COLETTE, A Beautiful Dreamer, The Transformative Persona

Sarah Berry Tschinkel

“The creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image, and in elaborating and shaping this image into the finished work. By giving it shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present, and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life...” (Jung, v. 15).

I have been fascinated by Colette and her art since writing the text and narrating this program in 1992, twenty-three years ago. As you can see from this excerpt, Colette, herself, conveys the archetypal. I am intrigued by Colette for many reasons… Not only am I a lover of art, but also love all things theatrical-imagination, character, costume, audience and play! But perhaps the most compelling reason I have followed and studied this artist is her relationship to psyche-how she embodies and gives manifest form to psychic contents through the making of her art and, most notably for this presentation, in the creation and dissolution of her personas. Through an inspired blend of autobiography, imagination, personal agency, and spirit, Colette takes the bits and pieces of her life and creates fantastic worlds that she and her personas inhabit. Jung says of the artist, “...The creative urge lives and grows in (her) like a tree in the earth from which it draws its nourishment. We would do well, therefore, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche...” (Jung, v. 15, p. 75). This idea speaks directly to Colette’s art as a ‘living thing’ in a relationship of reciprocity with psyche- both drawing nourishment from and feeding her at the same time.

As detailed earlier, in this paper I will weave portions of a recent interview with Colette with older clips from the program made in 1992. These excerpts, along with images from her work, will illustrate and amplify my exploration of Colette’s persona as a bridge between inner and outer life- a creative ‘skin’ of sorts that both celebrates and protects her, but can and must be shed, allowing the movement of psyche to be revealed in a continual and fluid relationship between creation and destruction.  I will contrast Jung’s understanding of the persona function as mask, both protecting and hiding the ‘real’ self, with the idea of mask as ‘sacred’ bridge to the divine. In addition, I will discuss how Colette’s personas and environments reflect the archetypal energies of Aphrodite in her role of bringing the divine and the earthly together through the cultivation of beauty. And I will conclude with a brief exploration of how the persona function in our culture has evolved, and how Colette’s art presages this evolution.

Read COLETTE, A Beautiful Dreamer, A Transformative Persona in its entirety.