Paul B. Rucker: FAQ
What would you call your art, and what field would it come under?
In a first acquaintance, where I have to be brief, I often call it "figurative metaphysical art." For simplicity's sake, I usually abbreviate it as "visionary" art, which has in recent years become recognized as a field in itself. Previously "visionary" art was thought of as an alloy of surrealism and fantasy, and many who paint in this genre display both influences. For me, Visionary is the most satisfactory umbrella I've yet encountered to label an art that incorporates spiritual and metaphysical experience with personal visions and altered awareness, that avoids some of the boxes implicit in a phrase like "religious" or even "spiritual" art.
Almost entirely self-taught, though I had a few teachers at a young age who taught me certain critical basics, like how to render shading and understanding color wheels. My technique evolved as a response to the unique characteristics of acrylic paint, and from constantly asking myself, "I wonder what would happen if I do this...?"
I'm an edgewalker. I go "out there" to find original encounter, to bring something back new. I'm here to dream more alive and different images of the Sacred in human guise, to facilitate access to the Mystery. My work serves the people to whom it speaks by keeping portals open to the Sacred and by anchoring this sense of the Sacred within an intensified vision of the human experience.
In addition to the general acclaim with which my "Melek Ta'us" has been met, for almost every Feri I've met feels it to be a true and authentic portal to the Peacock Angel, I sometimes hear stories about healings or revelations sparked in people's lives as a result of interaction with my work. My Testimonials section has some good stories from people who've reported some kind of impact-- often uncanny.
People respond to my art for all kinds of reasons. Over and over I hear how for some people it matches the kind of experience they have in their dreams, astral encounters, plant teachings (esp. peyote, ayahuasca, and iboga visions) and also deliberate imaginal meditations, whether in the course of a magickal curriculum or a privately generated intensive. The artwork can symbolize transformation or initiation or the crystallization of life purpose... the person who bought the original of "Reflections," which depicts a woman at night contemplating her reflection in a daylit pool with a fiery comet overhead, was a former firefighter who had made a decision to change careers and become a massage therapist. The painting seemed to her the summation of her life's journey at that point!-- which is something I couldn't have planned out beforehand.
I've even heard a few examples relating to healing: one woman who was recovering from a debilitating nerve condition told me how one of the dancing Maenads in my Dionysus paintings was "even more like me than I am myself." She had been a dancer, and would be again-- the dancing woman in my art showed her an image herself, healed, because there happened to be an extraordinary resemblance between them. In a case like this, the image becomes a talismanic adjunct to healing, a "medicine" for the journey.
An even more dramatic healing story came from Lilith M. in Toronto, the collector of the original of my "Kali," who used to work as a piercer and consequently had some daily contact with blood... she had a female client come in one day complaining of dysmenorrhea (a period that won't stop-- it can lead to dangerous blood loss). This woman was beside herself but Lilith told her to go and meditate before the image of Kali, who is intimately connected with women's blood, in the temple she had constructed in her back room. The bleeding stopped!
Art not only participates in mana from its creation but acquires it through exposure and in cycling with its audience-- understanding that the audience are those to whom it speaks, who want in some way to engage with it.
If you mean something like casting a circle or smudging the air before I start working, or even a litany or affirmation, no! The work of actual creation is just that, work. For me the act of intending to work, and then following up on that intention, is my "ritual." Apart from that my only ritualistic behavior tend to be getting my materials in order, to work from. On the other hand, I invoke the Muse: what pumps me more than anything is fierce visionary passion, that sense of connection with the Mystery, which has often come to me from good ritual. By that, I mean the ecstatic, artistic, transformative, consciousness-changing kind-- not "circle church"!
In the words of a friend, "your art is your yoga."
When it goes well, my mind calms down. My inner focus deepens and deepens further. Often I listen to recorded books when I am well under way, because I find that they engage my narrative brain and allow the picture-making part to have free rein. Later on I have vivid memories of the stories that went into my actual work-- not just the stories that might be part of the theme of the image, but the other stories I was listening to at the same time. This leads to a flow of focused awareness, a deep meditative state, where the image comes more alive as I develop it. An aura-seer once told me, while watching me paint in this deep fugue state: "your aura has slowed down completely, like it's frozen."
This state of deep concentration is the level of focus required for magical changes and other work in consciousness involving intention. I think it corresponds to Eliade's illud tempus, sacred time, "what has occurred is always occurring."
Despite hunger and thirst, the dry eyes and sore bottom, stiff back and bursting bladder, this deep session work feeds the soul of the maker like nothing else can.
I don't think of "the world" in the sense of "visualize world peace" or whatever. The world I am in touch with is the mundus imaginalis, the Imaginal world, where my visions come from. My vision for that world and this one is to be an authentic bridge between them. I want to bring more magic, more inspiration, more richness, more beauty and more meaning into this world. Sometimes I connect with a sense of how that might be happening even as I am working, which is very exciting, but it cannot be forced.
In general I believe that visionary art, especially when it emphasizes a relationship between human nature and earth and cosmos, nurtures a sense of the world as alive and precious, full of meaning, and ourselves as actors whose actions make a difference, whose love and wisdom seed the magic that makes lasting change.
"Know thyself", the Oracle said. What represents the deepest source of meaning and value for you? What does it look like, feel like, etc. How is it present (or not) in everyday life, for you? The journey to the sacred, the journey of deepening, is also a journey within. Encountering many parts of yourself that become, as you explore them further in meditation, symbol, and interpretation, not just about your private inclinations, but about that liminal space where your private self touches on and draws from the collective dreaming. That place where the highly personal touches the transpersonal is your fertile edge.
Explore archetypal themes through your own experience. Find a way to express your sense of the God-self in the creation. Use your pain to evolve healing. The Beauty Way-- another way to express spirituality as art-- involves feeling a personal balance of all things positive, negative, and other into some kind of unity-- a whole: a process of refining alchemical gold, through personal creation, from the "catalyst" of one's own life.