Shadows, Courtney Hess

Shadows by Courtney Hess will hang in the Gallery Annex this month. The show opens tomorrow night, August 4th, 6-9pm.

This exhibit explores issues of identity and transformation, of self and shadow, through the hero’s journey and dream imagery. Recently I have been thinking about Carl Jung’s ideas about the shadow aspect of ourselves, and the way we can heal by connecting with our unconscious and facing our hidden side.

The paintings featuring a blindfolded protagonist represent a conscious attempt to explore this idea. This work focuses on The Hero's Journey as coined by Joseph Campbell. It is a familiar theme in myth and story – a hero sets out on an adventure, encounters setbacks, is transformed and eventually returns home. While the depiction of a blindfolded figure was deliberate, the paintings quickly morphed into an exploration of dream states.


In the “Cave Painting” series, the protagonist gradually disappears, replaced with images from dreams and metaphysical exploration. The images in this work were not premeditated. The paintings become a form of excavation – of uncovering and illuminating that which was hidden. It is in this work that elements of the shadow are exposed.

My process of painting – of doing it regularly, of creating space and place for creation, is essential. Painting is a way for me to meditate and commune, to enter into dialog with the unknown and unknowable. I paint quickly and generally have multiple paintings going at the same time – moving back and forth between them. I prefer not to paint on a blank canvas, so my process begins by building up paint on canvases in a random way. Initially I am paying almost no overt attention to color or form – simply building up a surface that I can then engage. At a certain point, the accumulation of paint inspires me, and mystery will begin to be revealed. It is then that I engage the painting more deliberately. I think my strongest work combines unconscious expression with conscious integration. Happy accidents and expressive energy co-mingle with intention and purpose. Often, this latter, more deliberate phase of the painting involves removing elements and simplifying the composition. It is often in simplifying the work that the pieces take on depth and vitality.

–Courtney Hess