Friday, July 27, 2012

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series - Cosima Lukashevich

Although she currently resides in Egypt, it's safe to say that with all the different places that Cosima Lukashevich has lived and studied, she truly is an artist of the world - inspired by life and the cultural heritage and ancient spirituality that is all around her. A very lively and inspiring interview!   I hope you enjoy learning about this very creative and accomplished artist as much as I did!

                                                                                                      ~ diane fergurson

Quan Yin
MBS:  Can you tell us a little about yourself?  How did you get started in art?

Cosima:  I was drawing making pictures from early on my mother tells me, before I have memory of it. Imaginative play, drawing and creative projects was where I got my most fun! I was good at drawing and painting at school age, it was something that came easily to me. I could see what I was doing in comparison to my classmates…but that wasn’t the important thing! What was most compelling to me was what was happening in the creative zone, times of making things.

In creativity I felt an expansion. The world telescoped out exponentially made life feel greater, magical; and at the same time produced a sense of astonishing one-ness and deeply connected unity. I felt it brought with it a sense of being plugged-in, excited by lively possibilities! Creativity opened doors of what the world was, the ordinary mundane and regular took on qualities of the magical and sacred. It changed perceptions made everything open up accordion wide and get deeper and broader. An excitement! Realms stretched out, and yet I felt embraced tightly. Simultaneously it gave me wings to soar about… it felt divine.

Yes, in happiness but also I must say in an inner sense. One experiences the depth of soul in Art and Imagination; an acquaintance with a deep source inwardly. At the time I could not verbalize any of this, of course, I was too young I did not have the emotional sophistication or vocabulary.  Kids from the neighborhood knew what I could do and would knock on the door wanting me cook up some play adventure for us all to join in.

I see now that I was in expanded states of awareness in a lot of time spent alone. I had stumbled onto intuitive meditation, as I believe children do more readily than later in life. I was an only child and needed assistance in our new life in America, having immigrated at four years old. I turned to spirit instinctually. And to art.

Woven into the roots of DNA, my family tree from both sides brought about innate artistic abilities. My mother told a haunting story of a great lithograph of our family tree printed by my great uncle Ludwig, who was a lithographer for a publishing house in Innsbruck. My grandfather Reinhold Gergen, trying to preserve and protect it took it out of its frame, rolled it up wanting to send it to his brother Ludwig since all was about to break loose in Germany at that time. My mother was telling me the story in America, where I was growing up. (How life takes us places!)
Oh, how that story worked on me! I could see the scene of my mother and my aunts as children, my worried grandparents. The lithograph was lost never to be seen by my mother and her sisters again.

The Three Graces
My high school art teacher Adelaide Tunnel gave me a long white cardboard to do with whatever I wanted. I felt compelled, driven really; I could not resist the need to draw a very long tree; a complex root network underground passing through striations of geology. A cave of stalactites and stalagmites appeared dissecting the underground scene of roots, which in its hollow held a pot of gold. I must say I was not rationally putting the family story and the need to create a tree together; it was not so direct and intentional. Please understand.

Although, eventually it did turn out to be a fantastic revelation! I even won a community prize. What I hadn’t planned for is what it told me, more than what I could have ever expected.
The picture spoke back to me.
“Look, there is a valuable thing you hold in your roots…it is not lost since it is a part of you inextricably. Draw up what is inside of you, your heritage; what is most valuable can never be lost. DRAW!”
 And so I did. This drawing became my pointer to the next steps to be taken and I had the great good fortune and privilege to be able to continue on to study art in university.

MBS:  It sounds like you must have the ability to visualize and see very clearly in your mind's eye.  How has that ability guided and influenced your your artwork over the years?

Cosima:  I came to Egypt discovering something about creativity through my experiences here…and the mind’s eye!
As I said in answer to your first question I went on to university art school in Philadelphia and I studied later at the New York Academy of Art. I trained as a designer and painter/draughtsman. What I was taught in these institutions was one side of creativity. The nuts and bolts of processes and materials first of all then the basics of 2D aesthetics; composition, forms in space perspective, light and cast shadow, design of the picture plane, color theory while gaining experience and practice along the way.

Life conspires to make you grow, extend beyond who you were, teach you things you never could never imagine you would to move you beyond previous boundaries, borders and limitations.

There came a point here in Cairo when I faced personal circumstances in my life that pressed me emotionally right to the edge. A crisis. At the time I had the feeling of being on overload, much like a toaster that has been zapped with a power surge, so much electricity flooding the circuits not able to conduct another extra volt through it. At the time I couldn’t think another thought or other deal with another emotion, there was simply too much to handle. Full tilt.

This occurrence served to break the container, bring down the walls of limitation. I see now that is exactly what needed to happen for me to get beyond my former existence on so many levels to become a more whole artist beyond technical ability or facility and I knew I had to paint my way out.

