Art – A Bridge Between the Physical and Spiritual Worlds by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoBrushing yellow gold on top of deep crimson, I sense the paints coming alive, even as I feel myself moving outside of ego, outside of time, and inside to my deepest source.

At least forty thousand years ago the human family began to make art; drawing, painting, sculpting and playing music. For much of human history, art has served a dual purpose. Some art has been purely decorative, while much art has expressed a spiritual understanding of our physical existence.

During the Paleolithic period, c.15–18,000 B.C. on the walls of a sacred cave, Lascaux, in southern France, our ancestors created beautiful paintings, often interpreted as a ritual that invoked sympathetic hunting magic. They are a reminder of the bond between the spirit world and the human world. This was a magical time in which humans lived immersed in the connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. Art was a means to both express and facilitate that connection.

Neolithic Goddess Figure

The seasons turned and the art and mythical imagery of the Paleolithic era was transmitted to the Neolithic era in Old Europe. Worship of the Goddess, as giver of all life, continued as did the art which honored Her and our connection to Her. The artists from these ancient days expressed their communal worship through the creation of cult idols and objects, shrines, painted pottery, and religious ceremonialism. The artists, though anonymous, were the hands and eyes of the creator, deepening and transforming the consciousness of their community.

As the human community in the western world developed and grew, art remained firmly grounded in the spiritual. From the megalithic stones of the Celtic era, to the illuminated manuscripts, mosaics and fresco paintings in the churches of the Middle Ages, right up to the work of painters like Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian in the more modern era of late 19th and early 20th century – art expressed our human connection to the divine.

Starry Night by Van Gogh

But something changed in the 20th century. Dissatisfaction with some of the repressive qualities of religion, combined with an ever increasing materialism helped fuel the “art for art’s sake” movement. Art became a mere commodity. Belief in the spiritual has been completely uprooted and destroyed in most contemporary art. Visit most contemporary art shows and you’ll see a concern with concept, with relationship of materials, with social issues, but not much expression of the spiritual.

My Heart Opens, oil on canvas by Judith Shaw

I stand outside of the mainstream of contemporary art, as my art has always been firmly rooted in the spiritual. Painting is my spiritual practice. Brushing yellow gold on top of deep crimson, I sense the paints coming alive, even as I feel myself moving outside of ego, outside of time, and inside to my deepest source. Creativity brings each of us into communication with our own soul, opening a dialogue with our higher self.

The Tree of Life, oil on canvas by Judith Shaw

Most of my painting decisions are a result of a feeling. This approach arises from a feminine world-view which acts from feeling and intuition. When painting, instead of asking myself, “What should I do?”, I find my question is more often “How does this painting want to be?” And usually the painting is a reflection of how I want to be. My art has been deeply inspired by the wisdom of the Goddess. She has guided me to paint my own modern interpretation of Her and Her ancient wisdom. She has lead me into painting olive groves, lotus blossoms and the mystical philosophy of sacred geometry.

Inanna’s Return, oil on canvas by Judith Shaw


Sometimes I wonder how the paintings I paint finally emerge into the world. It’s a back and a forth, a finding and a losing; ultimately there’s an image that remains. A random splatter of paint reveals an eye. Scratching into the paint with a palette knife defines a hip. A scumble of light color plays over the splatters and scratches, creating a texture of depth and light. Later I ask myself “Where did that come from?” At times I feel I’m a channel through which these images flow. I always have to remind myself to sign my paintings, as they don’t seem to actually be “mine”.

Our Lady of Heaven and Earth, oil on canvas by Judith Shaw

Though the art world doesn’t welcome it, more and more people are responding to art which awakens the capacity for experiencing the spiritual. As an artist and a woman who believes that the physical is a beautiful manifestation of the spiritual, I believe it is time for us to reconsider the spiritual in art.

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. From a college paper on Beauty and the Beast to a much later series of paintings on Beauty and the Beast…From a student painting of circles to her current fascination with the interlocking circles of sacred geometry…From reading When God Was A Woman in the early 70’s to her ongoing visual exploration of the role of the Goddess in our modern world…From her very first oil painting of a tree to her most current painting, The Mother Tree— her early influences of Jackson Pollack’s abandon, and Van Gogh’s emotionality are evident. Originally from New Orleans, she has traveled in Mexico, Central America, China, Europe and Greece and lived in Mexico and Greece. The passion and bright colors of many of these places have affected her palette and style. Judith makes art, dances with abandon and experiences the world through travel and study. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at

Categories: Art, General, Goddess, Goddess Spirituality, Spirituality

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22 replies

  1. Excellent essay! And what a lovely painting that is. I share your feeling about the value of art and have goddesses and witches all over my apartment, especially a lot of original, spiritual art. Maybe the official art world doesn’t welcome your kind of work, but I bet there are thousands of women who would if they could see more of it. Of course, the world doesn’t much value artists and writers like us anyway. Good luck to all of us.


  2. Barbara I think you are absolutely correct. Since I let go of any attachment to the “art world”, I’ve discovered that many, many women and men appreciate art which expresses the spiritual. Through teaching, showing in outdoor art markets, and of course social networking I’ve begun to reach those people. We desperately need art (of all varieties) back in our schools so that people can grow up learning about, creating and appreciating art.


  3. I totally agree with you that we need art education in our schools. Art and music and theater. I don’t know about the rest of the U.S., but California’s budget is so screwed and skewed that we’re raising a whole generation of stupid people who know nothing about art or music or theater. We need more artists like you in the world.


