Emotional Transitions- Statement


I would like to thank Tom Rice for provoking the thoughts that are the foundation of this series.

This series is intended as a tool for self-exploration. Many people are accustomed to tools of this nature only being found in religious texts or therapy. In my experience they are also found in the creation and interpretation of art.

Whenever we experience an intense event in life it will change us dramatically. Corresponding change occurs externally as well as internally. External differences brought by such forces are obvious- a change in posture, a crease under the eyes, enhancement or reduction of muscle structure.

Internal changes are noticeable as well but more subtle- mood, intensity, or rhythm. It would be easy to depict dramatic external change in a person. Comparing photographs from infancy to old age would accomplish the task nicely.

How do I depict the drama of an internal transformation?

Each series of six pieces is a narrative of an emotional transformation that follows a journey from depression to hope. I could use a series of landscapes to show a geological transformation, or a series of portraits to show a physical transformation in an individual; but I wanted to depict emotions, which have no substance or form, and to do so invited me to more universal and abstract methods and forms. Abstraction became a necessity when I found that more concrete and real forms tended to be contrived and political. I chose five different mediums to tell the same story because I felt one method for one medium was too limited a view of a vast emotional world.

The split in each piece is a split in figure, and it is the moment where one emotion becomes the next. The focus of this series is that moment, which is why the split is central in every piece. When a great or tragic thing happens in our lives, curiously, we don’t feel one way about the event. As humans, we share a bond in that we change how we feel over time. Our memories are bound to our emotions. How we feel also colors the memory of the event. But the gestural scope of this narrative is to explore the moment and the story of change.

If my son is killed in a car wreck I could quickly be overwhelmed with loss. Over time, as I come to grips with the experience, the memory of all the things I love about my son could overwhelm my loss and I could experience acceptance.

If I won the lottery, I could be overwhelmed with joy. Over time, that joy could become grief as I realize the limits of wealth and happiness, that others didn’t enjoy it with me, that I squandered my prize. Again, everyone has a tragic loss and a lottery. That our feelings change about these events over time is a  point of shared interest.

Each piece in Emotional Transitions is an embedded memory- a highlight or a cue in our lives that comes to life and changes our minds about how we feel. The event that triggers the emotional memory eventually may become an embedded memory itself. And so layers of memories and emotions can create complexities in us that make us unique. My challenge in this series is to find those cues and understand them. Taking the event away from the story makes the imagery closer to the roots. Understanding the roots of our emotions can reveal keys to how we think.Understanding the nature of the key may allow us to harness the flow of inevitable momentum and provide clarity, purpose, and direction in ourselves.

Previously, each piece in the series had a description in the title that confirmed what emotions were in play. As I showed the series I found this to be counterproductive to my audience. It removed the ability for people to explore this emotional landscape because a label had done the work for them. I have since changed the titles “gasp” so that audiences might find the connection between their journey and my own. I prefer we went on this thing together.

With love,

J. P. McCauley


Statement Addendum

 There are a few issues I should formally address so as not to stir confusion. The emotional transformations that I chose follow a specific order for a journey that I defined. The order in which emotions actually occur may follow some trends but may also be arbitrary. At your leisure, use your imagination to arrange these pieces in whatever way you most desire.

The first three pieces of each series are masculine and the last three are feminine. I wanted masculine and feminine balance but the emotions belong to either sex and could be reversed. There is nothing inherently masculine about anger just as there is nothing inherently feminine about hope.

Many different cultures have attempted to define emotions throughout time. Ancient cultures described emotions more in use of myth and Aesop fables. It isn’t until recently that we’ve attempted to isolate emotions as chemical responses in the brain. Regardless, there is still great argument and little consensus on what an emotion is or is not. For now, the majority of their nature still dwells in the realm of art and philosophy. Hopefully, continued effort and communication will bring art and science together on the issue.

My friend, Karim, made me aware that Eastern Indian mythology describes emotions as “bed” and there are only six of them. It seemed natural to him that I would have six pieces to a set in the series based on this premise. While it is a fortunate coincidence, it wasn’t my original intention. It is, however, a strong enough coincidence that I may study it further in the future.



And they are more courageous, for they are full of passion and hope, and the former of these prevents them fearing, while the latter inspires them with confidence, for no one fears when angry, and hope of some advantage inspires confidence.


But on the other hand, emotion is the moment when steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for emotion is the chief source of consciousness. There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion.

-Carl Jung

There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of the truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.

-Arnold Bennett

While emotions are powerful, they are also fickle, as the grip of one weakens and yields to another, defining us as creatures of change.

-John McCauley


***Spoiler Alert***

Here is a defined list of the emotions that I focused on, personal notes are in italics

Depression – an emotional disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate,
insomnia, and feelings of guilt and dejection. A downturn in mood.

Depression is a pain that overwhelms the possessor. It’s only cure is self reflection and change.

Anger – a feeling of great displeasure or hostility.

Apathy – indifference, lack of interest or enthusiasm.

I am aware of the argument that apathy is a total lack of emotion so therefore
could not be counted as one. In its effect I observe it more as a passionless anger, cold.

Tranquility – peaceful, free from disturbance.

Pride – proper respect for one’s own dignity and worth.

It was a point of interest to me that hubris and self worth are both defined as
pride. It was also interesting to me that English is the only language not to
differentiate the two.

Acceptance – to understand and agree to. The experience of a situation without the
intention to change that situation.

Older cultures regarded this as a formal emotion but lately, within the
past few hundred years or so, it has fallen out of favor.

Hope – a desire for something to happen, while expecting or being confident that it will
come true.

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