Interview with artist/healer Kara Cressman
When Kara Cressman left her New York City gallery in 2005, she embarked on a journey with no particular journey in mind. She made a decision to relinquish art-making for an indefinite period of time and, after, an initial period of panic, made contact with "a glorious silence". A series of life events, including her decision to leave her gallery and stop working, drew her to reading anthropological material.
<>She says, "About four months into my reading
jag, weird things started happening to me. Events categorically related
to spirit. Simultaneously, bad community stuff started to
come down on my head directly related to my daughter and in addition
the spirit stuff was heavy. I started having dreams,
sometimes two lucid dreams a night. It was very confusing, all of
it. I felt like I was loosing my mind at one point, I was scared
and there was no body to talk to about it. I have a friend who I
met some time later who laughs every time someone asks me what animals
I have dreamt about, the list is pretty long".
Cressman continues, "My story is different from most of
the people I meet in the sense that I was not pre-suing spirit, I was not going to drumming circles or shamans or Omega for weekends or workshops for that matter, I was simply reading about something I found fascinating and challenging to my "business as usual" It came to me. This in itself was confusing. Why? I have learned not to ask that question. It simply is and I trust that my path will unfold as it should and I will continue to do my work, spiritually and physically and be a good student. Forever a student."
Her new work is and looking back on much of the older work, an expression of spirit, animistic belief and an attempt to reconcile and transform the culture I live in.
1/ Could you discuss your trajectory as an artist? How did you come to make art?
Drawing was the only thing I felt I was very good at. My father was a dabbling artist / hobbyist and I wanted to impress him, which was ultimately impossible. For this reason, initially, art making at its core was an act of rebellion. Nobody in my family cared much about art in a bigger context or even took me to a museum. It wasn't until high school when my tenth grade art teacher showed me a reproduction of a Picasso that I even knew art could go beyond a hobby.
2/ Please talk about your spiritual practice(s) and how they have evolved. How do they intersect with your work as an artist?
I feel my spiritual practice is still evolving and will continue to do so over the course of my life. From the onset of my initial spiritual calling to the present I have felt at times pretty confused, particularly in the earlier parts of my awaking when I was still stuck on the idea of having a human "teacher". On the other hand, I was and still am, very blessed with much guidance through visitations by many animals in my dreams and waking life, as well as, human spirit guides. I find part of my practice includes having to let go of a lifetime of cultural and perceptual conditioning, a conditioning that makes it difficult at times for me to trust and seek the counsel of the guides who appear to me from other realms.
So the hardest part of my
practice is learning to trust, trusting spirit and myself and honoring
my journey, a journey that is still unfolding and being made clearer to
me. Much of my practice now includes working with plants, shamanic
energy healing, homeopathy, keeping an altar and doing rituals. While
all of these things are informing my artwork, I am still exploring my
spiritual practice within the context of art making. The “art world”
doesn’t make it easy. Even before my spiritual shift I found its
notions of originality, genius and progress troubling. As artists we
are channeling spirits outside of ourselves. I am not the center. My
individuality is not king. Practicing these beliefs within the
institution of the art world is not an easy task, with its emphasis on authorship and ownership.
3/ Is your connection to animals a part of your spiritual practice? Please elaborate on any study/work you have done around animals and animal totems etc. And on animals in your life.
My initial calling
toward animistic belief came in the form of dreams. For a year and a
half I would dream of animals, weather and human spirit guides. These
dreams were lucid, sometimes two or three a night. Nighttime became a
time to travel, filled with magic, inspiration and a whole new level of
perception. I've been struck by lightning, died, was buried in the
ground by a group of Native American women who then brought me back to
life. I've been hugged by a bear and felt a love that verged on
ecstasy, watched a gorilla in the jungle with her babies, had seven
foot powder blue snakes stand up and look me in the eye mere inches
from my face and have been pinned to the ground by a tiger who ripped
open my throat while I whispered I love you, and these are just a few
examples of the new world that opened up to me. My experiences over the
last four years with animals and human guides have invited me to work
hard on myself. To see and transform my anger, impatience, fear, to
stand up and take
responsibility for my child at the perceived expense of my
ambitions. I struggle still with what it is to know, to believe, with becoming, being and my heart. One thing I am sure of; this path has given me a glimpse into the mystery of life. For this, I am very grateful.
