This is the fourth story in a series exploring the connections between art and magic. Click here for the first three.
LA-based artist Meagan Boyd aka Yin Shadowz examines the liminal space between the conscious and unconscious through a magical lens. It comes as no surprise that she is the art director and co-founder of the Applied Mythology Project, an organisation that seeks to understand the relationship between creativity and esoteric practices in modern society. To Boyd, art — like magic — is a ritual that transmutes a person's will in order to effect change and growth.
"I've always been interested in art that evokes the aura of something mystical or transcendent," Boyd says. "Many of the Surrealists and symbolist painters of the last century were interested in occult and/or spiritual topics, such as Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varos, and William Blake, to name a few. Seeing these paintings at a young age sparked my interest in magic."
Though trained in drawing and painting at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, Boyd has managed to retain a distinct style reminiscent of folk and outsider art. As her own understanding of tarot and other esoteric disciplines grew, Boyd's subjects changed to reflect her widening embrace of the occult. Today, she continues to forge a personal utopia populated by spirits and mythical beings in her art practice, and her work has therefore become deeply symbolic.
"I started to create figures that were a hybridisation of mythological creatures and deities, combined with my own personal story. The work became an expression of my own private myths," she says. “It's endlessly inspiring for me to connect the dots between so many different cultures' myths and find that common ground that links everyone and everything."
To Boyd, art and magic are both rituals that transform abstract ideas into something that can be experienced physically. By painting, she enters a sacred realm that reflects her own values and dreams, which then extends beyond the canvas, back onto the artist herself. The result is what Boyd calls "utopic" performances.
"In these Utopias, I paint on my friends and sometimes myself to mirror the figures in my paintings. It is a process of embodiment, which in itself is magic, as the paintings become a premonition or a divination of how I'd like to imagine things could be. The paintings undergo a metamorphosis and begin to exist in real time in which we live temporarily in a surreal dream-state, as hybridised archetypes that are at once mundane and divine.”
The artist believes most contemporary artists working out of the United States or other Western countries have lost touch with indigenous cultures and spirituality: "We live in a culture that has erased the legends of our ancestors. I think many people long to ascribe meaning to their lives and feel disconnected," she says. "Using mythic symbols are universal and helps expose the interconnectivity we share with everyone and everything."
Though she laughs about it now, Boyd remembers being in art school and painting a goddess, thereby incurring the wrath of fellow students. She found herself trying to defend what she felt was part of her, and not something she could change. "My attempts to create art that was evocative of something spiritual, transcendental, and deeply inspired by mythology, were not viewed as what many of my peers would call, 'high art,' and it wasn't respected," she says.
Since then, Boyd feels the tables have turned. "I think the art community, and especially younger people in general, are desiring something deeper," she says. "I keep hearing artists talk about the power of myth. It's so refreshing and inspiring to know now that I'm not so alone in helping create a symbol that has its place in the modern myth we collectively create."