Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

May 19, 2017

Psychological Analysis of an Artist in Creating Sculpture

Psychological Analysis of an Artist in Creating Sculpture
Behcet Kaya
CSU Channel Island
Professor Lee
Psychology of Art
May 8, 2017

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the work of art and artists’ influences in the society and  evaluate the critical thinking of the mind of the artist and the viewer.

This article explores the communication skills of the artist and the barriers between the viewers  and art or artists. Most gallery policies are to meet the government requirements mainly demographic profile of visitors; to engage diversity agendas and education of the hard to reach ethnic groups. People learn to consume culture and this education is differentiated by social class (Esther Sayers 2014).

The culture of art is universal, even the early humans had paintings and drawings that goes as early as 13,000 years. When people confronted with art in places such as museums or other art shows, they should ask “Why am I here? What would I be doing otherwise? How does it make me feel? Am I nervous or happy? What is my instincts? What is the first thing come to mind? What is it saying to me? Or ask the Artist: What is the message? Why did you make it? What does it remind me of? Love it hate it” (Esther Sayers 2014).

For this essay, Mid-Life Venus by Judith Shae is the subject to study. In the 1970s Judith Shae studied fashion design, but she never pursued a career in design. Her design knowledge is shown in this piece, Mid-Life Venus, lead to by her early design career. Her work showed three simple forms that evoked feelings of iconic clothes from 1950s and 60s—the overcoats and the simple sheath dress—which hung from the wall as if on hangers.

All of her works evoke human presence, the clothes were placeholders for missing persons. Her own statement about her work was that she was “looking for characters, to occupy them and the clothes are stand-ins for people”(Santa Barbara Museum of Art 2017). It seemed to me by this statement her creative side was about to burst into the manifestation of an even greater artist.

The inspiration of Judith Shae’s Mid-Life Venus came from ancient greek antiquities. Though her representation of Venus is older, rightfully representing the Shae’s own mid life, the same idea has been borrowed by Renaissance artists, such as Andrea Botticell. Even Botticelli borrowed from other accounts. Venus was conceived when Cronus castrated his father, the God Uranus, whose severed organs fertilized the sea.

The birth of Venus depicts the moment when, having emerged from the sea in a shell, Venus lands at Paphos in Cyprus. She is blown towards the shore by Zephyrus- God of the winds-and the breeze Aura, while a Hora of spring stands on dry land poised to wrap a cloak, decorated with spring flowers, around Venus to cover her nudity (Ancient Greek History).

According to the ancient philosopher Plato, she was an earthly goddess who inspired humans to physical love. “There are numerous interpretations and Judith Shae’s interpretation is that the persistence  of the depiction of the female form understood as social attitude continues to change” (Santa Barbara art museum 2017).

Judith Shae as a fashion designer by career experimented with fabrics, and her travels to Greece allowed her to consume ancient Greek antiquity.  This lead to discover her latent talent in sculpture, but the sculptures convey her feminine creativity. Both sculptures and her feminine ideas communicate her mantra to the public.

By Csikszentmihaly’s understanding of “Flow” and happiness to be the height of human existence, but at this point when creating the sculpture Mid-LifeVenus She was in a mid-life crisis.  This crisis is normally believed to be negative in most people but she was in flow and happy, reaching happiness through the discovery of her talent. We are not necessarily in flow and happy as Csikszentmihaly indicates that in flow we feel only what is relevant to the activity.

“Creative results from the interaction of a system composed of three elements. A culture that contains symbolic rules. A person who brings novelty into the symbolic domain and field of experts who recognize and validate the innovation” (Csikszentmihaly 1996). These principles certainly apply to Judith Shae. First, she was around and known in the academic world, she was in New York the capital of cultural and symbolic rules, Her sculptures brought novelty into the symbolic domain.

There are no shortages of  field of experts in New York and the world. According to Csikszentmihaly there are two contradictory sets of instructions; “one: a conservative tendency, made up of ‘instincts’ for self preservations, self aggrandizement and saving energy, second: an expansive tendency made up of ‘instincts’ for exploring, for enjoying novelty and risk the curiosity that leads to creativity belong to this set. Both programs are needed” (Csikszentmihaly 1996).

Judith Shae fit into the description of Csikszentmihaly’s creative individuals have great deal of physical energy, but they are also quiet and at rest. Creative individuals tend to be smart but also naive at the same time (Csikszentmihali). Einstein is a perfect example. When he was offered a post at the University of Princeton, they asked him what salary would satisfy his teaching credential. He came up with such a ridiculously low figure that people laughed at him.

Judith Shae was certainly at the right place in the world for her art to blossom. New York  is a place where art and museums flourish and her mental fullness of her field was an “indusive” element of her successful career. But being in the right place at the right time does nothing for a creative person if he or she is not ready for it. “People are standing a propitious space/time convergence and even a fewer know what to do when the realization hit them” (Csikszentmihaly 1996).

Judith was already in the eyes of academia before her career took off again. What shapes creative lives? Modern psychoanalysis tells us that the adulthood is formed by the events experienced in infancy. After Freud, it has become common to believe that whatever we do in adulthood is the result of some unresolved childhood complex, to an extent such assumption is true (Csikszentmihaly 1996).

This may be very true but for those prodigious children, they start playing piano at an early age of three. How can we explain this phenomena? Science has not provided an answer to these questions, but if you believe in reincarnation like I do, the explanation is simple, the child in his or her previous life was a master of his trade. This masterfulness can only be earned by hard work on the trade you are in.