5/ How does your biography manifest in your art? Is it an important part of your work as an artist?
All artists work from their biography directly or indirectly. What dreams do we want to nourish and what dreams do we nourish in our creations. If we truly see ourselves as antennas for a larger world consciousness then it's very important for us to face ourselves first and ask what of ourselves is important to share. I see the process of making art as a ritual and in this belief lies a great opportunity for transformation, both personal and societal. My four-year old daughter said this one night at the dinner table - the longest dream you're ever going to have is your life. As an artist I think it is important to remember this.
7/ What role does your body play in your art and/or spiritual practices?
Be a hollow bone. Get out of the way and be a container for spirit. I am forever a student.
8/ Talk about healing work you have undergone and/or done on behalf of others? What does healing mean to you right now? What practices are you engaged in around healing?
Two of the more profound healing experiences I have undergone are the birth of my daughter and having assisted my mother in her death at home. From the moment we are in labor giving birth we are immersed in a deeply ancient primordial act with spirit, one in which we are teaching and being taught how to bring life in to this world. I think if at all possible women should give birth without medical intervention. The way in which allopathic medical practices have manipulated this great ability is something, at least in America, we need to be addressing.
With my mother, I will be
eternally grateful for the courage she had in staying at home until her
death. Not only did I care for her through her illness over a year, but
I was present for her crossing over. During this process, I was able to
do a bit of ceremony for her and I encouraged my family to make a
bundle for her to take with her when she was cremated. Sitting at my
mothers bed side holding her hand I was witness to an act of acceptance
of ones death and the
peace that comes with that acceptance. Through her laboring to leave her body, I felt the beautiful circle of life. There I was helping the woman who had birthed me into this world birth herself out. It was amazingly profound.
I have been seeing
a woman healer by the name of Valerie Lordi for about two years now.
She has done many healings for me and as she once pointed out, the mere
fact that I was coming to heal myself, I was healing others and in an
apprenticeship. I also participate in her fire ceremonies,
energy-healing practices and sit in circle with her and others. Her
teachings involve a global consciousness with indigenous roots. She
focuses on what it means for those of us who have not come up in
traditional animistic cultures to be on a healing path at this time. At
times I can distract myself with grand notions of healing Mother Earth
but the harder truth is that the bigger and more profound work is
within ourselves and by extension we are healing Mother Earth too.
Ritual and ceremony for Mother Nature are of course important, but
ceremony and ritual are more powerful when we are more in balance.
9/ Are there particular spiritual traditions to which you have an allegiance? If so could you talk about them and your relationship to them?
Although I explore, very happily, the large vault of spiritual
traditions we have available to us at this particular point in time, animistic belief is what I feel most grounded in. I think one has to acknowledge the great gift and sacrifices the people who are still living these animistic beliefs, have had to endure to maintain these teachings and as we are all too aware of, continue to struggle for and evolve from. For whatever reason, I feel a responsibility to walk this path with great awareness for the people whose ancient knowledge I am benefiting from. I see very little in Western culture
to feel enormously proud of. I mean hell, in America we are still celebrating Christopher Columbus, a man who I would only characterize as a sadistic slave trading, sex slave trading, company man who committed horrendous unimaginable crimes. The mere fact that Christopher Columbus is still on the calendar is an affront to our spiritually balanced hearts.
10/ What materials do you use in your art?
I have used a variety of materials over the years, but primarily right now paper. I like the immediacy of it and that it is made from trees.Tweet