By accident, on an internal signal I began to apply paint without intention, pouring paint on a canvas there came to my utter astonishment, an image. I acted without preconceived ideas of an outcome. I let go of control creatively allowing “accident” and flow to take place on the format. Later on this then this lead to collage the same process with paper. Ripping of papers letting them fall where they may and seeing what would come, then making out with my mind’s eye what there was.

I see that creativity is a force, energy active universally, a living power. Creativity it is nothing that we need manufacture, we don’t have to it exists already everywhere; we are born from it and into it. We rather allow it in to move through us, we usher it in if we open that doorway. It becomes an issue of how we conduct this creative force. Do we use this power externally as we would a tool or do we open our own channels through which it emanates through us? It is to act as a medium directing or funneling it in the creative process and onto the paper or canvas, or whatever may be.

I read the suggestions of image in the chaos of the materials there on the paper or canvas that result from this open method of making marks. I suppose it to be much like a Rorschach psychological test where one interprets inkblots. Except the artist is the originator of the blot and the decipher. This way of letting go enables a route beyond the limitations of the mind’s need to plan or devise; to reach further down to where the artist is originally and authentically the core self, and therefore producing artwork that is original and authentic to the artist. This has always been a search for me, what is intrinsically my own personal mark, my own vision.

I Love You Fish
MBS:  Are there common themes or threads that run through your work?

Cosima:  The unifying thread in my work is spirit. I say all creativity is spiritual work.
Art is Spirit in motion. To find that source has been a life long mission. Education could not find it for me, only the school of life teaches that lesson.

So being in Egypt has been a mother load location since its past is built on the foundation of spirit united with matter. I have drawn upon its energies still alive in the land through archetype and mythology indicators of where it exists in an inner world and in the greater world.

 Egypt has been a predominant theme in my work, ancient Egyptian mythological stories from dynastic times and Arabian motifs and patterns keep reoccurring. What I particularly enjoy in a certain series of my work, the collage that are painted upon, this confluence of pharonic image with Arabian pattern. I really like seeing it layer upon layer as if looking through a lens penetrating through all periods of time. As though time doesn’t exist, visually it’s all happening now. I get a kick out of it when that happens in the composition, that’s when the magic is really alive!

I must also say that angels, guides and mentors keep popping up throughout many compositions. The Egyptian creation stories are quite significant; Isis, Osiris, Set, Horus, Sekhmet and Hathor. They bring me messages of hope and strength whenever they appear.

 Mythology is a fascination of mine. I think archetypal images are important; patterns that run through history from our deep past are a part of us. Stories that are emerging and re-emerging, being retold culturally has so much to reveal about us. The dream dreamt by the collective, these primordial images that are built into the human psyche for me are key and wildly interesting to me. I absolutely love them, I find them amazing-spell binding! The stories that have never happened but are unfolding all the time. The DNA of the psyche!
I think it’s important for us to keep them present in our consciousness today, to retell them in new ways to keep them alive in our awareness. They hold so much power; they are maps that give us keys to our future potential.

My ears prick up whenever I hear the call of mythology and archetypal stories. You get an inkling of other side of life, the mystery of your nature, the magic of the universe.  A sense that there is a deep river that runs through you and goes down deep and back through all time. It feels instinctive. They are so moving and exciting to me, to know they move through you as well brings awareness you are part of the human story through them, a unity of all things. Just like drawing a great big tree that you know you are part of.

Flying of the Desert Wind
MBS:  What are some of your favorite materials to work with?

Cosima:  I had attended a few workshops lead by my Egyptian colleagues in collage and silkscreen printing, both being popular media here.  I incorporated them into my own work making a series which is still one of my favorites; I used silkscreened Arabic calligraphy, found papers, old book pages and arabesque graphic designs, transfer printed photos of landscapes (symbols of her essence) This then formed a surface on which I painted further on in acrylics and oil pastel. All these indigenous remnants were used to induce Egypt to speak about herself in the pictures that resulted!

I have made all kinds of things, from furniture, to lamps and containers, boxes, toys, books and these are tributaries I enjoy traveling down from time to time, but really the main river is painting and drawing.

I love gouache for its velvet intense color and its ability to be manipulated, diluted or rubbed out whenever I want. Combined with pastels I think it’s a natural pair, these two. Oil pastels with turpentine wash or applied thickly, I love. I use acrylic just a little bit. But gold and silver powders in varnish I use a lot. Gold is an important color for me, silver to some extent too. However I can get it—in gauche or acrylic, gold varnish, gold is an elemental substance (even if I am not using actual gold) I think it has an effect in the room where the piece hangs.
I love cotton printmakers paper; Arches BFK. It holds pastel in its fibers, takes a lot of wear and tear in erasing and repeated water applications. It’s more like felt fabric than a paper. I love it.

