The following review appeared in the September, 2004 issue of
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, and is reprinted with the permission.
Respected fantasy and sf author, Charles de Lint, not only gives a hearty
recommendation of Mythic Journeys' Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice art catalog,
but a glowing and vivid description of the first Mythic Journeys conference experience.
Books to Look For, by Charles de Lint
Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice: The Mythic Journeys Art
Exhibition, edited by Karen Shaffer, Mythic Imagination Institute, 2004,
A few weeks ago (as I write this as the beginning of July), it was my pleasure to attend
the Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta, GA. The conference was centered around the
mythic arts and the theme, for this first of what one hopes will be many such gatherings,
was a celebration of Joseph Campbell’s centenary. (Is it just me, or is it weird to celebrate
how old someone would have been if they hadn’t died? But I digress…)
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect before arriving. It was certainly a worthy idea
— bringing together, in such a fashion, the practitioners of various creative arts working
in media that range from oral storytelling and poetry through music, literature, performance and
visual art, as well as the scholarly study of all of the above.
And the lineup was stellar:
Poets such as Robert Bly, Carolyn Dunn, and Michael Meade.
Scholars such as John and Caitlin Matthews, Robert Walter (Executive Director of the Joseph
Campbell Foundation), James Hillman, Heinz Insu Fenkl, and Jean Shinoda Bolen.
Filmmakers included Michael Tobias, Eric Saperston, and Phil Cousineau.
There were artists from within our field (Wendy and Brian Froud, Alan Lee) and from outside it
(Mara Friedman, Stu Jenks, Nancy Warren).
Authors were also represented from our field (Jane Yolen, Guy Gavriel Kay, Terri Windling) and
beyond (Joyce Carol Oates, Gerald McDermott).
Musicians included Janis Ian (who also writes sf/f short stories), Cosy Sheridan (who presented
her contemporary retelling of the Persephone story, as can be heard on her recent CD,
The Pomegranate Seed), the Paul Winter Consort’s Eugene Friesen, and Ulla Suokko (who
gave a workshop on the healing and transformational power of music).
There were professors and teachers, puppeteers, Website and game designers, African drummers
and electronica DJs, ritualists and therapists, priests, rabbis, and theologians. We even had Scott
Livengood, the CEO of Krispy Kreme Doughnut Foundation (who knew that their business plan was
based on The Hero with a Thousand Faces?).
And that’s just touching the surface
What went on? There were presentations and concerts, conversations both formal and at the bar,
films, storytelling, and workshops. It was like the World Fantasy Convention, Wiscon, and the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts melded with a music and film festival, tempered with a New Age
workshop (in the best sense of the term), and then seasoned with some of the non-costumed elements
of a Ren Faire.
Now normally I wouldn’t be going on at such length about a conference that has already taken place.
There are others venues for such reviews. But I believe Mythic Journeys was, and could continue to be,
an important driving force for our field, not the least for how it can bring together such seemingly disparate approaches to mythology and then show us its relevance to modern lives and our creative spirits.
You might have missed the first conference. I wanted to let you know it exists, so that those of you
who feel it might enrich your lives will be on the lookout for the next one.
If you’re interested on going a little deeper into what went on over its week’s run, complete recordings
of all the sessions are available at:
Mind you, unless you’re rolling in money, I’d recommend you convince your local library to buy them
— which would have the added benefit of also making them available to a large number of people
who might never have heard of this sort of thing before, but could be intrigued by the Joseph Campbell
connection to explore it. (After all, Campbell’s The Power of Myth is a popular rerun on PBS
— so more people will have seen it than would have ever, say, picked up a book of mythic fiction.)
And now, before you flip to some other portion of the magazine in exasperation, I do have a book to
discuss that’s related to all of the above.
At the nearby DeFoor Center in Atlanta (which has, off the gallery, one of the most interesting used
and new book stores you’ll ever find), was an art exhibition accompanying the conference. Curated by
Karen Shaffer and Charles Vess, it presented a wide array of mythic art: paintings, sculptures, and even
an amazing installation by photographer Stu Jenks that would take the whole column to describe. You
can get a hint of it in this photo:
But happily I don’t have to describe the rest of the artwork since all the work that was on display is
also reprinted in a catalog edited by Shaffer. Here you’ll find work by the artists mentioned above as well
as others. Ari Berk provides an introduction and there are brief bios and artist statements.
The work is varied in medium and the artists’ approach to myth, all of it visually rich and inspiring.
There are reproductions of pastels by Virginia Lee, bronzes by Roxanne Swentzell, fabric work by Huichol
and Tepehuano artists, photographs by Viggo Mortensen, silkscreens by Mayumi Oda, and so much more.
Many of the artists were on hand for opening night, and some of them were available for tours in
the gallery through the week that the conference ran.
If you’d like to see examples and read a bit more about the exhibit, go to:
And if you’d like to order a copy of the book, you can do so at: