ARAS Online is deeply honored to have been selected as the recipient of the David Blum estate collection of digital images and text of "Pictures from the Unconscious" which we unveil in this June, 2013 edition of ARAS Connections.This body of work is an amazing achievement of the human imagination and spirit which requires multiple visits to take in its many wonders. Each viewer will find his or her own favorites from this extraordinary human document. For instance, I am particularly taken by the images and reflections on time that occurred near the end of David's life which I find to be stunning, provocative and metaphysical. The brilliant colors and composition of Blum's intensely personal yet highly sophisticated images constitute a treasure of which ARAS Online has been chosen to be guardian. Putting this material into such a handsome format that honors the numinosity of Blum's creation is the handiwork of Allison Tuzo who continually amazes us at ARAS Online with the intelligence, patience, respect and skill with which she designs ARAS Connections.
Related to the notion of treasure, we would like to invite all of our readers to make suggestions for articles that they would like to see included in our growing ARAS Online Library. We have made it a goal of ARAS Online to gather one of the world's finest collections of digitized articles on the relationship between image, symbol, culture, and psyche. Please pass on to us the names of any articles that you have read and come to love as a treasure of the human psyche in its capacity to symbolize in imagery the deepest levels of human experience. You can send your suggestions to
Tom Singer, M.D. Co-Chair of ARAS Online for National ARAS
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Pictures from the Unconscious
by David Blum
The Dachshund Quartet (1995) by David Blum Oil pastel on paper, 17.5 x 23.5 inches
Beethoven's String Quartet in B flat Opus 130, IV. Alla Danza Tedesca, Performed by the Guarneri String Quartet
David Blum was a distinguished musician and writer, who documented his singular, inner journey in dream images, text, and music, over a thirty-five year period.
The forty-four exquisite digital reproductions of the original oil pastel paintings, are each accompanied by a rich and penetrating commentary, derived from the following primary sources: David Blum's unpublished "Pictures from the Unconscious," personal diaries, dream journals, and the DVD documentary, entitled "Appointment with The Wise Old Dog," produced in 1998, when David Blum was dying from cancer. Image and text reveal an unfolding story of a man's path towards wholeness, in which he faces death, yet experiences a healing transformation. David Blum's "Pictures from the Unconscious" should serve as a deep well for all of us, inspiring and guiding our own search for wisdom as often as we choose to drink from its rich source.
INTRODUCTION BY DAVID BLUM
My collection of paintings represent a lifetime encounter with the pictorial language offered to me by the unconscious. In a sense, I have been a kind of scribe these past thirty-five years whose medium has been pastel oil crayons. Some of the imagery has come from dreams, some from waking visions. The first of these forty-four paintings, "The Pastoral Symphony," refers back to a 1953 dream I had in Paris when I was seventeen years old. This dream proved to be foundational to my life and all that has followed flows from that central experience.
The continual challenge was how to structure the material while not impeding the flow. The archetypal nature of much of the collection renders a strictly chronological order quite meaningless and arbitrary -- the inner world is far too rich and replete with nuanced meaning to be neatly categorized. A principle example are the paintings relating to the Anima -- I should say, inspired by this central archetype -- as if she herself drew these powerful convergences of God, Nature and the on-going effort of the psyche to achieve balance through a union of opposites.
In my writing there are undoubtedly limitations imposed through the one-sidedness of my conscious attitude. My commentaries are only a hint at the meaning contained in the images and certainly not definitive interpretations. I cannot explain the images....rather they explain me. My conscious words act, at best, as a bridge to an ever deeper realization of the transformative power of the psyche. The images are greater than I am. They suggest immense cycles of psychic life which pass through me and demand to be recorded and assimilated.
I am sitting on the porch of an old farmhouse in Upstate New York, reflecting on how the land, mountains, trees, and sea are a vernacular of nature that always inspires. If I were a painter, I sometimes say with a smile…only because I am a poet and like many of you, I do paint—with words.
And we are delighted that there are so many of you who paint with words as we received your latest poems–inspired through the Ekphrasis form. For this newsletter, we have a special image of Monet’s Cliff Walk at Pourville, and a poem entitled, Monet at Normandy, The Cliff Walk Pourville. This was sent to me in a wonderful email and I was impressed by how the poem captures the essence of the natural beauty of that place and how the writer honors the Ekphrasis form notably. The writer uses the inherent tension between describing the image through the "gaze" and being part of it. I couldn't wait to share it with all of you here as a preview to our current Invite to Write.
Monet at Normandy, The Cliff Walk Pourville by Eldon Beck
what do they see two young women in wind-whipped white dress draped with grey midst golden turmoil of flowers and grasses on the shear bluff above the white capped sea
what do I see hiding in splashes of paint within the joy of creation a vision that compels feel the wind, smell the salty air, see/sea forever wildness invades stirs the garden inside me arouses memoires of Viking past mind and soul fly free
how does paint on canvas touch so deeply cause a search through crowded years connect to my past and future bask in this moment
In our continued journey through the Portal and in writing and appreciating poetry, I often reflect on the guidance of my teachers and mentors. Like any art form, poems that inspire and speak to us can be quite subjective, yet, there are those lines in poems that have a universal quality, poems that touch us all. The qualities of poetry that have this appeal often show the craft of word song by expressing what the writer sees. At the same time, poems that illuminate some subtle essence of the writer’s emotion or psyche have great appeal, as we can feel that energy. This poem is also noteworthy because it has two vital attributes that my teachers encourage: the use of simple words that provide enough space to draw us to deeper places, and the sound of the poem, when read aloud, flows from the lips like a song. There are some wonderful lines in this poem that demonstrate these points:
two women in wind-whipped white dresses draped with grey
When read aloud these lines give an echo that great poems resonate from the soul. The use of alliteration in poetry is tricky, but he pulls it off.
Then we have the invitation in the line:
feel the wind, smell the salty air, and see/sea forever
This invitation brings us into the poem, but also into greater intimacy with the writer which comes after the juxtaposition of what the women see and what he sees. The sea-like ebb and flow of his verse from the outer to the inner place, is a subtle but most effective and lovely construct.
wildness invades stirs the garden inside me arouses memories of Viking past
The use of the one-word line "arouses" is poignant, well-placed and adds to motion, the sway and then the rest or pause that is natural to a poem's breath. I love those lines and entering the garden in poetry is always an adventure and this invitation does not disappoint with its hint of the warrior archetype.
When we come to the "turn" in the last stanza, which is given in a reflective question, the same wavy sea motion brings us back from the past to the future, from the inner to the outer. The second to the last sentence ending with a one-word line, is sublime to the place and intimate proximity between the poem and image.
Now—it is our turn to walk the cliffs of Pourville. We send this Invite to Write with hopes that you too will bask in the scenery. I look forward to reading your poems! Please send them by August 15th.