Alchemy and the Philosopher’s Stone – Day 39

[Today’s featured artwork for Day 39 of the 365 Days Project is by Mark Doolittle.]

Wood sculpture by Mark Doolittle.
“Blooming” by Mark Doolittle. Photo courtesy ©Mark Doolittle.

Artists might not turn lead into gold, but they can take mundane materials and transform them into extraordinary creations of wonder.

#39 – Artists are master alchemists, working their personal Philosopher’s Stone to create art.

Artists are in the business of transformation. In the hands of an artist, anything imaginable – paint, clay, fabric, found objects – can become a work of art. The legend of a Philosopher’s Stone that can transmute a base metal into gold, cure illness and impart longevity has captured the imagination of humans for centuries, but artists do it every day. Not literally, of course, but the power of their art is no less legendary.

Artists in all mediums have their version of the Philosopher’s Stone. For me, the transformation begins in the energetic realm. The humble gourd already has a strong integrity and energy of its own from the path it has travelled, from seed to fruit to a dried shell, before it arrives in my hands.

As I begin to carve and change its integrity, the energy shifts as its form is altered and sometimes, even after the piece is finished, it has an odd feeling to it until the “new” energy settles in. This can take several days or several weeks until it finally snaps into its revised integrity. Then I know the piece is ready to share its new form with the world. Gilding the finished piece with gold and silver elevates the organic material to the level of fine art.

Perhaps this legend of “transmutation into gold” is not meant to be literal. We all have the power to transform in positive ways if we stop waiting for some magical moment and instead work to make it happen.

“At its essence, art is an alchemical process. Alchemy is a process of transformation.”
Julia Cameron

“For the alchemist the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter. Only as a secondary consideration does he hope that some benefit may accrue to himself from the transformed substance…”
C.G. Jung

“We know the seductive alchemy of art. To transform private anguish into a narrative of truth, if not beauty; to make sense when there was none; to bring order out of chaos – these are the promises art makes.”
Kathryn Harrison

“The alchemy of good curating amounts to this: Sometimes, placing one work of art near another makes one plus one equal three. Two artworks arranged alchemically leave each intact, transform both, and create a third thing.”
Jerry Saltz

Carved Book sculpture by Mark Doolittle
“Tide Pool Book” by Mark Doolittle. Photo courtesy ©Mark Doolittle.

Mark Dolittle’s artwork can be viewed at: Mark Dolittle

Description of the images included in this post:
Mark Dolittle, California, USA
Hand-carved amboyna burl with bubinga base

Tide Pool Book
Mark Dolittle, California, USA
Burl with inlayed fossil ammonites. Binding by Kathy Doolittle.

The 365 Days Project

In 2012, Serena Kovalosky committed to writing an article a day for 365 days as an exploration into the lives of artists and the value of creative thinking in our society.

Experience the full evolution of the project! Click below to read the entire collection of articles.

Click to view The 365 Days Project

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