Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Thursday, December 24, 2020
|luminaria on Serpent Mound in Ohio|
You, darkness, that I come fromI love you more than all the firesthat fence in the world,for the fire makes a circle of light for everyoneand then no one outside learns of you.But the darkness pulls in everything –shapes and fires, animals and myself,how easily it gathers them! –powers and people –and it is possiblea great presence is moving near me.I have faith in nights.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Before going to bedAfter a fall of snowI look out on the fieldShining there in the moonlightSo calm, untouched and whiteSnow silence fills my headAfter I leave the window.Hours later near dawnWhen I look down againThe whole landscape has changedThe perfect surface goneCriss-crossed and written onWhere the wild creatures rangedWhile the moon rose and shone.Why did my dog not bark?Why did I hear no soundThere on the snow-locked groundIn the tumultuous dark?How much can come, how much can goWhen the December moon is bright,What worlds of play we'll never knowSleeping away the cold white nightAfter a fall of snow.
Pledge of Allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the soilof Turtle Island,and to the beings who thereon dwellone ecosystemin diversityunder the sunWith joyful interpenetration for all.
Friday, December 18, 2020
"We’ve rolled back the night so far that soon we will come full circle and reach the dawn of the following day. And where will that leave us? In a world with no God and no wolf either — only unrelenting commerce and consumption, information and media ... and light. We need a rest from ourselves that only a night like the winter solstice can give us."
A post from 2017 I felt like revisiting - as always, my thoughts, particularly at this time of year, turn to "Endarkenment" as the Balance and partner of "Enlightenment". :
I remember a winter night many years ago, when I lived in the country in upstate N.Y.. I shared a house with a second story living room that had a big picture window, A mid-winter snowstorm had left us stranded in a shimmering blanket of snow. One could look out on that field of white, illuminated by the dark sky, the moon, and an occasional star, into a vast, dark silence. For a while the lights went out, but we had no shortage of candles, and somehow that makes the memory even sweeter for me. The intensity of the dark and the silence the snow that long ago December was not frightening, but intimate, a landscape for sleep, for the incubation of dreams, a place to heal from the frenzy of achievement and obligation, a darkness ripe with dormant life. A place where we could lie together in the warmth of our bed, becoming aware of the occasional sound of snowfall, or an animal moving outside.
I remember recently seeing a time lapse film of cities - vast networks of light, sky scrapers and traffic rushing along freeways like blood coursing along arteries, and I was struck by how much it looked like some kind of organism frenetically pulsing and extruding itself and consuming everything around it. The truth is, it had a terrible beauty - the shimmering, glittering urban triumph of humanity over nature, over the darkness. Or is it truly "triumph"? How is it possible we have so forgotten that we are not the conquerors of nature, but part of nature? Have we failed to see, in our blinding pursuit of speed and of "illumination" that we are also animals, participating in the cycles and seasons of the life of Gaia, needing rest, incubation, renewal, and the sweet silence of the dark.
|Newgrange at the Winter Solstice|
In the years since, I have so often thought of those winter nights.
I take the liberty of reprinting here a wonderful article by Clark Strand, whose book is well worth reading. He has had such nights too, of that I'm sure.
By CLARK STRAND
December 19, 2014
WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — WHEN the people of this small mountain town got their first dose of electrical lighting in late 1924, they were appalled. “Old people swore that reading or living by so fierce a light was impossible,” wrote the local historian Alf Evers. That much light invited comparisons. It was an advertisement for the new, the rich and the beautiful — a verdict against the old, the ordinary and the poor. As Christmas approached, a protest was staged on the village green to decry the evils of modern light.
Woodstock has always been a small place with a big mouth where cultural issues are concerned. But in this case the protest didn’t amount to much. Here as elsewhere in early 20th-century America, the reluctance to embrace brighter nights was a brief and halfhearted affair.
Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. But few of us will turn off the lights long enough to notice. There’s no getting away from the light. There are fluorescent lights and halogen lights, stadium lights, streetlights, stoplights, headlights and billboard lights. There are night lights to stand sentinel in hallways, and the lit screens of cellphones to feed our addiction to information, even in the middle of the night. No wonder we have trouble sleeping. The lights are always on.
In the modern world, petroleum may drive our engines but our consciousness is driven by light. And what it drives us to is excess, in every imaginable form.
Beginning in the late 19th century, the availability of cheap, effective lighting extended the range of waking human consciousness, effectively adding more hours onto the day — for work, for entertainment, for discovery, for consumption; for every activity except sleep, that nightly act of renunciation. Darkness was the only power that has ever put the human agenda on hold.
In centuries past, the hours of darkness were a time when no productive work could be done. Which is to say, at night the human impulse to remake the world in our own image — so that it served us, so that we could almost believe the world and its resources existed for us alone — was suspended. The night was the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world.
Advances in science, industry, medicine and nearly every other area of human enterprise resulted from the influx of light. The only casualty was darkness, a thing of seemingly little value. But that was only because we had forgotten what darkness was for. In times past people took to their beds at nightfall, but not merely to sleep. They touched one another, told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life. Now that deeper darkness has turned against us. The hour of the wolf we call it — that predatory insomnia that makes billions for big pharma. It was once the hour of God.
There is, of course, no need to fear the dark, much less prevail over it. Not that we could. Look up in the sky on a starry night, if you can still find one, and you will see that there is a lot of darkness in the universe. There is so much of it, in fact, that it simply has to be the foundation of all that is. The stars are an anomaly in the face of it, the planets an accident. Is it evil or indifferent? I don’t think so. Our lives begin in the womb and end in the tomb. It’s dark on either side.
We’ve rolled back the night so far that soon we will come full circle and reach the dawn of the following day. And where will that leave us? In a world with no God and no wolf either — only unrelenting commerce and consumption, information and media ... and light. We need a rest from ourselves that only a night like the winter solstice can give us. And the earth, too, needs that rest. The only thing I can hope for is that, if we won’t come to our senses and search for the darkness, on nights like these, the darkness will come looking for us.
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Looks like it was a good idea to take my own advice (in the previous Interview post) , having been avoiding the studio for months and feeling the Holiday Blues as the days are short and dark. I went into the studio, forced myself to work, and low and behold, FLOW has kicked back in and I am full of ideas once more.
I started casting hands back in 2007 when I had an Alden B. Dow Fellowship at Northwood University in Michigan, and with ceramic artist Kathy Space we created a community arts project based on the legend of the Spider Woman that I called "Spider Woman's Hands" which was shown at the Midland Arts Center. Each participant made an Icon that was composed of a cast of their hand or hands, something significant to them as a personal symbol, and the entire exhibit of "Icons" was united by a "thread" that was held in each hand and extended to the next. At last the Thread went right out the door, to represent our connection to all others and all life. The Creative Spirit Center in Midland Michigan went on to repeat the Project, with Kathy Space and Space Studio. In 2009 I was Resident Artist at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C., and continued casting hands and pursuing "Spider Woman's Hands" with the community there with a sculpture called "Weavers".
I've been creating sculptures with casts of peoples hands ever since. Many of them seem to be rooted, another metaphor that repeats for me. Here's an article I wrote back in 2009 about hands, and the "Hand and Eye" which fascinates me. I guess I would say that hands are as individual as faces, they age like the rings of a tree, and are full of the stories of what those hands have created and touched. We touch the world, we "handle" the world, we create and caress and are active participants with World with our hands. Hands go beyond the abstractions of the mind, abstractions that often remove us from the sensuous and the actual experience of being alive. And hands can also represent the active and creative force in nature and in the cosmos - the "Hand of the Divine".
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
A recent short interview with SHOUT OUT ARIZONA - pleased they gave me the opportunity!
Why did you pursue a creative career?
