About 4 years ago, when I was in a workshop with the renowned artist & author, Betsy Dillard Stroud, I participated in an exercise involving the 5 Universal Shapes. Betsy asked us to draw the 5 shapes & rank them in the order of our preference. Then she told us to use these 5 shapes to make a hand-carved block. If there were more instructions, I don’t remember them. I also do not remember the order of my preference at the time.
The block I carved has played a significant role in many of my paintings since that time. The exercise of ranking the shapes came from a book:
Signs of Life: The Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them by Angeles Arrien.
I have tried unsuccessfully to find the book. Last week one of my students, a psychologist, was commenting on the symbols I’ve used in my work and I shared the story of how I happened to discover them. He suggested that I investigate…that they were more important than I realized.
Yesterday, when I was at The Jung Center to preview the show, I asked in the book store. I didn’t remember the author…and only part of the title, but Elyssa knew the book and immediately got it from its shelf. I purchased it and this morning I read it all the way through. NOW I understand why the block I carved has been so important in my subsequent work…AND in my life since that time. The amazing power of synchronicity has once again opened an important door for me.
This morning I did the exercise from the instructions in the book, before reading the book. After reading the book, with the explanation of the symbols & how there meaning varies according to the ranking by any particular individual, I was able to understand better some of the feelings and transitions that have been occuring in my life.
There were about 20 people in that workshop with Betsy. I think that every one of them carved a block. All of them were different. I wonder whether anyone has realized what a powerful tool they were handed.
I’m sure you are familiar with the symbols…circle, square, triangle, spiral and equal-armed cross. Angeles Arrien calls the ranking process The Preferential Shapes Test.
If you are intrigued by the idea of this symbology in my paintings, you can see some of these paintings in my Mixed Media Gallery.