Canvas and the Cosmos

Participants head out on a museum quest of archetypes to find meaning in the art pieces to answer their questions through their own interpretation of symbolism. 

Participants head out on a museum quest of archetypes to find meaning in the art pieces to answer their questions through their own interpretation of symbolism. 

Project Title: Canvas and the Cosmos

Project Location: Portland Art Museum

Project Duration: November 2014 - current

The languages of archetypes permeate our culture in ways that tend to go unnoticed. Archetypes are encoded in our books and films, our advertisements and ideas, even within our relationships. And both astrology and art are languages of archetypes, preserved through stories they travel through time, woven into culture fabrics that give us messages and models, lessons and ethics and even inspiration in times of hardship.

With Canvas and the Cosmos, astrologer Jaysen Paulson has selected 22 basic archetypes of the 12 zodiac signs and 10 astrologically significant planets in order to create a unique experience for guests at the Portland Art Museum. With the help of Astro Die, three 12-sided die with planets, signs and houses, guests think of a question and cast the die. 

a museum goer ponders and photographs the piece selected for Neptune.

a museum goer ponders and photographs the piece selected for Neptune.

Cards with the image of the piece and it’s location are then given to the guest while Jaysen explains the house that they rolled on the Astro Die, such as what the 2nd House in astrology means, or the 11th house. The guest is then instructed to locate the two art pieces of sign and planet they rolled and synthesize their own meaning based on their individual interpretation, their own intuition and their own symbolism. As a consulting astrologer, Jaysen believes that astrology is equal parts analytical, mathematical, methodical and other left-brain functions coupled with the interpretative, the impressionable, the emotional, the experiential and other right-brain functions. With this project, participants are encouraged to discover the meaning for themselves. 

Astro Die are available to purchase through the Portland School of Astrology. Click on photo.

Astro Die are available to purchase through the Portland School of Astrology. Click on photo.

This makes the experience subjective in the eyes of the querent, filtered through what they know from their own experience. Participants fascinating report noticing color, shape, contrast, technique, and any information written about the piece or artist in the accompanying placard as relating to their question to gain a deeper understanding to what they were seeking. Sometimes even the title of the piece or the artist name is information enough to them.

What really makes this project valuable are the teachable moments that occurs with participants tapping into their own intuition. Reaching into what they are already know about themselves, sometimes subconsciously or even perhaps unconsciously, museum-goers get a moment to check-in with themselves through the reflective image of art to see how they really feel about a subject, action, or interest. 

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Because pieces in the museum change often, the experience is never the same twice. 

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Canvas and the Cosmos is currently running on Friday nights from 6:30-8pm concurrent with Portland Art Museum’s 5 After 5 event which is 5-8pm, each Friday. $5 for museum entrance. 

Canvas and the Cosmos is also conducting a quarterly tour of all 12 signs with Portland Art Museum volunteer docent Ellen Freeman. Check Portland School of Astrology website for further details and current dates.