“All is Energy”
The Visionary Art of Martina Hoffmann
By Jan Calloway-Baxter
One of the foremost contemporary visionary artists, painter and sculptor Martina Hoffmann lives and works in the United States. Born in Germany, she spent much of her childhood in Cameroon, West Africa, the inspiration for the sculptures in “The Goddess Series.”
When I first saw the work of Martina Hoffmann, I thought that looking into one of her paintings was a meditation, especially her new work such as “Spirit Wind” or “Tree of Knowledge,” and her well-known multi-media piece “Goddess Triangle.” So I wasn’t surprised to discover that she considers the process of painting “a form of deep meditation during which a wealth of imagery, symbols and emotions are coming through in wavelike patterns.”
When I asked her about this, she confirmed that the “stream of consciousness” method of painting is very much like “experiencing the dream in the waking state or the state of meditation.” As she points out, “Oracles have worked in this way since the beginning of time.”
And her “category” of art has also been around since the beginning of time. Martina Hoffmann sees her art as “visionary,” if it must be categorized at all. She prefers it be described: “To define its general tendencies, it is mostly based on search for spirit or the need to get closer to understanding the great mysteries, the subconscious, the dream state, any altered state and sometimes the borders of madness.”
She considers this kind of visionary art “the longest uninterrupted art tradition in the Western world.” Elsewhere she calls it “the oldest existing art form on the planet,” listing artists such as Hildegard von Bingen, Hieronymus van Bosh, William Blake and Gustave Moreau as historical examples.
At the Boom Festival, a European venue dedicated to “hedonistic fun as well as to questing for consciousness,” she also named Upper Paleolithic Art, such as the well-known “cave painting” considered to be a sorcerer or shaman and the stencil hands images in Queensland, as early visionary art.
Visionary art is inspired, sometimes, by plant teachers and medicines. Like Susun Weed, Hoffmann believes that the plants we need grow locally and in abundance. She also believes the medicine you need comes and chooses you; you don’t choose the medicine. She believes we should be looking away from synthetics to heal us and instead embrace plant medicines.
Her most recent works, “Tree Of Knowledge,” “Alien Ascension,” and “Spirit Wind,” are images created after she experienced Amazonian-based shamanism in South America. Martina Hoffmann reveals that she is “directly inspired by that ‘mother consciousness’ which resides within certain plant teachers and medicines of South America.” She experiences this energy as deeply healing, loving and transformational.
Her most recent paintings are translations of her visions. She explains that one shamanic experience is enough to inspire many paintings: “it is through the visual language in which ‘the mother’ communicates with us that I was blessed to have been presented with an infinite cornucopia of experiences. One of these experiences alone would suffice to give me enough inspiration for a lifetime of painting.” The world is richer because she did not limit herself to only one experience, however.
I find it difficult to describe these paintings, although “Spirit Wind” is surely one of my favorites. I love the free-flying hair of the subject who looks upward into the sky and the symmetrical but not identical presentation of the painting. Her emphasis on snakes, one of my personal totems and also ancient Goddess symbols, touches a deep nerve in me.
Martina Hoffmann’s paintings do not evoke a feeling of calm or of peacefulness in me, but a deeper and sometimes troubling feeling of stretching beyond the intellectual in order to understand. Her use of eyes in her paintings is unsettling, causing the observer to look for deeper symbolic meanings behind her works.
Another aspect of Martina Hoffmann’s work is her interest in the sacred feminine which she feels has been “at the center of my work from the beginning of my creative path, whether sculptural or painted, shamanic or realistic.” One of her best-known works is the “Goddess Triangle,” a 20 foot wide x 10 foot high multimedia installation piece with nine individual panels, sculptural elements, and sounds such as an intra-uterine heartbeat and Hoffman’s voice reciting the many names of the Goddess.
The paintings show four women’s journeys into motherhood and Hoffman’s own interpretation of Paleolithic and Neolithic ancient archetypal Goddess images. She believes that since the knowledge of sacred feminine energy has been suppressed in relatively recent human history, it is important to bring awareness to its “beauty and power” and to acknowledge that a healthy balance between masculine and feminine forces is necessary for our planet’s survival. Images of fire, eggs, snakes and spirals are represented as ancient symbols of resurrection and renewal.
She describes this composition as an “altar to the female principal,” procreative, spiritual and creative. The women appear as modern-day Goddesses juxtaposed by the ancient Goddesses, their pregnant bodies depicting the miraculous and sacred creation of life.
The painting entitled “Birthscape,”one in a series, shows a beautiful, pregnant woman whose breasts send forth an arc of milk into the body of water beside which she knees, hands on her belly, gazing down at herself. Such celebration of the shapes of women is heartening. Hoffmann often points out that she is interested in “balance” in the world’s energies, both masculine and feminine. She hopes to reflect “a deep reverence for universal interconnectedness and the interdependency of all life” in her work.
Another part of Martina Hoffmann’s work has concerned encouraging the artist within everyone. With her husband Robert Venosa, a well-known American “fantastic realist” painter, she teaches visionary painting workshops, for beginners and professional artists alike, worldwide at such institutes as Esalen (California), Omega (New York), and Skyros (Greece). She reminds us that “everybody has creativity,” and encourages us to “seek out the masters. Go find individual teachers who are willing to teach you.”
Her idea that there is “no limit” to content and form is very freeing to beginners and encourages creativity. She expresses her belief that even though the universe “seems to be fractal in nature, yet there are still no two faces alike, no two flowers exactly the same, and the spectrum of creative versatility is truly mind blowing, to say the least.”
“The visionary artist makes visible the more subtle states of our existence by encoding them in their work and produces symbols and maps that reflect consciousness. As we manifest these symbols and otherworldly blueprints on canvas they become part of the human field and thereby directly shape our culture.
My work is an attempt to show spirit as the one universal force beyond the confines of cultural and religious differences.
As we learn to embrace our oneness as a global human family and our interconnectedness with nature and the universe, we have a chance to heal and transform the planet’s general state of woundedness.
In using art as a tool for transformation, I see an opportunity for all to create a reality as beautiful, healthy and strong as our imagination permits. “
If you are interested in studying with her, you should watch for her workshops to be given close to you, or plan a trip around one. Check at her website http://www.martinahoffmann.com.
Martina Hoffmann’s work has been exhibited internationally since 1985. She has created art and photography for numerous CD, book and journal covers. She also attends international conferences such as Convergence and The Amazonian Shamanism Conference in Iquitos Peru, Mindstates Conference in Berkeley, California, Prophets Conference in Santa Fe, New Meixco, and The AllChemical Conference in Kona, Hawaii, where she speaks on behalf of visionary art and culture.
You can see her work in books such as The Visionary World
of Hansruedi Giger by Stanislav Grof, Inner Paths To Outer Space
(Park Street Press 2008), One Source, Sacred Journeys (Markowitz Publishers 1997), Metamorphosis (BeinArt Publishing 2007), The Return of the Great Goddess (Shambhala Publishing 2001) and in numerous magazines and publications such as WeMoon, Inscape, Shaman’s Drum, and Wellbeing Magazine. Her work is also widely collected.
For more information about Martina Hoffmann and her work,
please visit: www.martinahoffmann.com
© 2010 Jan Calloway-Baxter
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The Visionary Art of Martina Hoffmann - Review by Jan Calloway-Baxter
Online Courses by Jan Calloway-Baxter
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Susun S Weed -
3rd Annual Herb Business Winter Getaway Conference 1998.
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