This PowerPoint lecture was presented by Dr. Benyshek at the 2011 conference of the International Society for Shamanistic Researchers, at the State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw, Poland.
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Reprinted from AY Atelier Art: Transformative Gallery Online, and again featured on artist Lauren Raine's blog, Threads of the Spider Woman, this article defines who is a shamanic artist. Also addressed are the social, psychological, physiological, and spiritual benefits of experiencing art, as the creating artist, as a member of the art audience, or as an art collector. Finally, Dr. Benyshek shares a few sources of inspiration.
Ceylan Hulya M.A. and Lisa Rasmussen M.F.A, directors of AY Atelier Art and Art 4 All People were delighted and intrigued to interview the artist/psychologist/researcher Dr. Benyshek, about shamanistic art and process. We thank Denita for her amazing art, wisdom, and insights. All of us at AY Atelier are excited to release Denita’s portfolio, as an example of transformative art.
Dr. Benyshek provided an integrated and inspired response to our questions. As her answers grew and developed, she created the following article (addressing who is a shamanic artist, the benefits of experiencing art as the creating artist, as a member of the art audience, or as an art collector .
Sounds like the Muse was at work! Enjoy the interview and article. As always we encourage you to add to the conversation, please make comments below.
The Transformative Power of Shamanic Art
© 2013, Denita Benyshek
Several years ago, I participated in a shamanic drum ceremony given by the anthropologist, Dr. Ruth-Inge Heinze. Her powerful, sustained drumming gave me a vivid, astounding, and meaningful series of visions. The progression of the visions and the symbolic content of the visions were similar to what I experienced during artistic creativity. As I learned more about the calling, training, initiation, and practices of shamans, I recognized more and more similarities to my own artistic way of being. In shamanism, I found a model of how and why I make art.
Although I am formally trained as an artist (with both a BFA and an MFA in painting), I was so fascinated by the multiple relationships between artists and shamans, including the intent to heal, that I pursued a graduate certificate in the psychology of creativity, a masters degree in marriage and family therapy, and then a doctoral degree in humanistic and transpersonal psychology.
What is a Shamanic Artist?
My research (Benyshek, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c, 2013d) demonstrated how contemporary artists serve as shamans. Shamanic artists are socially designated spiritual practitioners who voluntarily regulate their attention for the purpose of obtaining information generally unavailable to their community, which is used for the benefit of communities and individual members of those communities. All of these properties must be fulfilled for an artist to fully qualify as a shaman.
Continue reading the article at AY Atelier Art: Transformative Gallery Online or Threads of the Spider Woman.
A graphic illustration of how psychopathology, in shamans and artists, can be associated with the creative process and potentially transformed into mental health through social support and other moderating factors (apprenticeship, initiation, learning how to control primary process, study and practice of spiritual traditions, engaging alternate state of consciousness, trusting intuition, etc.).
You may click on the figure to view a larger image.
Figure 22. Patterns of psychopathology and mental health affected by social support in shamans, creators, and artists.
"Opinions of researchers have varied widely with regard to the mental health of shamans, generally polarized into shamans being mentally ill or shamans being mentally healthy. One rigorously designed study (van Ommeren et al., 2004) found the shamans in one refugee group to be as mentally healthy or more mentally healthy than the other members of the community. Another study (Stephen & Suryani, 2000) of a different population of shamans found that, from the medical etic perspective, shamanic candidates qualified as mentally ill; yet, after training and initiation, the same individuals were deemed mentally healthy with psychotic features still evident. Moreover, the shamans had gained control of the psychosis, using it voluntarily in their shamanic practices."
"Importantly, because shamans appear to have a different mental illness-mental health trajectory and outcome, shamans may comprise a unique category of creativity that is different from most artists, eminent creators, clinical populations, and everyday creativity. This unique category might be due to established traditions of social support as set out in Figure 22."
From: Benyshek, D. (2012). An archival exploration comparing contemporary artists and shamans. PhD, Saybrook University, San Francisco, CA.
Available at: Denita Benyshek, PhD, MFA on Academia.Edu
Stephen, M., & Suryani, L. K. (2000). Shamanism, psychosis and autonomous imagination. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 24, 5-40.
van Ommeren, M., Komproe, I., Cardeña, E., Thapa, S. B., Prasain, D., de Jong, J. T., & Sharma, B. (2004). Mental illness among Bhutanese shamans in Nepal. Journal of Nervous Mental Disorders, 4, 313-317.
A basic overview of the characteristics, needs, and challenges of students who are gifted and/or talented, prepared by Lisa Cook, Rebecka Jones, Shannon Saenz, and Angela Titus.
Recommended reading and additional resources are provided.
The PowerPoint will appear when you click on the title of the blog.
Dr. Benyshek is a devoted psychotherapist and marriage counselor, a professional artist, and an internationally renowned researcher on contemporary artists as shamans.