Shamanic Motifs in the Early Work of Dale Frank


  • Jane Magon


The art of Dale Frank is often found to be complex in the extreme and difficult to analyze. His work has been accused of inconsistency bad taste, and it has been argued that there are neither structure nor developmental phases in his work. On the contrary, his work is structured, although the framework is visionary, religious and mythological. This paper will discuss Frank's apparent affinity with the shaman's primal religion, rituals and symbols in his early work, to his later self-identification with Christ. It will also briefly outline his shamanism in terms of Eliade's book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1972), with Frank's corresponding images and concerns. Sickness, dreams and ecstasies develop a shamanic initiate "into a technician of the sacred", evoking the myths and symbols of the shaman's cosmic drama. "Shamanic methods are strikingly similar the world over". Other fusions of shamanism and Christianity link Christ and the shaman Orpheus, and include the North American Indian shaman, Essie Parish . Similarly, in an unpublished latement of the 5th July 1980 Frank acknowledged his religious impulse by noting that as a youth he "was going to enter the Catholic priesthood" and that "I would like to be a devoted Catholic". Eliade describes shamans as religious leaders, priests, medicine men and sorcerer who are found in all 'primitive' societies, who cure themselves of illness and ultimately attain great personal power. The shaman becomes an innovator who combats the precariousness of existence through his own force of will. Several parallels can be made with Frank's early life.