The transformative power of art: a self-study
Leal, Elizabeth Gonzâlez
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This dissertation is the first-in-depth study of creative processes within the visual arts from a dual artist's/researcher's perspective. It is about the nature of art and emphasizes the power of art for inner transformation. Integral psychologist Ken Wilber, provides the main theoretical framework through his models: the Spectrum of Consciousness (1981,1983, 1986, 1995), which is derived from a combination of Western (developmental) and Eastern (transpersonal) psychological theories; and his All- Level, All-Quadrant model (1996, 1997), a holistic or integral approach to understanding human nature. I embrace the beliefs of Ellen Dissanayake (1987, 1992) that art and creative processes are natural and intrinsic to each human being and possess survival value for our species. I posit that art is intimately connected to life experiences and therefore, as a woman artist, in this study, I explore feminist theories and autobiography. This research is designed as a qualitative self-case study with discovery and exploratory orientation. It is an in-depth exploration into creative processes and documentation through daily journal-keeping, tape recording, photographs of works in progress, and drawings. My findings indicate that art is a ritualized behavior that accounts for lost communal rituals providing a sense of belonging and identity. Further, I find that creative processes are innately phenomenological in nature as conceived in Husserl's methodology of infinite parenthesizing, a notion that I posit, parallels Wilber's understanding of deep meditative practices. Wilber conceives the development of consciousness at all levels (including unity consciousness or non-dual reality) as possible for all individuals through meditative practices or mysticism. In this study, I state that art is an analogous vehicle for transformation and awareness of cosmic fusion. I posit that creative processes geared towards transformation effect change in the individual and in the society at large. In this sense, I respond to the investigations by many people that highlight human potentials by offering a means to materialize the Utopian individual. This study contributes to the rethinking of art education at all levels of instruction by providing insight into the functioning of human consciousness and the role of art in accelerating such development. I envision this study as a foundation for future artist selfstudies in order to develop a grounded theory of the transformative power of art.