We are all made of stardust - and within us flows all the elements of nature. We often unwittingly strive as a species to separate ourselves from the various forms of life on the Earth, but we can never run far from that which is a part of our very being. We are coupled with every organism, molecule, and atom and spinning proton in existence. We are all connected and ignite the fire of life with our passion, inspiration, love and art.
Over the next few weeks I would like to share with you a glimpse into the art of the elements. I hope to inspire you and also me - so we can connect, embrace and immerse ourselves into the world around us - in our thoughts, our passions and our creations.
The greatest fire we know is the sun: the first symbol of human awareness of days, offering comfort and nurture from the cold and dark nights. It illuminates the way and gives life to all flora and fauna on this beautiful planet. However, the sun can also scorch the desert and bleach away colors and it can dry and burn and crack our world. There is a harsh duality that offers up life as well as the ultimate destruction. The sun, our star - is also a great part of a world of astrological and spiritual symbolism.
I learned at a young age that I am a 'fire' sign. Because of this, I am said to be instantly endowed with passion, strength, strong will, an adventurous spirit and the ability to lead (among other things) according to most astrological definitions. Fire is one of the richest symbols, offering up life, nurture, expansion, electricity and so much more. Perhaps due to my intimate relationship with fire, I often use it's symbolism in my art in one form or another. Sometimes it appears subtly through a photograph, disguised as sensuality among haunting images. Other times it appears more clearly in deep reds and blacks that release angst and anger in an abstract onslaught to represent deep emotion on a well battered canvas. At times it's used to burn and melt and singe my work. And all too often it offers itself as a way to literally see the graphite which carefully carves stroke after stroke onto a pale plain surface.
There are many ways fire has been used throughout history as an art form. Many cultures have used fire and dance for sacred rights, festivals, art and more. Hoop dancers spin their fire at drum circles and celebrations. And there is no better place to find electric, kinetic fire as art than in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada during Burning Man. Using flame in art is nothing new, but what are some other ways fire can be used in art?
We know of many ways fire helps us create our art. From the firing of kilns; to trash cans ignited for the purpose of creating that fantastic finish; to forging molten materials that will be sculpted, blown, poured or pounded into their perfect ends... fire is a very welcome element to many artists and their work. But many artists find the inspiration of fire symbolism to be the primary focus of their art and so do I.
Fire as a symbol is commonly associated with passion, lust, emotion, anger, hate, destruction, transformation, life-giving, nurturing and even rebirth. For example, you can envision the Phoenix as it rises from the ashes to start a new day and then you can take this inspiration and build upon it. Embrace the element and let the fire metaphorically shine through you and onto your canvas and into your song. Let it shape your clay or dance and let it melt your metals. You don’t have to use reds and yellows and orange in your paintings to represent fire. You can just feel the fervor and inspiration that the element itself offers through you. What aspect of fire do you find in your work? How do you embrace this element in your art, music or daily life?
The next chance you have, literally feel the warm sun on your face. Take a moment to fall into the element of fire. Absorb the aspects of fire’s symbolism and let it flow through your body. Then let your passions flow and inspire you to create a work of art that represents fire. I guarantee it will be nothing like you expected. Fire is an unpredictable and fast moving element, so take advantage of it and bring a new level of zeal to your art.
Remember: grow; learn; conserve; preserve; create; question; educate; change; and free your mind.
About: Kelli Klymenko is an artist, a faculty member and the Marketing & Events Coordinator at Sedona Arts Center: a gathering place where artists can learn, teach, and exhibit their works at the center’s School of the Arts and Fine Art Gallery in uptown Sedona.