Rodrigo de Toledo begins “The Myth of the Incomplete Self: A Psycho-Archaeological Codex” with a series of questions: “Why do we feel incomplete? What are we missing? Are we in fact incomplete?”
Toledo looked to Jungian and Freudian psychology on the self and ego, as well as ideas and symbols from Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism and alchemy when writing his newest book, which is an expansion of the universe he created in “Chronicles of Entanglement: The Broken Mandala Whispers.” In “Chronicles of Entanglement,” Toledo dove into his subconscious to create the story of a Seeker in Flagstaff as he is projected into various mythical worlds. He released the book with an art exhibit at the Flagstaff Modern and Contemporary Gallery in April 2018, but the story kept evolving in his mind.
“The Myth of the Incomplete Self: A Psycho-Archaeological Codex” will open as a solo exhibit featuring drawings from Toledo’s book at the Coconino Center for the Arts, 2300 N. Fort Valley Road, in the Jewel Gallery Saturday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. alongside the main gallery’s 10x10 exhibit. A dance performance, “The Incomplete Ritual,” will be held to complement the show. The artist will also host a talk and presentation Friday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.flagartscouncil.org or call 779-2300 for more information.
“The idea with this exhibition is that it was pages from a lost codex as if those were pages that described this mythology of this civilization, this culture,” Toledo said. “A lot of these show cosmological representations of deities and their relationships in the creation story.”
Hinduism’s Brahma and Gnosticism’s Demiurge are two deities he drew from when writing this fictional mythology.
“They come from different cultures, but same kind of myth,” Toledo said. “They had the illusion that they were the primary creator, the top creator if you will. They were separated from the bigger picture and this separation was embedded in their creation and humans and the physical world so the self and the humans, they have this idea they are separated. Hence the need to acquire more and more.”
In illustrating this world, Toledo imagines the Knot-Ego-Autogen-Self, a teethed creature constantly craving more; the Thousand-heads deity, which is the consciousness, creator and container of the Trinity deities; as well as smooth and jagged symbols like the One-Everything, Nothingness and Supreme Vessica, which represent some of the principles that shape the physical world.
The accompanying dance at the exhibit’s opening will be performed by Joanie Garcia, Hilary Giovale, Jordan Pletzer and Ingrid French. Toledo said he and Garcia had been planning to collaborate on a project for a while.
“My idea in engaging with Joanie on this is to do a performance related to this mythology as if there was this set of rituals that the people who believed in that mythology would engage with and they would worship these gods or deities and use that as part of their lives,” he said.
“It’s been a cool creative prompt as an artist to take somebody else’s work and transcribe it to dance,” Garcia said. “I want to make sure he feels honored by the movement we've created but also make it my own artistic interpretation.”
“The Incomplete Ritual” will add another layer of meaning viewers can use to interpret Toledo’s mythology, and Garcia said she enjoys how dance can help people make connections with their own personal experiences and perspectives.
“It's so ephemeral,” she said. “I really like how it holds people’s attention. I think after people see the art they're going to have this collective interpretation in their minds, and that will hopefully influence what they see [in the dance].”
Toledo began making symbols in 2005 as a way to find understanding in his self and the greater world, although, he didn’t begin to formalize any sort of concept until five years later.
“At the time, I was not aware that it was the beginning of a potentially lifelong art project, which I later came to view as a spiritual process,” he wrote in his artist’s statement.
Now almost 15 years later, with two books and more artistic projects to come, Toledo said he has been able to come to some sort of understanding of the world.
“I meditate and I’ve done some soul searching all these years, and I've done meditation retreats, reading, but most importantly, making this work is a form of searching for my own answers,” Toledo said. “There’s also an aspect of this that is expressing the contents of my own unconscious, so there's an aspect that is more systematic, organizing these symbols and drawings that I make into a myth or a book, these whole cosmological pictures that are connected and make sense, but it all comes from expressing the more spontaneous content of the unconscious.”
“When I started this I didn’t know it would grow, grow, grow,” he added. “Now really I’m interested to expand this to more performance art, have people enact more of this and even make some artifacts from this lost civilization, lost people.”