Le Neptiste Molly Johnstone: Part 2

Welcome to Le Neptiste, a column of the Real Imaginal online magazine, dedicated to the re-enchantment of Neptune.

The planetary archetype of Neptune carries the impulse to create art, to experience divine beauty and its play of creativity which longs for expression in our lives and in our world. Neptune is to dream, to imagine—that is, to bring into existence that which doesn’t exist; to birth or to witness, and to be enraptured; to access the divine spark, the love which animates the cosmos. Neptune heralds the mythic dimensions’ endless giving birth through planet Earth, beckoning all beings to drink of the imaginal.

Le Neptiste will feature interviews with artists, examining their natal charts, transits and work in some depth, with a focus on both the fulfilling and the problematic sides of embodying Neptune in a disenchanted world.[1]

This is the second part of our inaugural series featuring Molly Johnstone, a 34-year-old artist working in mixed media, photography and poetry, currently living in Sedona, Arizona. You may view and purchase prints of some of Molly’s art on her site dissolution images.

This conversation between Erica Jones and Molly Johnstone was recorded on May 4, 2013.

Molly's Birth Chart
Molly’s Birth Chart

Of all the planetary archetypes, do you consider your art to be primarily Neptune’s work, or do you feel like another archetypal complex comes through more (e.g., Mercury-Uranus), or do you feel any discernable resonance at all with certain complexes in your work?

Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone, mixed media collage, Messenger Bird
Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone, mixed media collage, Messenger Bird
“That’s really interesting,” Molly mused, “I loved thinking about this. There are three, actually, for each discipline or artform I have.” Molly identified her Sun-Moon-Neptune conjunction in her mixed media collages, both in terms of its expression and the process of creation. “It is a process that lets me let go and allow images and landscapes and connections to come to life. I [have] realized that it is teaching me more about who I am and what I value.”

Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone

Molly identifies her Mercury-Uranus conjunction in her writing also in terms of the process of writing it—“ which is unfortunate because my ability to write is subject to that complex’s whimsy”—and in their usually brief, self-contained expressions of spontaneous creativity. Molly reports feeling an inspiration come in, and the words materialize as if on their own, a bolt from the blue. Where Mercury represents communication in general, both how we receive and distribute information, Uranus’s bolts of inspiration are erratic, reflecting the planet’s reputation for inconsistency, unexpected appearances and quicksilver brilliance.

Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone
Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone

“And then the photography is very much Venus in Scorpio,” Molly says. “Whenever I want to record the outside world it’s almost always something that’s in the process of decay or in a late stage of decay. I am just pulled in by that: usually rusting metal, peeling paint, falling down buildings. Truly I’ve realized that I am in love with decay.” In love with (Venus) decay (Scorpio). I note also that Chiron is positioned 180° (opposite) from her Venus, which could describe “suffering beauty,” or “embracing the rejected,” particularly since death and decay or decomposition is on the whole rejected by modern society and not accorded a proper home in nature, psyche or in culture. Venus might try to find ways of embracing, including or finding harmony by means of or through that which is rejected (Chiron).

What kind of adjectives, adverbs or keywords would you use to describe the art you produce?

Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone, mixed media collage, Skunk Cabbage
Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone, mixed media collage, Skunk Cabbage
Molly describes her mixed media collages as “ethereal” and “connective.” These have a lightness to them, a certain composure reflecting her skill of creating a balanced composition, and rarely do they emerge as moody or dark, even though she describes herself as “moody and dark.”
Photography for Molly is simply “revealing the hidden beauty of decay, bringing awareness to the process of death.”

Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone
Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone

MJohnstone-45thParallelAs for writing, these she describes as “fully realized.” “I just write it down and it’s fully formed,” she says of the short passages which always seem to resolve themselves before she can even guess where they are going. My own experience of Molly’s writing is marked by how tactile, sensual and visceral it is, as if transporting me to another world, despite—or perhaps because of—the brevity of the pieces.

