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March 13 – April 18, 2004

Artists as image makers are often inspired – even compelled – to explore the psyche, that deep place of our memories, our dreams and our fantasies, both personal and collective. Psyche is boh the psychological term and Greek word for the more spiritual “soul,” and Jungarian writer James Hillman says in Re-Visioning Psychology, “…image-making is a via regia, a royal rod to soul-making” (p. 23). The stuff of the psyche is usually hidden, unconscious and unknown, but will reveal its truths to a careful and creative excavator.

Using the human figure as a carrier of pysche’s meaning, the four artists in this exhibition are such excavators. They know that we are naturally wired to respond to the figure. Babies have been shown to instinctually respond to a face-like images when only hours old, and there’s a real preference for the symmetry rooted in that of the human body (just try getting art students to design asymmetrically). Artists have found that the human body holds meaning from the Venus of Willendorf to the Stone Age to Janet Jackson of Superbowl XXXVIII.

In the early 1990s, painter Nancy Robinson claimed the task of making “psychological portraits.” She often deals with anxieties with dark, surreal humor and a clarity that is completely lacking from the commercial advertising that plays on these same anxieties so cynically. For more...
by Nancy Robinson
by Karen Wilcox
While Robinson’s work primarily mines the personal psyche, the paintings and sculptures of Karen Wilcox forge a bridge to the collective psyche. Floating in some cosmic, primordial soup, these distorted figures are recognizably, disturbingly human. For more...
Michal Sagar’s paintings and drawings show naked babies floating in space, seemingly in a state of bliss. Like Adam and Eve before their apple-eating fiasco, they don’t seem to know that they’re naked and therefore have no shame. For more...
by Michal Sagar
by Rina Yoon
For Rina Yoon, drawing is her “entry to the interior life.” When she draws, her images are not preconceived and she uses the process of drawing to understand her relationship to her childhood self. Yoon has few memories of her childhood in Korea and relocating to the United States as a high school student further blocked her connection to her past. For more...

In Greek mythology, Psyche is a king’s daughter who is destined to be married to a wild and cruel monster. The oracle who predicts this advises the king to take her to a mountain ledge and leave her to her fate. Eros, son of goddess Aphrodite, is chosen to do the dirty deed, but when he sees beautiful Psyche he falls in love with her and instead takes her away to a secret place. Psyche falls in love with Eros, only she doesn’t know who he is because he comes to her only at night and forbids her to turn on a light. One night, consumed with curiosity and worried her lover might be some unbearable beast, she lights a lamp as Eros sleeps beside her. She is charmed by his beauty and in her amazement a drop of hot oil falls on Eros. He awakes, is not pleased and despite her entreaties, flees. Now Psyche is truly distraught and attempts to reconcile with Eros. Eventually Aphrodite sets a series of seemingly impossible tasks for Psyche to do. To make a longer story shorter, Psyche succeeds, reunites with Eros and they live ever after, happily.

Psyche is “in the dark” until she dares to shine a light on the forbidden figure in order to find out who or what he is. This is precisely what artists do: they plumb the depths to shine a light into the dark unconscious to see what’s there, and then they bring these images to the light of consciousness in their work. There are serious consequences – Psyche’s seemingly impossible tasks – for this knowledge, but artists embrace these tasks and generously share their findings in paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture. At least that is the evidence in this particular exhibition.

In the myth Psyche and Eros have a child who is named Pleasure. And pleasure is also among the many gifts that artists bring to us.

Patricia Olson
Curator, Assistant Professor

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