The expressive abstract animal forms of Franz Marc and colorful, surreal expressions of human existence of Marc Chagall are among the early influences of Rogue Valley painter Thea Robertshaw.
Robertshaw was just 18 when she immigrated to the U.S. from Holland in 1952.
"It was a cultural and climatic shock," she laughs.
Today, Robertshaw's paintings reflect her journeys into the realm of dreams, memories and visions. And like Marc and Chagall, her images are surreal in nature, and form and color hover between worlds of the luminous and the theatrical.
Her show, "Dreams, Visions and Journeys," will open Friday, Aug. 4, and run through the end of September at La Baguette Cafe, 340 A St., Ashland. A reception and live music will held from 5 to 8 p.m.
"My dreams, memories, shamanic journeys tend to overlap," she says.
"To paraphrase writer Henry Miller, the artist, like the shaman, lives between the upper and lower worlds. The artist takes the path in order eventually to become that path. Painting is a journey of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one. I have found my own voice. I obey my own instincts and intuition. I’m in awe of the mystery. Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it. A living blissfully with it, in it, through it and by it.” — from "Reflections on Writing," by Miller.
Before Robertshaw became an art teacher and shaman, she painted with watercolors, then oils. She earned a bachelor's and a master's in drawing and painting from California State University at Long Beach. Breaking away from those schools, she began to paint with acrylic on canvas.
Like Miller, Robertshaw felt she had to liberate herself from the classical training she received in art school — mostly because the technique of copying reality came too easy and natural to her.
She studied privately with Sam Clayburger at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and went on to teach at the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.
"Finding my own voice — my own path — became the voyage," she says. "I was driven to paint because it proved to be the only outlet open to me. It was not an escape but a deeper plunge into a source where the waters were constantly being renewed, where there is perpetual movement and stir."
A faculty member at Long Beach City College for 30 years, Robertshaw developed a course, "Art and the Self, Symbols, Myths and Dreams," that grew out of her work with dreams, her studies of Carl Jung and the mythologies of indigenous people of the world — which led her to shamanism, which led her to study with anthropologists and shamans such as Michael Harner, Sandra Ingerman and Angeles Arrien.
"I discovered that art, the spiritual and healing are all part of the creative process," she says.
Taking cues for color from Chagall and inspiration from mythology, Robertshaw calls on memory for the image of her dream as she begins one of her large-scale paintings. As she works quickly, other related images take shape.
"The images percolate in my mind, sometimes for many months. They bubble up from that deep place, then one day they come out on the canvas. It's like an explosion. They cannot be contained any longer. Then I paint very fast. In hours, the image has been expressed.
"I like it when things move on the canvas, like in 'Dance of the Seven Veils,' " she says. "Movement is implied or expressed in brush strokes and shapes like in the 'Whirling Mandala.' There is an energy or rhythm in everything. Layers of acrylic create a glowing effect."
In her painting "Artemis," she follows Franz Marc's concept of portraying animals.
"His animals are more abstracted, but I love that he captures the soul of the animal. That's what I'm trying for, to get the essence of the animal rather than a photographic image. There's that feeling."