Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Where Wings Come From

When I was a child, I was not very good at discerning what was real from what wasn't.  My parents often remarked that I had "lots of imagination." In some ways, I suppose it could have been an advantage, as I'm sure it must have been a large part of whatever combination of influences and  natural proclivities ultimately made me choose the life path of an artist.  I would lay awake at night, convinced that there were all sorts of monsters inhabiting my room. After finally exhausting my parents' patience, I knew there was no use calling them for help; grown-up eyes were obviously unable to see these creatures, and they were no doubt bound to tell me to go to sleep, because there was "no such thing" as monsters.  And though I tried very hard to convince myself that my parents were right, the monsters disproved this theory by continuing to appear in my room after dark.

Callanish Stones on All Souls Night

When I was about six, my next door neighbor and so-called 'best friend' revealed to me that I was actually an alien from another planet who had secretly been left here and adopted by Earthlings - the man and woman I now mistakenly regarded as my parents. Soon, she said, my real alien parents would return for me, snatch me from my bed at night, and take me back to my home planet.  Absurd as it seems, I believed her. I did not tell my parents about this - I don't remember why - but I must have driven them crazy with my frequent nightmares and tearful pleas to sleep in their room. I don't know how long it was until I got over this fear, because as we all know, child years and adult years are not at all the same, but it felt like a very long time to me.

Icarus Reborn

I was thinking about all of this today because I have started another piece depicting a person with one wing. It's a theme/motif I've been working with for many years, and is for me a deeply personal symbol of my inner self.  I knew these winged or half-winged figures were emotionally connected to me, but at first I thought they were just a representation of my favorite fairytale, Hans Christian Anderson's "The Wild Swans", which I had read over and over again as a child.

 A wonderful illustration from the story, by Russian illustrator Nadezhda Illarionova.

Here's a short summary, if you don't want to read the whole story, but it basically involves a girl whose 11 brothers have been turned into swans by - who else? - their wicked stepmother.  A fairy tells their sister she can reverse the spell by knitting shirts out of nettles for her brothers, but of course everything goes wrong, and she has to dress them in the shirts before the last one is finished, leaving the youngest brother with one wing instead of an arm.

Book of Dreams, first page spread

At some point, I realized that that, subconsciously, the one-winged figures represented more than an attachment to a favorite storybook character; on some deeper psychological level, I identified with them.  Too bad Carl Jung's not around to figure that one out, I thought. I briefly researched Jung's archetypes, but none of them seem to shed any light on this. Perhaps I unconsciously see myself as  not fully human; it's true that in many ways animals make more sense to me than people do. Some sort of transformational process feels closer to the mark, though; maybe it represents the hope for change, a desire to become something better than I am. Or, could it be that my neighbor's alien theory wasn't so far off after all...? :~)

Anyway, here is the new piece thus far:

No, she doesn't have a wing yet - but stay tuned; I will post any further progress as it happens.


  1. Sharmon, I believe I know what your mean, when animals make more sense to you than people do. same here. ..your art is instinctual, personal, what you really feel.

  2. Hi Sharmon. I'm struck by these gorgeous haunting images, but also by some of your words and thoughts. The idea of a woman who is part bird is a powerful one. Maybe that's you?

  3. my wings were broken for years but I had a dream about 20 odd years ago where a kind magician helped me fix my wings... that kind magician was Old Man Crow in real life and slowly he helped me learn to fly again... we are both a bit broken and our wings are frayed & tattered but we can still fly....

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    2. & have a look at Terri Windling's new post when stories take flight

  4. Amazing post Sharmon, and stunning work... I too, have always been fascinated by wings and flight, cannot wait to see the finished piece...

  5. Wow!!! Your Callanish stones really grabbed me as they are from my part of the world. You have captured their mystery so beautifully.

  6. I loved that story as a child too! Still do I guess. I was afraid of bed as well, but for a different reason, I was afraid I might see my guardian angels, I was pretty certain anything that good would be too awful to behold for a bad child like me. I used to warn them I was about to open my eyes, just to be certain I didn't catch them by surprise. I'm still a little afraid of the unseen worlds, no horror movies for me. Looking forward to seeing where this takes you.


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