Friday, May 16, 2014

Beautiful Heads

A Celebration of Color (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Contemporary victims of western civilization spend the entirety of their lives inside their heads. The inevitable result is an internal arrangement of complexities in the context of a larger system. Within this system the notion of self can be accessed, organized, and harmonized with a variety of different belief systems. 

Soph Laugh's paintings of beautiful heads divides these directions into easily accessible spaces or pieces of information using shapes, visual concepts, and titles specific to the stories that occur within the silhouette of the mind. This focus on geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors is known as Suprematism, the term coined by Kazimir Malevich in 1915, the same year in which in St. Petersburg he exhibited 36 works in a similar style. The term supermatism refers to an abstract art based upon "the supremacy of pure artistic feeling" rather than on the visual depiction of objects. 

Not unlike Malevich's work, Soph Laugh stresses the purity of shape, though it is the communion associated with the artistic experience that differentiates Soph's artwork .  According to Soph, "The exploration of artistic language is a personal experience, while the sharing of this language system is comparable to the development of writing." 

Simple Expectations (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection 

Human beings are a curious species ~ acutely aware of both head and body, but connected to neither. Centered somewhere in the chasm of emptiness that underlines the mind, intellectual growth comes from balancing this space with the actively engaged space we utilize for cognitive functioning. Repetitive, familiar patterns emerge, some by emotion, others by instinct, which allow the cognitive mind to discuss the resulting organization with itself. 

Most people tend not to question their minds, preferring instead to keep things steady. These individuals have simple expectations from life, and are generally satisfied with sticking to regular routines. Ruled by the unconscious, they rarely know why they do what they do, and may function by impulse. Following the path of least resistance minimizes our expectations and, as a consequence, our chances for (individually defined) success. 

No Signal (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Understanding the patterns of our minds takes time and reflection. Assessing patterns shows where in our mind's systems our focus is strongest and weakest. If we are excessive in a given area, we can use that excess to visualize a healthy result in another area. If, for example, we are strong communicators, we can utilize that skill to improve our relationships. In the same respect, if an individual is highly disciplined, that disciplined can be harnessed toward maintaing our physical systems through exercise or meditative practices. 

Unbalanced mental distributions arise when we do not reflect upon or balance out the excesses and deficiencies in our mind's processing systems. Given that most of us "live in our heads," it can be difficult to deal with our bodies and the physical world unless we absolutely have to do so. This assessment reveals an excess in the higher cognitive functioning of the mind, which typically results in an intuitive individual type who thinks excessively. This type of individual thinks first and acts later, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is unhealthy when this prolonged mental activity inhibits one's ability to be playful or spontaneous. 

The natural tendency here is to ignore deficiencies, while simultaneously over-focusing on excesses. Because these individuals are top heavy, few signals if any are transmitted to other systems, resulting in a "no signal" type of response when other systems attempt to communicate or tap into the storehouse of energy located in the higher regions of the mind. 

Hello, my name is (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

As you peer into the minds of these beautiful heads, you may have found yourself thinking, "Wow, I really need to work on this one." "That sounds a lot like [insert name]" or "She should paint this (or that)." If so, you have probably already been performing a good deal of mental examinations on your own.

From the time we are born, most of us are given names. These names become our archetypes of Self. Each time we encounter a new design inside one of these beautiful heads, we often times return to our own original name or pattern of thinking and pick up our evolutionary thinking processes wherever we last left off. 

Hello, my name is symbolizes our trying to get somewhere by reminding us to remove that which keeps us from seeing that no name is necessary and yet every name is possible. The goal is not to disvalue any name, but to identify with the names of others as a common starting point - to bring as much depth and wisdom as we can to each and every experience we have with others. 

Day and Night (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Day and Night represents two aspects of our being's experience: day and night. During the day, visual awareness stimulates movement and desire; that language allows us to control our actions and conceptualize a self beyond our immediate needs and impulses. 

Night gives us access to the raw properties of the subconscious on a plane that is not yet organized, but our center of being and self-awareness does not operate from this space. 

The predominant aspect of this image is day. It is here where we have access to higher levels of organization and complexity. Each new experience brings about a new realization, a shift in perspective or a transformation. The less dominant aspect of this painting is night. This state of being is one of recreation and enchantment. 

Always in the back of our minds, night remains present with us. Although every person sleeps, sleep is not our primary focus because (with the exception of lucid dreaming) we are not in control of what happens in our dreams. In this state, our stability is compromised. Thus we rely on our waking intelligence to devise a strategy to broaden our understanding of the dream world and to recognize the emotions or signs from our dreamlike perceptions, the thoughts and experiences from which we incorporate into our waking reality. 