I don’t think I had any real choice in the question of why I became an artist. Ever since I was a child I just made art, and I saw no reason to give it up when I became (in theory) an adult. A reporter asked Picasso, at 90, what he considered his greatest work. His response? “The next one!”
Being an artist was my “real job”, and I supported it in whatever ways I could. I could say quite a few things about what I think creativity is, but ultimately I suggest that some people have an innate passion for self-expression in the arts, and will never really find fulfillment unless they follow that path. Which often, but not always, means making sacrifices of time or income, as well as having to look “outside the social/cultural box” to find creative integrity. It’s nice if one is fortunate enough to make money along the way, but that cannot be the definition of success.
The writer Ursula Leguin wrote that our world needs what she called “realists of a larger reality”. “the name of the beautiful reward”, she said, “is not profit. Its name is freedom.” I believe it’s vital for artists to remember that we are myth makers, “pollinators of the imagination”. Throughout history, artists of all kinds have possessed the imaginal tools to invent and re-invent the myths that were the cultural underpinnings for their time. That is the career, the profession.
From that perspective, one might ask: “what are the new stories arising that can help us to evolve into a wiser, sustainable world? What injustices need to be addressed, what visions call for expression?” And further, how can they be brought fully alive in ways that have vitality and impact? I am here suggesting that artists consider viewing themselves as engaged in a sacred profession.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Too many questions to answer at once! But I suppose they all weave together into a tapestry. I can’t say what part of my work I’m most proud of, because it all reflects my story, just different ways of saying it. From the perspective now of being in my 70’s, I see that it is the same essential vision, story. I am rather proud of that – to discover that there was always something there that I kept trying to speak of.
Art is a conversation, after all – collectively, and personally. I seem to have jumped around a lot, from sculpture to masks and ritual theatre to painting to…………….whatever seems to be the best medium of expression at the time. Different “languages”. I guess I could say that my art-making is my spiritual practice, whether it is done with others (as in theatre and ritual) or alone in my studio.
Certainly one of my most rewarding projects was the 20 year “Masks of the Goddess Project” which I concluded in 2019 with a show and performances at Arise Gallery in San Francisco. It began in 1998 when I went to Bali to study temple mask traditions. I was fortunate to produce collaborative masks with Balinese mask makers while there. Inspired by their sacred mask traditions I created a Collection of 35 masks based upon female deities and mythologies from around the world, which I dedicated as “Temple Masks” devoted to the multi-cultural Goddess. As the masks were used by dancers, storytellers, ritualists, communities and individuals, I found myself in a grand conversation, and the masks themselves gained energy, story, and creativity from those who used them. They travelled around the U.S. and even to the U.K. for 20 years, including the Parliament of World Religions, and include an archive and book about the many performances and reflections of participants in the Project.
Currently I’m working on a series of mosaic/sculptures I call “Our Lady of the Shards”, which are loosely inspired by Catholic Icons. They celebrate and remember those that have been forgotten, buried, and broken, now surfacing again to a world that needs them. Titles include “The Memory Keeper”, “The Weaver”, and “Shrine for the Forgotten Midwives”.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, I would suggest Crave Coffee Shop, and Fronimo’s Greek Restaurant! My favorite places to hang out. And of course, the Botanical Garden, and a hike through Sabino Canyon.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Having worked collectively with others in community art projects, too many to name! Ok, just a few: the writer Ursula Leguin, the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, and the The Henry Luce Center for the Arts and Religion
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
|"Our Lady of the Shards" Lauren Raine 2012|
¨Visual images of the Goddesses stand in stark contrast to the image of God as an old white man, jarring us to question our culture's view that all legitimate power is male and that female power is dangerous and evil. The image of the naked Eve brazenly taking the apple from the serpent, then cowering in shame before a wrathful male God, tells us not only that female will is the source of all the evil in the universe, but also that the naked female body is part of the problem. This image communicates to the deep mind the message that female will and female nakedness must be controlled and punished by male authority. In contrast, the Goddesses show us that the female can be symbolic of all that is creative and powerful in the universe. The simplest and most profound meaning of the image of the Goddess is the legitimacy and goodness of female power, the female body, and female will.¨
|"Black Madonna" |
In 2005, during a residency on the 150 acres of I Park Artists Enclave, the land spoke to me, and I had time and space to speak back, to engage in a creative artistic conversation. One of my first "Black Madonna" sculptures arose from that numinous time - eventually She found a home in a tree, and if she has since disintegrated into that tree through the passage of the seasons, well, that is appropriate.