When I asked Molly about the connection between artmaking and her personal spiritual path, she told me it seems like a form of self-creation, or incarnation, a potent means of self-exploration and articulation, which many with strong Neptunian contacts might consider incorporating into their own path. Even without artistic inclinations, processes such as SoulCollage, or active imagination combined with mandala drawing, or Journal to the Self can make inner imagery accessible and render intelligible the often blurry, inchoate suggestions of our Neptunian selves, which can resist more abstract, intellectual approaches. (We will elaborate on this topic of artmaking as a spiritual path in the next part of this series.)

I note the Uranian nature of your experience of writing—it comes and goes of its own volition. But would you use the same descriptors for your creative process with mixed-media collage or photography—your experience of creating these works? Are you balanced and composed while creating a collage, for example?

Molly relates the Neptunian nature of the collage process, which requires some preparation in order to enter the creative space, once an indication or a feeling communicates that something wants to emerge. It often takes four hours of just sitting with the materials in a very nonrational process of leaving the “ordinary” mind and observing, waiting, moving pieces of the collage around until the piece forms itself.

Photography, however, provides “a day of adventure,” walking a particular neighborhood looking for whatever composition might draw her in. In Portland, Oregon, where Molly was at the time of our interview, she had fewer and fewer spaces which evoked her “love of decay,” as older parts of Portland are undergoing so much renovation, accompanied by plenty of new construction. Her trips to New York City, however, provide a treasure trove of landscapes grimy, dirty and less than perfect, and she revels, “There are just so many surprises when you have a large population of people.”

Graffiti holds a special fascination for her, and this particular image from New York City was the perfect “found” composition:

Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone
Copyright (c) 2015 Molly Johnstone

Photography represents “this process of discovery and having this feeling that I am going to find something like that [“Aware” photo], and others, too,” Molly says, expressing gratitude for cityscapes like New York City and cities of Europe, “where decay is more accepted, I guess.” In this I also hear Molly’s Jupiter-Saturn conjunction: Celebrating (Jupiter) the aged, the worn out or falling down (Saturn). Jupiter celebrating death, as symbolized by Saturn’s endings and finality. “Aware.”

Of course, natal charts are not static snapshots of a moment frozen in time, but are constantly in process, evolving, responding to the transits of the planets who continue to spiral through space around the central axis of the Sun. Concerning her awareness of death, decay, the discarded or unwanted, Molly points out that Pluto has been transiting all of her planets since she was seven or eight years old, when it first made a 0° angle (conjunction) with Venus, representing over twenty-five years saturated by the transformative energies of the lord of the underworld, Pluto. “Not only is my Venus attracted to death and decay, but I feel like I have been through a [lifelong] process of death and decay…[My] Sun-Moon-Neptune [tries] to bring a little bit of levity, so that all of my work isn’t that darkness or taboo subject.”

In the next installments of this series of Le Neptiste featuring the artist Molly Johnstone, we will explore the role of artmaking on her spiritual path, as well as some of the traps which the Neptunian type can fall into along the way.


[1] Disenchanted refers to the modern experience of the world and its phenomena as devoid of cosmically ordained meanings and purposes. The term “disenchanted” (entzaubert) was popularized in the early 20th century by the sociologist Max Weber and describes a world which is approached “in terms of neutral facts, the detached rational understanding of which [gives] the human being an unprecedented capacity to calculate, control, and manipulate that world” (p. 20, Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas). Tarnas notes that the human “ambition to emancipate ourselves as autonomous subjects by objectifying the world has in a sense come full circle, returned to haunt us, by turning the human self into an object as well—an ephemeral side effect of a random universe, an isolated atom in mass society, a statistic, a commodity, passive prey to the demands of the market, prisoner of the self-constructed modern ‘iron cage.’ …For the cosmology of a civilization both reflects and influences all human activity, motivation and self-understanding that take place within its parameters. It is the container for everything else” (ibid., p. 33).

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