Thursday, February 19, 2009

Winter Star
"Animus" by Denita Benyshek

We need to see ourselves again as part of a brilliant, shimmering web of life. An artist at some point has to face that issue. Is the art connecting us and others in some way, or is the art disconnecting ourselves and others? I think it's not enough to just realign ourselves personally either - our art should also do that for others, and further, it must happen outside of the abstract. It must be a process that in its form and content joins us with the life force in ourselves, and in others.

Dr. Raphael Montanez Ortiz *

I just returned from WINTER STAR, the wonderful 4 day event held by ACE at the Atwood Resort in Ohio. Such inspiring people - and I was amazed as always that I could pull off another "guerilla Mask Making" workshop. This time we discussed the spiritual, metaphorical, theatrical and psychological possibilities of the mask in the first talk, and in the second 2 hour period, somehow managed to get almost 20 people to cast faces and hands. Plaster flew, laughter and chaos rained, and success all around! It was also a great pleasure to spend time with my friend Judith who lives in a community in Pennsylvania that has been around for 30 years, with many permutations. Sitting around the dinner table with her friends, who've been sharing resources and land for many years, reminds me of what is possible when people share cooperation, affection, and a dream. The highlight of the event for me were presentations by SIDIAN MORNING STAR JONES, who is the grandson of Rolling Thunder, and by artist DENITA BENYSHEK

Denita is pursuing a Ph.D. about the artist as shaman in contemporary society (with the Saybrook Institute in California). During 15 years of teaching in remote, Native American villages in the Alaskan bush, Denita Benyshek's paintings developed far from the coastal art scenes. Her artwork was included in Redefining Visionary Art, New York City, curated by Suzi Gablik and Ehud Sperling. In addition, she received numerous grants, exhibited widely, and is represented in many public art collections including the Glasmuseet (Glass Museum) in Ebeltoft, Denmark. She taught at the College of Folk Arts and Culture in Pskov, Russia, worked on films, and created multi-media performances. See her WEBSITE. (

Denita Benyshek

Denita's art and presentation were inspiring, evocative. Perhaps what I am most grateful to her for re-opening a conversation I entered more than 20 years ago, and have not re-entered for a long time. Artists are marginalized in our world, and artmaking is within popular culture regarded as a "hobby" more often than a meaningful career or a spiritual path, and this takes a toll on the profound creative dialogue possible between artist and society, let alone the healing and integrative potential of art. I was reminded by Denita that the Shamanic Function of art is vital to cultural evolution, vital to the creation of a language that can address the "other realms" of being. Reclaiming the sacred function of art, I believe, is more important now than ever, as we stand collectively on the precipice of becoming a global humanity. It is essential that those who are practitioners of the arts affirm their endeavor.

SIDIAN MORNING STAR JONES is the grandson of the Native American Medicine Man and author Rolling Thunder. He was a student of theology and spirituality when he met Stanley Krippner PhD, who encouraged Sidian to write book reviews for the Association of Humanistic Psychology magazine and give talks at universities and events including University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Munich, Germany and others. He has founded the Redefine God Project, a network for "Open-Source Spirituality", and maintains a blog called The Daily Cultist. Sidian's ideas and network are very contemporary, and I think the theology and network discourse he is developing is at the heart of the paradigm we are entering. See his WEBSITE. (

WINTERSTAR was a wonderful time to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones! And to see a bit of the snow fly over a beautiful frozen lake, remembering the quiet ghost of spring just beneath the surfaces of the land, and our lives.


* This quote is from an interview done with Dr. Ortiz in 1989 (from an unpublished manuscript "Seeing in a Sacred Manner" )

Raphael, who teaches at Rutgers University, organized the "Art and the Invisible Reality Symposium" at Rutgers that fall, which brought presenters from all over the world to discuss art and spirituality, including Gloria Ornstein and the Sami shaman she apprenticed with in Finland. It was a great privilege to meet him, to be granted an interview with him, and to participate in that important gathering of artists, shamans, and mystics.

More on that later...............the conversation has once again begun within my imagination! Thankyou to Winterstar!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post - thank you...

Unknown said...

Hey, Lauren! I was looking for a way to contact you post-conference, to find your email or something. So came to your blog - and found myself. Hmmmm. I was looking for you and finding me. Interesting. Anyway, soul sister and creative collaborator, zap me an email to denita dot benyshek at gmail dot com - and let's stay in touch! I've shared your website with a few friends. Nice work! Very moving. Looking forward to reading your interview transcripts - true labor of love. More later! Denita