A name which literally means “the guide of souls,” the psychopomp is a perpetual shapeshifter, emerging out of different times and cultural spaces, frequently taking a new form but always serving the same primary function.
The role of the psychopomp is to provide safe passage for the souls of the recently deceased as they move out of one life and into the next. These guiding entities do not judge, they simply act as necessary and benign spiritual escorts. Appearing frequently in funerary art, psychopomps are depicted as anthropomorphic bodies or take the form of various animals and birds. These mythic beings are inexorably linked to death and thus have the capacity to evoke fear or a sense of peace, depending on the facets of their embodiment and the circumstances of their invocation.
Over the course of a single life the perceived notion of the “self” dies over and over again as the mind and body moves through various traumatic or transformative experiences. The following work depicts the role of the psychopomp as adapted to fit within the evolving landscape of one woman’s life. The difference between these beings and their traditional counterparts is that they appear not only once at the end of physical life, but again and again as they are beckoned to accommodate and guide the extinguished notions of the “self” out of the present and into the past. The feminine entities depicted here represent the final stage of physical, spiritual and emotional transformation and the necessary acceptance of such. The faces of each entity reflect the face of the artist, the face of the human whose life they rise out of and belong to. Their energy encapsulates the deeply human qualities of physicality, melancholy and nostalgia, yet they are somehow divine. By their very nature, like the role of all psychopomps, these creatures are simultaneously monstrous and full of grace.
- Gabrielle Funk
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Gabrielle Funk is a Winnipeg-based visual artist, muralist, community art facilitator and freelance illustrator.
Gabrielle works primarily in two dimensional format utilizing combinations of ink, acrylic and watercolor to render delicate, pointillist female figures imbedded in sparse, abstract environments. Her figures are rendered nude, incomplete or in a state of disintegration. They often float in wide, empty space, unattached to a familiar physical landscape. These women are defined by the shapes and expressions that their bodies make and the nature of their interactions with animals, which often appear in the work engaging in symbolic physical dialogue with the women. Gabrielle's work focuses on the creation of a visual narrative told through self-portraiture in exploration of femininity as a social, physical and spiritual construct. Through this work Gabrielle aims to beckon viewers into a world laced with quiet tension and subtle admission utilizing subject matter and symbolism that is as disturbing as it is sensual, as empowering as it is objectifying and as hostile and wild as it is comforting and familiar.