Certainly there are indications of the gene scenario, being that the child is the product of two genetically improved peoples. Creativity, residing within one’s subconscious, is the cultural equivalent of the process of genetic changes that result from biological evolutions. “These changes result in the sudden appearance of a new physical characteristic in a child” (Csikszentmihaly 1996). So was Judith  a reincarnation of a previous master? Who knows? By looking into her accomplishments in sculpture, it certainly seems so.

So why did Judith choose to become a sculptor? Working as a fashion designer, one would assume it to be in a modern sense, like most fashion designers come up with some ridiculous shapes and forms for clothes. But Judith’s fabric arrangement looked ancient, her overcoat is erect as if it’s a stand-in for a statue as the author says, but her sculptures conveyed powerful imagery.
This imagery goes beyond its formal sculptural quality to communicate a personal and societal message to the public (Santa Barbara Art Museum, 2017).

That brings the Shimamura approach to her sculptures. Is it beautiful? That depends on the eye of the beholder, because I don’t think they are beautiful. Then why are her sculptures so powerful? We like to stare at it, because it is consciously telling us something and we cannot separate ourselves from staring. Because it is aesthetically appealing, we feel something about her sculptures. It provokes the viewer to feel as though he is learning.

It is spiritual and mystical in the sense that we cannot quite put our finger on the reason why we are so drawn to it. In my opinion, after she was exposed to Greco-Roman sculptures, her work looked like she was an ancient sculptor visiting the modern world. It is as if she was commissioned by ancient masters to convey universality to the future mankind. “Aesthetic has been linked to the way art evokes an emotional response” (Shimamure 2014). 

Her bronze sculpture Mid-life Venus represents her midlife crisis. After all she was around 40 years old when her sculpting career took on. The midlife crisis does not have to be a negative phenomenon. In her case she discovered her artistic talents. Her creativity in sculpting, from a psychoanalytic perspective, indicates a social behavior of a sociable person. In her sculpting career, she has come to hire employees to aid her in moving large boulders for sculpting.

Therefore, is she a close-minded person? Hard to tell. Does she accept suggestions from other people such as the people working for her? We do not know partially because it is not like painting that she requires solitude while painting. Unlike Morandi a famous Italian painter once said, “I am afraid of words.” Meaning he would rather speak through his paintings.

Obviously Judith speaks through her sculptures, whether or not she is outgoing in her social sphere. We don’t know. Does she converse with friends? I have no way of knowing how she behaves among friends or how she projects her inner life into her art, where she tries to integrate its conflicts and complexities symbolically.

Her TED Talks are very friendly, but that might be her public persona, we don’t know. It is my belief that most creative artists are either very confident of their work therefore they do not feel threatened, or insecure and guarded to engage intimately with others.

According to Zucerberg, “It is a primordial urge in human species that creativity provides the motivational base for survival and basic to man is the wish to procreate, to continue, and to generate, to create; for increasing we fulfill this basic need.”(Zucerberg, J.O. 1997). This certainly applies to Judith Shae for her urge to create and pass a message.

The Journal of Gifted Education relates to the subject of creativity. The author points out the influence of a larger number of elderly people. Since the internet revolution the demands of the modern world needs older adults to be creative. With this rapid change in technology, globalization, and economic social changes, the elderly need to find new solutions (Torrance, E. Paul. 2003) to adapt to this changing world.

This applies to artists like Judith Shae who is over fifty years old and still telling us something through her sculptures. The second article that got my attention is “Permission to Fail” by B. Schwabsky. What I got out of this article is that the artist has to forget himself when creating his art, like close your eyes and paint with feelings and imaginations. That brings me to story of an ancient Persian artist who lived to be 110 years old, who blinded himself in his mid-life in order to paint. The needles that he used to blind himself are kept at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. I do not think Ms Shae closes her eyes to sculpt, I am sure she has ideas percolated in her mind before starting a new project.


Freud, J. M. (2015). In the mold of the fathers: Objects of sculpture, subjects of legacy. American Imago, 72(4), 355-383. doi:10.1353/aim.2015.0019

Sonia M. Stace (2016). The Use of Sculptural Lifelines in Art Psychotherapy (L’utilization des linges de vie sculpturales en art-therapies), Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal, 29:1, 21-29, DOI: 10.1080/08322473.2016. 1176813 Retrieved from: 10.1080/08322473. 2016. 1176813

Schwabsky, B. (2014). Permission to Fail. Nation, 298(6), 35-38
Stace, S. M. (2016). The use of sculptural lifelines in art psychotherapy. Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal, 29(1), 21-29. doi:10.1080/08322473.2016.1176813

Torrance, E. Paul. 2003. "The Millennium: A Time for Looking Forward and Looking Back." Journal Of Secondary Gifted Education 15, no. 1: 6. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 25, 2017).

Zittoun, T., & Gillespie, A. (2014). Sculpture and art installations: Toward a cultural psychological analysis. In B. Wagoner, N. Chaudhary, P. Hviid, B. Wagoner, N. Chaudhary, P. Hviid (Eds.) , Cultural psychology and its future: Complementarity in a new key (pp. 167-177). Charlotte, NC, US: IAP Information Age Publishing. 

Zucerberg, J.O. (1997). Further reflections on Creativity and Personal Growth. J. Am Acad. Psychoanal. Dyn. Psychiatr., 25(2):317-328