Robyn Sean Peterson channels the collective unconscious in his works 

  • Illustration by Robyn Peterson, photo by Abigail Kreuser
Artist Robyn Sean Peterson doesn’t think he chose to start making art. Rather, the art chose him.

It started in the 1980s. Peterson lived in San Francisco at the time. The way he recalls it, he was standing by a streetlight in Chinatown on an otherwise inauspicious day, when he looked down and saw a torn scrap of magazine with a human eye on it. He describes an “intuitive voice” that told him to put it in his pocket and take it home.

“Over a period of a number of days, I started to do that wherever I went,” he says. “... One night, the same intuitive voice said ‘Take these out.’ ... I started to cut them and rearrange them, and images started to come [out].”

He’s refined his process over the years, but the core inspiration — that intuitive voice he ascribes in part to the collective unconscious — hasn’t changed. It’s the inspiration for the title of his new show at The Commons Gallery, The Art of Darkness: Seeing Without Looking. He compares it to being in the dark and watching as images emerge piece by piece, as if from behind a black curtain.
“When the images come, especially the ones of these particular beings, they’re not vague at all... they’re extremely highly detailed representations, and they have a presence to them.”

Peterson’s art is mostly analog, too — he still works with found objects, craft knives, scissors and adhesives. He uses a photocopier sometimes, but no computer manipulations. That, he says, keeps him connected to the source of his imagery, which he’s also described as an intelligent stream of energy.

“It dictates the color. It dictates the size. I’m not the originator of the images — I have to completely focus my attention and give my limbs to this.”


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