation.

Yet every few years the idea resurfaces. Until this spring. Having surfaced again, I gave in.


Below the drawing you can see the four large circles and then intersecting smaller ones that dictate the placement of the ribs of the boat.

Below the drawing you can see the four large circles and then intersecting smaller ones that dictate the placement of the ribs of the boat.

Boat Drawing from 1987

Boat Drawing from 1987

I’m known for representational landscape painting. The boat, a sculpture, jumps ship. Here lies the role of the muses. They aren’t interested it seems in continuity of production, or feasibility. Or the market for that matter. Paying attention to those concerns kept the boat as impulse, as idea. Now I’m listening.

To what though? Where does that visual image keep reappearing from? And why? If you say the subconscious you haven’t learnt anything.

That is why I am bringing up the muses because all art, and science, everything that gets created by us, pops in our head like that, from some where.

The muses are the nine daughters of Mnemsyne, the goddess of memory. Do I remember the image of the boat? Or do the muses inspire, meaning to breath in spirit. Is it their image they want to see manifest? Or mine they give force to? All cultures progress on the back of these unanswered questions.

Although it doesn’t answer this question the Greeks believed that when your soul entered Hades you drank from Mnemsyne to remember your soul’s true nature. Perhaps that is the role of the muses, her daughters. They reconnect us to our true nature while we live. Reconnect us to archetypes of that truth.

My boat is an archetype. It represents the vessel we need for the mystic journey to cross the ocean of consciousness in this life.

I understand representational painting. I understand its conventions. I can cruise on acquired knowledge. With the boat I am adrift, on Jung’s “night sea journey”. I am alert, listening for guidance since so little is established. I feel too the boat may open doors to what may be next and next after that in a more cracked-open artistic practice. I become a supplicant in my relationship to spirit and to art.

With the ribs for the boat now fashioned, the assembly into the boat’s form reveals a deep truth. The spine of the boat, the keel, from which the whole will adhere must be true. It must be straight. Otherwise the finished boat will look warped and misshapen.

I love that it must be true. In fact and in spirit. “Beauty is truth, and truth beauty.”

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