Monday, September 24, 2007

Spiral theory and practice

"My new Hypothesis: If we're built from Spirals while living in a giant Spiral, then is it possible that everything we put our hands to is infused with the Spiral?" -- Max Cohen in the motion picture Pi.

This weekend we watched the movie Pi: Faith in Chaos. It was about one mathematician's search for order out of chaos, such as finding code in the numbers of the NYSE. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the movie the main character referenced spirals, specifically the golden spiral which comes out of relationship with the golden rectangle, which, when a square section is removed, the remainder is another golden rectangle. The resultant and infinite removal of squares leads to the golden spiral.

I have long been fascinated with spirals. I believe that the first time I had a conscious encounter with them was a documentary I watched while a student at PA Governor's School of the Arts which showed patterns and shapes in nature and mathematics which were relevant to the worlds of art and music. I was 17 at the time. It was probably a few more years and encounters before I started to incorporate them into my artwork. I was an art history minor, so I began to see spirals in art from prehistoric to Renaissance and beyond. As a woman who has ventured into the meaning of the divine feminine mythology, I have found particular meaning in the triskele or triple spiral which can be interpreted as a representation of the triple aspect of the goddess: maiden, mother, crone; a representation of the nine month gestation of a human pregnancy; or a symbol of the goddess Brigid who is briefly referenced in my book Summers at Blue Lake. Brigid has been a touchstone for me because she is the goddess of writers, healers, and craftspeople--specifically metalsmiths (as I was in college, and as is my protagonist in Summers).

Another point along my spiraling path has been my interest in labyrinths. (A labyrinth is unicursal path which winds around. Unlike mazes which have many path options, labyrinths only have one way in and one way out.) Labyrinths have been used in countless cultures: storytelling in Greek Mythology (Theseus and Ariadne) and in cathedrals as part of worship (Chartres) are two examples. Some cathedral labyrinths form the shape of a rose which is the symbol for Mary, mother of Jesus. Labyrinths tell the story of a pilgrimage. They tell the story of birth. Letting go, entering center, filling up... as a cycle.

My artwork, particularly my flower paintings, explores spirals and the meaning they have had for me. I suspect my writing does, too, in the way my stories tend to wind back onto themselves. On my nightstand, I have a small spiral shell that my daughter gave me. I am reminded every morning, that I am on, above all, my journey to find center.

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