Wood, Mary Antonia – The Archetypal Artist

  • soul – artwork – artist . In an interview, Mary Antonia Wood said “I look at [the] soul (…) from a myriad of angles as one might turn a jewel over in one’s hand to experience every facet” (Borda, 2022). The artist and the artworks are living in the soul and not the other way around: the soul is not living in the artist or the artworks. For the soul is situated at the crossroads of matter and spirit – soma and pleroma – or, in the words of the same author: “the soul can be imagined as a world located between the world of the senses and the world of the spirit, or the ineffable; the soul is the fertile and generative middle ground between the two” (Borda, 2022). So, the first chapter of the book presents the soul from many perspectives; the following five chapters deal with the soul, the artist and the artwork as understood by six psychologists of the depth (Jung, Neumann, Read, Gordon, Rowland and Hillman – the chapters 2 to 5); and by Wood herself (the 6th chapter). Finally, the 7th chapter is stating that the tripartite “soul – artwork – artist” are at the crossroads, the place of both possibilities and dangers, of endings and beginnings, of inner and outer, of culture and nature, of subject and object… and so on and on.

The map:

  • four archetypes. According to chapter 6, entitled “Mythopoesis. The archetypal ancestors of the modern creator”, along the history of humanity rose four archetypes to be found in any artist and his/ her artworks: 1) the trickster – like Hermes, Thoth, Isis, Imhotep and others; 2) the creator and the destroyer – for instance: Shiva, Dionysus, Sekhmet, Kali, Coatlicue, etc; 3) the wounded healer – for example: Chiron, Asclepius, Oedipus, Orpheus, Odyseus, Hephaestus, Athena, Persephone; and 4) the lover – here we are speaking of Hermaphroditus/ Salmacis and others like him/ her. Probably, this chapter is the most important from the whole book for it presents and represents a new and original perspective, something that only Mary Antonia Wood could have discovered.
  • four plot structures. The four archetypes are a mirror of what Steven Brown & Carmen Tu (2020) have identified as the four plot structures: the line (Aristotle, 335 BCE), the arc (Freytag, 1863), the circle (Campbell, 1949) and the wave (Vonnegut, 1981). These plot structures were depicted especially in four books: “Poetics” (Aristotle), “Freytag’s technique of the drama. An exposition of dramatic composition and art” (Freytag), “The hero with a thousand faces” (Campbell) and “Palm Sunday. An autobiographical collage” (Vonnegut). Therefore, the line is the dominion of the creator/ destroyer archetype, the circle is generated by the lover archetype, the trickster archetype is responsible for the arc, while the wounded healer archetype is busily at work with the wave. Before closing this presentation, I want to mention that the relationships between the 4 archetypes/ the 4 plot structures were represented in different ways: for instance, Mary Jo Hatch & Ann L. Cunliffe (2013: 178) present them as four boxes arranged one below the other; earlier, Robert Denham (1978: 68) saw them as four boxes intersecting in a Cartesian manner; finally, they also could be imagined like a micro-organism in its process of division.

The map:


  • Mary Antonia Wood (2022): “The archetypal artist. Reimagining creativity and the call to create”, Taylor & Francis
  • Angela Borda (2022): “Strands of prayer. The archetypal artist”, https://www.pacificapost.com/strands-of-prayer-the-archetypal-artist (accessed 02.04.2023)
  • Steven Brown & Carmen Tu (2020): “The shapes of stories. A <resonator> model of plot structure”, Frontiers of Narrative Studies, 6 (2), pp. 259-288
  • Mary Jo Hatch & Ann L. Cunliffe (2013): “Organization theory. Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives”, Oxford University Press
  • Robert Denham (1978): “Northrop Frye and critical method”, The Pennsylvania State University Press

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