The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas states those who seek must keep on seeking until they find, that when they find they will become troubled, and that when they become troubled they will become astonished! The fountainhead of my life as an artist accordingly has three streams: a boundless fascination with the natural world, an innate predisposition to religious speculation and third, a deep and abiding perplexity at the lithe enthusiasm and bright spirit of the mother who affirmed my art, but whose paraplegic body (from a 1954 car accident) is also the abiding reminder of the intractable suffering of the world. I imagine my trajectory today on an elliptical orbit: I set out as Mother Nature’s Son, a wanna-be field biologist whose love of Audubon pointed more to art than a lab or field station, whose years of diligent printmaking and art history saw startling transformational crises which necessitated the expansion of my excessively aesthetic worldview into a depth psychological one, leading then through thirty five years as a Jungian analyst and religious historian. Thus the elliptical return of today appears mysteriously inverse, if symmetrical, a Myth of the Eternal Return lived in weekly journeys through my professional hours to the fiercely guarded solitude and refuge of my studio or forays afield. I remain focused on tropical birding, evolutionary biology, paleontology and the mysteries of morphogenesis in both Nature and Psyche. How are the the myriad intricacies of reefs or rainforests or ones own body related to the spontaneous imagery of dreams and visionary experiences which can fill us with such joy and astonishment?
Drawing and painting from childhood and making collages in high school, the prevailing linearity of my work and deficits as a colorist rendered the appeal of intaglio printmaking immediate. I was indeed fortunate that my first instructor was a protege of Virginia A. Myers and Mauricio Lasanky, founders of the Iowa Print Group with whom I trained in Iowa City. There I combined line etching, aquatint and engraving on copper and created some of my best works: The Chariot of Fate – Sublimely, Air Machine, Symphony Fantastique and The Rebirth. A practical influence on my embrace of collage was being deprived of Iowa’s fabulous intaglio workshop in addition to the portability of #11 Exacto knife blades with stylus, so reminiscent (same bunion on right knuckle) of an etching needle. As one pays dearly for mistakes on copper or zinc, collage also allowed me to work more experimentally and playfully with negligible overhead. Furthermore, people have always loved them and graciously encouraged me! I went directly from my MFA to psychiatric unit in Minneapolis (a Psychiatric Assistant!) as my work in collage continued from that first step into psychology through my analytic training at the C.G. Jung Institute of Zurich. I have literally torn my way through thousands of magazines like National Geographic, Arizona Highways, Bunte, Smithsonian and old nature guides, overstock books and images online. Finding as well as concealing their origins, all my images are hand cut. I have no interest in Photoshop. My hands and body must be involved. Time must pass. While fading is a natural enemy of the collage artist, and I strive to make more enduring originals, the issue is banished by the archival digital prints I find so congenial and reassuring in their rich permanent color. I am also accustomed to multiple originals as a printmaker.
The Geographic is a fine example of how Image, Time and Imagination function in my creative process. How often I’ve found a useful image only to chuckle at realizing I was perhaps eleven when I first saw it! I continually relive my life as I work, as its duration ripens in the transient moment.. NG was first published in 1888. Even Jung had a subscription. It represents 130 years of linear time from which I’m privileged to borrow mere fractions of a second. Religious historian, Mircea Eliade, reciprocally speaks of a mysterious deeper dimension of time variously as in illo tempore or illud tempus,” in that time,” an equivalent of the “Once upon a time” of fairy tale and myth, of psychic life, the archetypal world and ultimately Life’s evolutionary origin, depth, multiform proliferation and push to differentiate. Pulling an image is to tear it out of linear time and into the imaginal space-time of psyche and studio. Multiple bins of harvested pictures: winged things, landscape elements, fire, water an sky, animals, decorative details, wood and green elements surround me as I work with flood lights, ‘self healing’ cutting panels, a goose-neck magnifying glass and a can of aerosol photo mount within reach. A vexing and amusing aspect of working is the apparent autonomous life of picture elements, which will inadvertently fall off the tip my blade to parts unknown, disappearing in the chaos only to reappear at a surprising moments. I can’t recall a collage I haven’t dreamt about in my process, just as getting lost, making mistakes, muttering to myself how crazy it is to do this and sweeping up floor scraps is a prelude to deep sleep and whatever dreams may emerge.
— Bradley A. TePaske