The Importance of Art + Creative Expression After Catastrophe
by Marcus Maria Jung
About 2 years ago, I lost my art studio, tools and most of my belongings on Cobb Mountain, California in the devastating Valley Fire of September 2015. The experience of this loss was fundamental and very personal – a reality shift of major proportions. At first I was unsure on how to proceed. After losing my art studio and most of my belongings, any creative impulse and urge for my artistic expression were completely shut down.
I not only lost everything; much of the nature and the trees I loved so much were burned as well. The natural world that used to surround my studio and play a huge role in my creative expression was destroyed. All the trees, the beautiful forests and the natural environments that were so close to my heart and have always been a source of inspiration were gone to a large extent, at least for now.
It was an unreal experience, and I am sure many of you who are or were going through a disaster can relate. What made it more real was sifting through the ashes and the remains of my art studio, looking for ANYTHING that might be still of use. Experiencing the smells, the toxicity, the ashes and the dust strangely made it more real.
While sifting through the debris and ashes in my home, suddenly my hands touched something that felt like a book. I carefully brushed the debris aside and discovered the remains of an art book about movies. I opened it up to a page where Marlon Brando was looking at me holding a cat in his arms as Don Corleone in The Godfather.
There I was, looking at this quintessential artist holding a cat in his arms in a book that was about to fall apart while holding it in my hands. He seemed to say to me in that moment that eventually I will be fine and that my cat is fine wherever she might be (I lost my cat Tiger Lily, a true and dear artist cat, in the fire). Moments after that the book dissolved into ashes and I was fortunately able to take a picture before that happened…
And still, coming back into being a creator and calling myself an artist seemed very far away in that moment.
Eventually I picked up my tools again, or the ones I had left, and started to create. I created from the ashes, sculpted with wood that was charred, took images and wrote about my experience. Eventually I was able to find solace, beauty and inspiration, even in a catastrophic reality. Art became once again my refuge and savior.
The support that came through CERF+ was a key factor in finding my way back to my creative expression. I was able to purchase a new set of tools and a used truck that helped me tremendously in moving forward into my creative life. I am very grateful for all the ways that support showed up; how people came together; how artists especially stepped up and worked together ever since the fire. The loss and how these disasters affect us are very personal to each one of us, and it becomes a collective and universal experience through the ways we help each other, share our stories and work and create together in the time after disasters.
With the current Northern and Southern California wildfires and other catastrophic events that the world is going through, it seems we have entered an even more heightened reality of transformation and the sad loss of nature in a staggering rate. So many people are impacted by devastating fires, floods, and hurricanes. Those impacted go through existential fear and the pain of losing loved ones, animals, homes and the natural environments that used to protect, feed and nourish their bodies and souls.
What lessons can we learn from this? Facing our own mortality and destruction in all these catalytic events in the world is a deeply challenging experience and at the same time a call to awaken. Awakening to our true nature, our interconnectedness and essential oneness with nature is the urgent message that I hear when I am in deep communication with nature. Without nature there is no life!
Art and nature is and has always been a refuge for me. The urgency of this time is also a call to bring the voices of nature stronger and more purposeful than ever through art and creative expression into the world. My hope is that we as artists can and will continue to share and contribute our art, gifts and voices in this challenging evolutionary process we are in.
Thank you for being the creative people you are and thank you for listening. Art matters more than ever.
The sculptural work of Marcus Maria Jung embodies the ancient and sacred relationship between the human spirit and the natural world. Jung’s work explores issues of environmental and social justice. Frequent themes include sacred geography and ecology, human rights and earth based ritual, indigenous wisdom traditions, and the role of ancient archetypes in the formation of human identity. Marcus Maria Jung was born in Germany. He completed his studies of carpentry, sculpting and furniture design in Europe. His work has been exhibited in Germany, France and California. Marcus currently lives and works in Los Angeles and Northern California. www.marcusmariajung.com