Pond of the Oracle
MBS:  You stated, "All creativity is spiritual work".  How so?

Cosima:  I ask the Divine to partner with me, releasing the ego’s insistence of control allowing for the unintentional mark to step in surrendering to what happens on the paper or canvas. In this way I become a receptacle able to receive the gifts of Spirit, a vessel for creation.

 I am not the one in total command, I seek to be a co-creator in releasing my dominance in decision making artistically. This creative force is more flexible, expansive and original than my own limited ideas or abilities. In fact, I have to say I do my best work when I don’t know what I’m doing! Things appear that I myself could never have imagined when I am a partner to this. I am many times amazed at what transpires never expecting such results, messages and answers far beyond what I am able to do. What does that have to say for my own supposed “talent”. 

That is the greatest joy in being an artist. To feel the vibration of creative energy buzzing through you, to feel that god force resonating in you as it passes through and onto the paper. To feel that you are an instrument of something bigger than yourself is a gift and a wonder. Not only that, its where the magic is truly alive!

MBS:  What is a typical workday like for you?  Do you work on your artwork everyday?

Cosima:  What I have found is that creative work comes in cycles, dry parched periods and flows of inundation. Times where I think I will never make another thing, paint another dot.  It’s interesting for me to observe this in myself, there is this inner voice to it too, and its belligerent! Hell NO!  I am not working today and maybe never will again! Leave me alone! I a going to sit on this couch and not do a damned thing.
 I do become anxious and nervous in these times; it does not feel exactly carefree and happy.  Believe me it’s not easy to be this way. All those imperatives to “paint everyday!” from people in authority go through the head. But this is what’s going on. I can push myself to “just do it” what comes from that is forced bland and uninteresting work in the end.

But as I mature and accept myself for what I am, the woman I am, I see there are necessary times of dormancy, times of year actually that go quiet at now accustomed regularity; deep winter in particular.  And when I least expect it the drive reawakens, the tides turn, what was in the off position has now gone into hyper gear.
You think nothing is happening but in reality those dark nights of quietude are fields that must be fallow for a season laying in wait to sprout healthfully later on.
The inactivity becomes suddenly; don’t stand in my way. Up till all hours and then the first thing I want to see in the morning besides a cup of coffee is what has transpired the night before and then I cant keep my hands off it. The passion is back and I’m deep in it, the labor of bringing it through is in motion.

The feminine aspect must be recognized, seen and known for what it is in us and respected.  I am not a man. Stop trying to make me act like one. Particularly in creativity! In the basement of my soul, at the fountainhead of my being, where I become the individual that I am- myself, where I spring into existence; at that ground zero I am a feminine creative human being.  I cannot box and package one aspect of self from the other in separation. Creator and feminine exist in me together they are not separable. I work as a woman does in full acknowledgment of the sacred feminine alive in me, working with me and through me; this thing has cycles and rhythms and is birthed through me. I am what I am.
The Illumination of Liberty
MBS: Do you sell your work online?  What has your online experience been like?

Cosima:  I am interested in reaching an audience on the other side of the world where I presently am. I would like to gain more access and visibility in real terms to America not only selling through the Internet. There is so much online that I think its not always easy to discern for the interested what is what. The up side is that Internet selling has given me the ability to make forays before I physically arrive.

Seated Quan Yin
MBS:  What advice do you have to anyone who wishes to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Cosima:  You see if you had asked me what advise would I give to those who pursue an artistic path I would answer a long the lines of get as much education and experience as possible. Do it because you love it. Have faith and determination. Consider that you may have to take other jobs to support yourself.

But you stipulated the word, seriously.
“…Seriously pursue an artistic path.”

Sirius-ly be led by a guiding star along a path of Art.

The profession of Art is a responsibility not accomplished or undertaken without consideration; because of its consequences to the Artist. It is a pursuit of the hand, the head and the heart, mostly heart. It is an activity that unites the entire person, a pulling together of all one’s faculties. It requires the entire being in it. You do it whole-heartedly.

There is power in Art.

 Done where one is the threshold of the new moving into existence from the un-manifest unseen energies of what is waiting to materialize ushering it into matter with sincerity, the world moves forward.  One follows that star because you know, to acknowledge its dictates is what has to be done, there’s no other way because it’s the right way, the true path forward. Under such auspices the creative arrives here not only transforming what exists in the present world, but the artist herself. She is changed for having done the work. The work transforms the maker.

~ thank you Cosima!

Cosima's artwork can be found on ImageKind.
You can also find her work at http://www.lukashevich.com

Links to other interviews in the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series.

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Artist,Writer, Jewelry Design