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Resurrection

It’s simple, I work from the heart. The five new paintings that I am presenting mark the completion of a circle for me and the beginning of a new one fueled by a creative mindset which is simply to
Teach Love.

What follows is a piece written about these five new works by a friend and fellow artist who understands both my work and the world of contemporary art, Susan Moir Mackay, Honors B.A. In sharing this essay, I am celebrating these five new works and I am honoring the time and effort Susan has so graciously taken to write about my work. — Claudette Dean

Claudette Dean Presents Five New Works of Art

In your light I learn how to love. / In your beauty, how to make poems. / You dance inside my chest, where no one sees you, / But sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art. — Rumi

It is no accident that Claudette Dean’s new body of work is reminiscent of the poetry of Rumi.

Rumi, the renowned Muslim poet and Sufi mystic who lived in 13th century Afghanistan, used metaphor beyond what is initially obvious — and his ecstatic verbal visions dance with an energy beyond the tangible. Fundamentally, Rumi’s poetry was his outpouring of devotion and a communication of his passionate love for God.

Whilst reading the writings of another Sufi mystic, Love is a Fire by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Dean was excited by a profusion of inner imagery. These bountiful visions became the source for her new works: five pieces of art in a range of palettes from earth tones and shimmering blues and black, shifting into more ephemeral pinks, lime greens, and shining yellow, along with her narrative and rich metaphor style images and effortless compositions — all of which express her exploration into spiritual enlightenment as described by Vaughan-Lee.

Dean’s work, although inspired by the writings of a Sufi mystic, have a whimsical, dancing yet intense quality that is wholly accessible.

Connected

Connected

Resurrection, with its intricate filigree, almost Celtic knot work, reflected above and below, held up on wings of a sensuous bird, hidden in the trunk of the tree, pulls us into a hypnotic visual world. The more somber palette and inference of duality in Resurrection reminds briefly of the tones of William Blake’s watercolors but without the angst, as if the core of spirituality has passed through the dark night of the soul and Dean is now presenting a profound image of duality, finally in balance. However the title gives us a sense of optimism, as if the wings of the bird will bring humanity to a new dawn.

In creating the four subsequent paintings, Dean felt an initial dissatisfaction, a sense of incompleteness. The solution came in a moment of inspiration when she recognized the similarity of their glowing color palette and the remaining pieces from Inner Sanctum (Dean’s 2010 solo exhibition at Popop Studios Nassau).

An Awakened Heart

An Awakened Heart

The luminous explorations into the physical and metaphoric images of the lotus that were included in Inner Sanctum now became part of four of these new works. The past is implicit in the future as the new paintings seems to spring from the lotus pieces - possibly seeds waiting for this new moment of flourishing. Once this idea had embedded, Dean coupled her new pieces with these past paintings and started playing with further symbolism. In Connected the lotus is placed upon her head, representing spiritual awakening, through the crown chakra. By coupling the two paintings into one, she expands our understanding of her personal imagery.

An Awakened Heart by Claudette Dean[/caption]An Awakened Heart shows streams of pink and butterflies from the center of the lotus flower (from Inner Sanctum) leading up and around a woman who is lost in sumptuous abandon.

The Offering

The Offering

The Offering is paradoxically intense and blithe. There is a harmonious balance between the profound blue textured background and the creamy hues of the lotus and the flame. The lotus, the flame, and the chalice are spiritual metaphors in the work however, beyond these clues and the blissful and liberated representation of a woman, there is a deeper sense of an almost imperceptible veil of spiritual energy.

The narrative in The Path piece is recognizable: A woman walking on her path, framed by two nudes, creates the outline of a Buddha— her doorway to the God self. The path reaches into an intense blackness—a void that seems rich yet empty. Similar to the experience of standing in front of an Yves Klein, (for example, Untitled Blue Monochrome Ikb 82 1958), the intensity of the paint, and in Dean’s case, black, becomes mesmerizing and has an ethereal quality.

The Path

The Path

The Path by Claudette Dean[/caption]In considering Dean’s work, much like understanding Rumi’s poetry, it would be a disservice to the artist to fail to acknowledge this ephemeral spiritual intensity of the work. Aliveness exists beyond the narrative, composition, colors or brushwork; somewhat nebulous, so challenging to articulate, yet in a certain way tangible, for those who can ‘see’ this energy. This unseen/seen energy, along with the abundant imagery of Woman, represents an innovative paradigm in “religious” (spiritual) art, reflecting the huge cultural shift in western society towards fresh forms of spiritualism—away from traditional imagery and structures of Christian dogma.

Dean’s work is deeply feminine, especially in considering the contrast of the archetypal and strongly patriarchal images found in traditional Christian/religious art. (For example, The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, or an example without a necessary religious context, but with an implicit nod at the ‘perfect proportions of Man’, is Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man). An intuitive counterpoint, Dean marks her work with a new energy, the energy of the feminine, whimsical and fey, yet rooted in a wisdom and gentle strength that is quietly palpable.

Dean’s work offers us a fresh visual in order to understand and embrace this new archetype. The women are not sexualized or objectified, as is so familiar in contemporary iconography, nor do they possess the chaste quality of the Virgin Mary, common to past religious artwork. The women in this body of work are questing or are ecstatically comfortable as they are, or contemplating, or interacting with divinity as a fiery force. Flowers, with their sexual connotations, bloom with a glowing splendor, as if there is peace with the sexuality of this archetypal Female— no longer battling a religious heritage and its dubious Garden of Eden mark of deceitfulness, ever fighting carnal knowledge and snakes, or virginal pedestals as the mother of Christ. It is important to note that this easy female acceptance of sexuality, in a clearly stated spiritual piece of artwork, pushes us forward into new worlds of harmony.

There is a sense that Dean is using a female form as a reflection of her own gender as opposed to being deliberately feminist. Dean’s women give a powerfully tender image of a sexually self contained and spiritually active woman: a woman who exists in relationship with herself, her environment, and her spirituality, but without any direct reference to the previously pronounced images in religious art of women in relationship to, or deference to, man / male God energy. And yet the aspect of duality in Resurrection, offers a coming together, a balance between polar opposites as can be understood as male or female. The male is not excluded, just not overtly present or dominant.

The complete body of work with its subtle use of past paintings, blooming into new works, reveals an image of Unified Woman, bringing with it a poetry, a perfume of spirituality. Dean successfully weaves us into her world of heightened awareness, and gently reminds us, like Rumi’s poetry, to seek beyond the appeal of her surfaces, to a deeper message: one of a brave new paradigm where women and spiritual/religious practice are harmonious and offers us a path further into greater unity, peace and potentiality.

But listen to me. For one moment
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms around you.” — Rumi

Claudette Dean