Kamikaze Baby (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Kamikaze Baby is that 2-year old voice inside our heads that wants to take off its clothes and experience the joy of being naked. It is the quintessential universal identity: no ego, no personal motivations, no judgment. 

The mental image you hold onto with respect to your inner child is less significant than your ability to relate to the inner child, which carries with it a sense of freedom and compassion for you, the individual. 

If you are capable of changing places with this identity, even for a moment, the connection to this prior state of being strengthens. It does not mean that you have to run around your house unclothed, but the result of this mental exercise does allow you to envision yourself as another. 

The Kamikaze Baby gives the adult you permission to be something else. The result of thought experiment is that we learn to see ourselves as others see us. It allows us to make adjustments in our words, in our expressions, in our reactions, and in our perceptions of self. 

Princess Leia (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

When we cannot see our way off the Death Star, we may need to record an image of ourselves into the belly of an astromech droid (a 'thermocapsulary dehousing assister' known as R2D2) and send out a distressed message with the new hope that someone will intersect it and come to our rescue. Having regained our bearings, we can then settle our minds, knowing that a way out of a difficult situation exists. Often, it just requires the assistance of a clever little droid. 

What is important is that we allow others, along with their protocol droid companion to aid in our experience of living. "No man is an island," John Donne wrote in his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624). 

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent, 
a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea,
Europe is the lessee, as well as if a Promontoire were,
as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never said to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee

Wavelengths (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Mindfulness is the essential key to living a conscious life. Knowing oneself, as the famous philosopher Socrates purported, is the fundamental quality necessary to cultivate awareness. 

Mindfulness means paying attention. It involves noticing the subtle waves of emotions or thoughts that flow through us throughout the day and appreciating the many interwoven strands of meaning without getting overly attached to any particular one. 

Mindfulness takes our entire awareness into the present moment, the present strand upon which we are focusing, and allows us to see more clearly that strand with its corresponding emotions, thoughts, and actions. Immersing ourselves in the fullness of as many moments as is possible enables us to experience the richness of each strand. However, too much focus on the "now" might result in the need for a mid-day nap. 

Shield of Belief (2014)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

The vehement belief in limitations is one of the most difficult beliefs against which to contend. 

The shield represents the tendency people have to defend their belief systems. Even if you broach a subject gingerly, most people will not engage in a genuine examination of their belief systems. This relates to the "know-it-all" system of "BS-beliefs" that reinforces the notion that one knows everything about one's beliefs and that others could not possibly know anything because they have not walked in their shoes. 

The reality is that one does not need to walk in another's shoes in order to offer valuable insights or new perspectives. Rather than defending beliefs, examining beliefs benefits both parties. Irrespective of different points of view that one brings one to this discussion, the end result can often lead to enhanced insight and understanding, both of self and of others. 

Learning to examine our beliefs is a process of incorporating change as a result of how we think about our thoughts, reactions, and resulting actions. While this way of thinking can be highly liberating, it can also prove difficult to incorporate. Many people jump to judgment without first asking all the necessary questions to have a clear perspective. 

One easy way to examine one's beliefs is by following these steps: 

  1. Ask permission to reiterate what a person has said in order to clarify and verify that you both heard and understood their point clearly.
  2. Ask one another if there is something to gain from expanding each other's insights on the subject at hand.
  3. Now that the discussion has been placed on the table, agree upon the specific points that both wish to examine. 
  4. Once the specific examination points are agreed upon, begin with the point that both parties agree is the most simple to examine. Offer similar examples against which to measure this point and explain how these examples are similar and/or different in nature. 
  5. Now that a benchmark is established, examine how these points relate to the interests of the individuals examining these concepts. 
  6. Once a common understanding has been reached, move onto the next point and repeat. 
  7. The discussion concludes when all the points in question have been examined and the resulting understandings have been clearly reiterated to the satisfaction of the participants. 
This simple examination process lowers the Shield of Belief, enabling new information to enter. The simple act of allowing new information to enter one's mind is the beginning step toward unification of divergent beliefs, even if the resulting belief systems differ due to cultural, gender, or social status interests. 

The point is to understand a myriad of belief systems from a multitude of perspectives. Understanding the perspectives of others without demanding adherence to one's own beliefs and having others understand our own perspectives without demanding their adoption is perhaps one of the greatest joys in life insomuch that commonality reduces tension, alleviates ill-feelings, and opens up the discussion pathway for sincere communication with others. The benefits arising from these results are numerous. 

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