The Soul of Coney Island
As an artist, I find myself awed by the exquisite beauty of creation, and its profound implications regarding both mans vulnerability and capacity. Within our being, moment by moment, each of us holds the ability to be both hero and villain. Indeed it is only when we understand and embrace this reality that we can hope to transcend its competing duality, choosing hero. The shadow as described by Carl Jung is an inherent part of our nature, it is the source of much of our: passion, comedy, fear, creativity, heroism, striving and transcendence. It is a powerful force that sets the stage for the exercise of free will and a continuing encounter with the deepest issues of soul. I find Coney Island to be a metaphor for this greater reality. Perhaps Coney Island has played a mythical role in our cultures history, providing a wondrous stage on which millions of visitors have encountered Jung's shadow and explored their own personal issues of soul.
In finding expression and experience of these deepest of issues, we not only seek an understanding of our existence but we are in a pursuit of a profound experience of being alive. It is here that our lives will have resonance within our innermost being, so that we actually know the rapture of being alive.
Indeed, this duality of our soul is essential to our being. One end of a string can only be defined in relation to the other. Consequently, Jung's shadow is not to be denied, hidden and driven into unconsciousness, for in order to transcend our frailties, Jung's "shadow" needs to be understood and ultimately embraced as part of our essence. As an inherent part of God's will, it defines the fundamental human condition, man's falleness before God and is the foundation of free will and our capacity to be "hero" and find salvation. Evidence of man's nature is experienced daily in our own lives and in the life or our culture and society. Joseph Campbell states "One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. Out of darkness comes the light."
As an artist, my interest is in exploring this nature, making the work of the soul more visible and acknowledged. It is in this environment where issues of soul speak to us in a quiet, perhaps even a silent voice; where it lurks unacknowledged welding power and influence, at both a conscious and subconscious level. A primary role of art is to explore these issues as inherent elements of man's role in Gods Creation. As the clarity of these issues increases, so does the clarity with which we are able to perceive the exquisite beauty and wholeness of Creation. Ultimately, art acts as both a mirror and a lens that gives presence and visibility to that which previously was unknown, unseen and unconscious. It is worthy to note that the perception of all great beauty must have an element of "strangeness" to it and in its expression is an opportunity to know the perfection of all of Creation.
Coney Island and other Carnivals, have always provided a rich environment for the work of the soul. Behind the innocent facade of fun, rides, shows and cotton candy are the powerful themes of fear, lust, abandon, adventure, irony, comedy, salvation, gluttony, mystery, pain, monsters, gambling, and voyeurism. There are few other circumstances where we are permitted to play such a vicarious role in translating such compelling, universal themes. Indeed there are few other activities where our children are encouraged to savor their nightmares. As our town carnivals and county fairs give way to sanitized theme parks, we might ask what are we losing and what are we gaining? There is powerful work being done at the carnival; these galleries are an exploration of that work.
William Blake's "Tiger Burning Bright" offers a compelling perspective on these questions.
Original Paintings in Oil
Beneath the parching sun of an August day, we stand on the sand. In meaningful interracial association, we are packed like ardines, seeking a spot for relaxation away from the City's hot concrete and brick abodes. We stand on tippy toe to see the water.
Now, in our attire, we are almost naked mannequins with long hair. We meet with yesterday's ghosts in bloomers, little rubber caps with chin straps, who rode the underground subway after dropping a nickel into the rotary turnstile; inside their pocket a nickel for a Nathan hot dog.
This beach is an art gallery, presenting original paintings in oil on the tan sand, We dance to tugboat music. We stand on tippy toe to see the water.
Bettye K. Wray
Mermaids - Symbols of Transformation
Coney Island Galleries
Coney Island Poetry
Coney Island Links
1998 Northstar Gallery