Many scholars believe that the origins of the archetypal Madonna with Child in Europe began with earlier pagan images of Isis with her child Horus (the reborn Sun God). Isis was a significant religious figure in the later days of Rome, and continued to be worshipped in the early days of Christianity. Imported from Egypt, Isis had shrines throughout the Roman Empire. Rome was home to many deities, the cosmopolitan city of its time, and worshippers of Isis, as well as the Christ of early Christianity, co-existed. When Isis arrived in Rome she was sometimes adapted to Rome with Roman dress and complexion, and she was also occasionally merged with other Roman deities, such as Venus. Images of Isis survived the fall of Rome, were ubiquitous throughout the Roman Empire, and temples devoted to Isis continued well into the third century AD. "Paris" probably derives from the name of Isis (par Isis)......."city of Isis"
fresco from the Temple of Isis at Pompeii
Nevertheless, the origins of Isis are Egypt, where she was represented as a dark skinned deity, as were the people of that land, and no doubt many of her images transplanted to Rome and beyond retained the coloring of the peoples of Egypt. But many believe (as do I) that there are other associations that account for the archetype of the Black Madonna and Her enduring devotion. She represents the Earth Mother, and Her black color is the color of the rich, dark, fertile soil whose Mysteries sustain the cycles of life.
An image that especially interests me, for example, is one of two (!) Black Madonnas found at the shrine of Le Puy, France, which is one of the beginning points for the great Camino Pilgrimage.* In the Le Puy Madonna the Christ child emerges from the area of the figure's womb, rather
|Camino pilgrimage routes |
|Procession before Mass. Photo: PAP/Marcin Kmieciński.|
As previously noted, there are quite a few Black Madonna shrines associated with the great pilgrim route of Camino de Santiago de Compostela, called "the Camino". When Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of Rome, he also gave the Imperial blessing to the Roman "Camino" which he re-established as a Christian pilgrimage. Santiago Means "Saint James". According to legend, St. James brought Christianity to Spain, where, in his travels, the Virgin appeared to him in a vision. When he later returned to Palestine he was martyred, but his disciples returned his body to Spain and interred it in what became the great Cathedral and the final destination of the pilgrimage. But whether Saint James is actually buried at Compostela or not, long before the Virgin was called the Virgin people were making pilgrimages on that route to the Mother Goddess - perhaps bearing offerings, at Roman shrines, to Isis.
|Black Madonna of Czestochowskad (Poland)|
There are many sacred sites housing Black Madonna effigies, and quite a few of them are associated with "The Camino", of which the Cathedral of Santiago at Compostella is the endpoint. Scholar and film maker Jay Weidner has suggested that the earliest pilgrimages on the Camino were made to the Black Madonna of Compostella. He points out that Compostella comes from the same root word as "compost", which is the fertile soil derived from the decomposition (and re-creation) of rotting organic matter, the "Dark Matter" from which new life emerges. Composting could be viewed as the alchemical soup to which everything returns, continually resurrected by nature into new life, new form. "Mater" is Latin for Mother.
"From this compost -- life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being 'composted' in a sense. After emergence from the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit -- they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened." ~~ Jay Weidner
The current author theorizes that the healing powers of certain icons, statues and images derive in part from their capacity to somehow function as both receptacles and conduits for some manner of spiritual or healing energy..........Perhaps, in some currently unexplained manner, sacred sites and sacred objects are able to gather, store, concentrate and radiate energy in a similar way."
Black stone of Mecca By Amerrycan Muslim