Art-naming becomes a psychology experiment

I added my newest digital painting to my DeviantArt profile under the title “Migration”, although I wasn’t totally satisfied with that name:


Migration by GregStevens on deviantART

So, I decided to turn to social media to help me find something better. I posted the image to my Facebook profile, with this comment: “I have not decided on a title for this yet. What should I call it?”

The responses I got ranged from serious to hilarious. One friend thought it should be named “My managerial style” and another friend thought it should be called simply: “Dating”.

Most of the suggestions, though, followed a predictable theme: they assumed that the big creature with the red eyes was evil and either chasing or herding the Hello Kittys, probably intending them harm:

Mark: “Herder”

Matt: “Hello, Breakfast”

Alicia: “Goodbye, Kitty”

Tommy: “Stepping on little people”

Rick: “Oh no! He can’t kill the Kitty!”

Justin: “That monster is definitely trolling for Japanese schoolgirls….”

…were just some of the popular responses with this theme. And I will admit, when I was drawing this piece, that was what I had in mind as well: I just assumed that things were not going well for the Hello Kittys.

But then one friend of mine spoke up against this interpretation that the picture was showing something bad: “No this is a good thing. They are moving away from the evil!”

At that point, I had a kind of epiphany about my own artwork!

Why on earth was I assuming that just because there is a big dark, ugly creature with red eyes, that it is evil and malicious? Am I really that prejudiced? Isn’t it possible to look at this picture, and see the creature as… a loving caregiver, for example, watching over the Hello Kittys with affection?

Then, my friend Alex put another possible twist on it:

Alex: “I see the Hello Kitties as leading an outsider to their home.”

This blew my mind, because it took things one step further: maybe the big creature with the red eyes was the vulnerable one who needed to be protected!

Now, I look at this same picture – a picture that I created – and I can see it any number of different ways. Sure, the tall dark figure might be menacing: herding the Hello Kittys along for some dark purpose.

However, the large, dark figure with the red eyes might be frightened and lost, perhaps in an unfamiliar land… the Hello Kittys are generously leading him to safety. They are taking him home so that they can welcome him and take care of him!

Based on what you see in the picture alone, you really can’t tell, can you?

 


 

The most impressive and detailed analysis, however, came from my friend Una Smith, who enjoys dream interpretation, and pulled out all of the stops to interpret my digital painting.

So, I’ll finish this journal entry by simply letting you ponder her Jungian analysis of this picture. I don’t think it describes me, as the artist, particularly well. But what it describes is definitely something that I’ve seen in many people, and so in that sense perhaps there is some higher truth to the observation that it makes:

This picture depicts a Jungian polarity between innocence and depravity. By clinging stubbornly to identification only with extreme, naive innocence, the subject banishes the more nuanced, worldly-wise, suspicious, or other less-“desirable” characteristics of his/her personality into the Shadow. (Notice how the kitties have turned their backs on the dark figure.) The exiled characteristics of the personality cannot truly be killed, however; they live on in the unconscious, coagulating into a monster of horrific power that will end up subverting and sabotaging the person’s thoughts and efforts. The person may suffer from obsessive thoughts, nightmares, inability to create intimacy with others due to a judgmental attitude, or even hidden addictions. These are all indications of an unintegrated Shadow. Eventually, if this struggle is not resolved, the person’s life becomes a colorless wasteland. Only by facing the Shadow, and integrating both poles of this dichotomy into the Self can the subject achieve wholeness and vitality.

If I were the art therapist, I would ask the subject to envision these kitties turning around and talking to the dark figure, inviting it to have a picnic with them. Let the dark figure vent its rage at being exiled for so long, and then go about the business of building peace and restoration. Perhaps the dark figure will gobble up the kitties, and then magically transform into a new character, such as a centaur or any other image symbolizing wisdom and wholeness.



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