Singing Songs of Ecstasy
“…when artists are working directly from their emerging consciousness, their art is their most honest mirror.”
with Carolyn Mary Kleefeld
Few people have devoted their lives to the creative arts as passionately as Carolyn Mary Kleefeld. For over thirty years, Ms. Kleefeld’s inspiring books and mesmerizing art exhibits have helped to guide us out of our mental and emotional cul-de-sacs into sublime states of mystical transcendence. Ms. Kleefeld is the author of ten books, which showcase her award-winning poetry, prose, paintings, and drawings in various complementary combinations.
Fueled by a need for creative expression and a lifelong fascination with psychological and spiritual transformation, Carolyn is the author of five poetry books that explore these archetypal themes. Carolyn’s first poetry collection, Climates of the Mind, received the rare honor of being translated into Braille by the Library of Congress, a dream realized for Carolyn. Climates, as well as a number of Carolyn’s other books, have been used worldwide as inspirational texts in universities and healing centers, commencing in the Fall of 2010, will be featured, along with the writings of seven other acclaimed women writers, in a permanent course, “The Other Half of the Sky: Eight Women Writers,” to be taught at Swansea University in Wales. Carolyn’s poetry has been translated into Romanian and Korean.
The Alchemy of Possibility: Reinventing Your Personal Mythology, which combines Carolyn’s visual art, philosophical prose, and poetry, and Soul Seeds: Revelations and Drawings, a collection of Carolyn’s philosophical aphorisms, including thirteen pen and black ink drawings, from which a chapter was nominated for the 2008 Pushcart Prize, both serve as oracular tools, much like the I Ching or the Tarot.
Carolyn’s most recent poetry collection, Vagabond Dawns, from which a poem was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize, includes a CD of Carolyn reading selected poems, with musical accompaniment by Barry and Shelley Phillips, who have also played for Coleman Barks in his readings of Rumi. Carolyn has also created an extensive and diverse body of paintings and drawings, ranging in style from romantic figurative to abstract expressionism. Featured in books, magazines, and a line of fine art cards, her art can also be found in collections at the United Nations, as well as numerous museums, galleries, and hospitals throughout the world, and in the collections of Ted Turner and many others, including the estates of Laura Archer Huxley and Timothy Leary. In 2008, the Frederick R. Weisman
Museum of Art at Pepperdine University exhibited a twenty-five year retrospective of Carolyn’s paintings and drawings, and published an exhibition catalog, Carolyn Mary Kleefeld: Visions from Big Sur, with art from the exhibit and a commentary by museum curator and director, Michael Zakian, Ph.D. They also selected a number of Carolyn’s paintings for their permanent collection. Carolyn’s painting “Neuro-Erotic Blast-Off” appeared on the cover of my first book, Brainchild, and we have worked together on many creative projects over the years. I wrote supporting material for two of Carolyn’s books–The Alchemy of Possibility and Soul Seeds–and her painting “Dionysian Splendor” was featured on the cover of the MAPS Bulletin that I edited in 2008 about psychedelics and technology. Her sublimely beautiful artwork also appears on the cover of the second edition of Mavericks of the Mind.
On September 14, 1989, in her candlelit living room at around midnight, we interviewed Carolyn at her home in Big Sur, California, which is perched on the crest of a mountain cliff (or on the tip of the “dragon’s crown,” as she refers to it), high above the Pacific Ocean. Carolyn spoke to us about the relationship between art and nature, expanded awareness and creative expression, and personal and universal transformation. Musing with us about the living secrets of nature, she looks as though she danced right out of one of her own paintings. Her eyes and smile have a luminous mystery that is also present in much of her work. She has a graceful and elegant manner about her, and one is easily enchanted by her poetic style of expression.
DJB: What was it that originally inspired your interest in creative expression?
CAROLYN: It is the discovery of my relationship with the universe, the unknown, that propels my translation. The spheres explored radiate a spectrum of seed-images. The wilderness of the unconscious is lush with the gems of infinity. The ancient codes lie in the seams between worlds. They only await the radiance of our conscious light to be illumined, recognized.
For example, at seven years old, I wrote and illustrated my first book entitled, The Nanose. Many years later I found out that my experience then, which was triggered by dust particles dancing in a sunbeam flooding my bedroom window, actually had its inherent meaning in my poetic translation of it, rather than in the external event itself.
Through my impression of the dancing dust particles I had my first recorded interaction with atomic life. My art was the bridge, translating localized conception (dust particles) into atomic theory. I thus experienced intimate dialogue with the vaster universe.
Today my reading of science tells me that the Nanose in my childhood book were monads, or cellular/atomic entities that underlie our contemporary concepts of biology and physics. Even the title Nanose essentially is the Greek word “nano,” meaning very small, as in the contemporary innovation called “nanotechnology.”
So art acts as a prescient translation from the unconscious mind, revealing the codes–the consciousness of the underlying forces of nature.
DJB: So, it was basically a need to express powerful experiences?
CAROLYN: Well, it was my interaction with inner experience, rather than the exterior event itself, that propelled the creative expression.