  4. Zareena there are so many, many ways in which people can express their creativity. I’m so glad you have found one which works for you. I also find that I need to paint. When life gets in the way and I go awhile without painting, I lose my center and become very fragmented feeling.
    For sure we need more balance in the world. Math and science are important, but what a boring world if everyone were mathmeticians and scientists. I also think there’s a place where the sciences and the arts intersect. One of the great things about art education is that it develops creative thinking. Though, It seems that our educational system is not interested in developing creative thinking right now. People with creative thinking skills can question authority so ……


  5. I proudly hang in the heart of my home the 3 color pastel paintings you gave me in 1987-8, my first year living in Lesbos, when we were spirit sisters. I love how your work and self-confidence have developed. May those who will respond to the beauty of Life in your work find their way to your exhibitions and websites.


  6. This is post holds fantastic insights into the role of art and the connection of creativity and the “feminine”. I would be curious to learn more about the visual exploration of the role of the Goddess in our modern world. Can you share links with me on that?


    • Claire, I don’t really have any links to share but do know that there are some books on the market which explore modern visual explorations of the Goddess. You could probably google it. Also you are welcome to become my friend on facebook. Slowly I’m connecting with a large group of people interested in artistic expressions of the ancient world and the Goddess . Often people tag me with images and thoughts of the Goddess by current artists. You might enjoy becoming part of that conversation.


    • Elinor Gadon Once and Future Goddess has images of contemporary women’s Goddess art.


      • Another book filled with images of modern feminine art is The Reflowering of the Goddess by my friend Gloria Orenstein (published in 1990 or thereabouts). Gloria is one of the world’s experts on surrealism. She’s a friend of Lenore Carrington, whose art is mind-blowing. Gloria also writes about artists in Los Angeles, especially performance artists. Artists have so much to say and in such spectacular ways. They all need wider audiences!


        • Thanks Carol and Barbara for the book info. I have Gaden’s book (though nothing came to mind when responding…!) and am glad to hear about Orenstein’s book – will have to check it out.


  7. Judith! Thank you so much for this post. It came at the best time for me personally as I am gradauting in two weeks with BA in WGSS from CSULB, and I am now on my quest of what to do “next”. I do not know what that is persay but I have had a huge draw towards getting “back in touch” with nature. A very strong and meaningful way for me to do that in the past is to get creative again, through dance, music, voice, drumming, poetry, lyric writing, and what your piece has re-awakened in me painting and drawing. What better way to celebrate my graduation and hard work then to re-connect with my spiritual and mother Earth. To allow myself to take some time to indulge my inner and outter Goddess? When is it that we ever allow ourselves to just be or to create in our hectic lives? I look forward to a peaceful and full of creativity and beautful summer (all while still keeping up the responsibilities of work, homelife, and activism). When I think about it I have a “ton” of art work in my home but not the “adult” kind, you know paintings like Starry Night which I do love or sculrtures that are more “grown up”, but my partner and I are more than okay with that and in the long and short run that is all that matters. It is part of our art and our life.


    • Ivory, Congratulations on your graduation. What a wonderful transition time this is for you.

      I am humbled that my words have acted like a stone thrown in the water, rippling out to effect you with the desire to reconnect with your own creativity. I also love drawing and painting from nature. I find an even deeper connection to our Mother Earth through that careful and quiet observation. The hours fly by in that eye to hand to paper practice. Hope you find some beautiful sports in which to celebrate Mother Earth through your creativity.


  8. Barbara
    Yes we do need Art’s in the schools for multiply reasons. I assist students who are differently able, and have found music, textile, and visuals can be used as a conduit to deeper understand. I don’t mean sterile visual aids flashing out of an overhead projector. I mean really getting their hands dirty, feeling it, smelling it, moving it around until their able to make it their own. I was told that in the past few years during the Obama administration, Art was now part of the core curriculum and could no longer be the first subject disregarded during budget crises, yet in the public setting that’s what we’re experiencing, so I’m left a little confused on this issue. Never the less, thank you for your words, Namasta. Judith I love your work, I believe we are seeing a serge towards more spiritually in-tune art work.
    peace and laughter


    • Gina, I also teach art sometimes to some differently abled students. It’s a wonderful experience to work with them. I’ve seen the art really help them on many levels. Thanks for your work in the area. It’s so important.


  9. Art is am amazing method to encourage creativity. It is a good outlet for those who may not be comfortable to speak up politically, but can use another avenue to express a valid point of view.


  10. Judith your paintings are beautiful. I’ve recently started painting. I’ve always been a word person: a writer. I love watercolors, and the whole different medium painting gives me of expressing myself. Thank you for this wonderful essay, and how important making art is for both ourselves and culture.


    • Hi Shawna,
      Thanks for your kind words. How wonderful that you’ve decided to try out the visual form of expression. I find that writing and painting work well together. One can inspire the other. And sometimes there are feelings that just have no words. Have fun with your new endeavor.


  11. Dear Judith, I happened upon your website as I was browsing images for Inanna. What a pleasant surprise! As I read your essay I was impressed with the distinct feeling that your beautiful paintings are a wonderful expression of who you already are in Divine Spirit, and your work feeds the Souls of all who gaze upon it. I know in viewing your work I have received a huge blessing. I believe you are a channel doing your part to remind us of who we truly are in Spirit, and who we are becoming in our vessels of flesh and bone. Your work serves to assist humanity in our process of becoming channels of Divine Love. Thank you for all you are doing, and for sharing the beauty.



  1. Painting – My Spiritual Path | Judith Shaw – Life on the Edge
  2. Links – Unlocking Words

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