Monday, February 17, 2020

Art is a metaphor for life

Barry Lopez is a hero of mine.  I attribute some of my first glimmerings of coming awake to his early books, especially Of Wolves and Men, and Arctic Dreams. My reading of his new book, Horizon, has coincided with my finishing of the 11th painting in my many-years-long project to paint the 47 dreams that helped create the Journey Oracle


Just as I finished this peculiar composition, I read this: Art's underlying strength is that it does not intend to be literal.  It presents a metaphor and leaves the viewer or listener to interpret.  It is giving in to art, not trying to divine its meaning, that brings the viewer or listener the deepest measures of satisfaction. Art does not aspire to entertain.  It aspires to converse. 


So when I give in to this image, I am struck by its calmness.  There is much at risk, yet no one seems urgent about the fate of the assembled items.  The wind chime is quiet, the delicate shell bowl not cracking in the heat from the wood burning robustly in the stove, 
which is roaring, even though the damper is turned down. 


The feather apparently stuck in the side of the stove 
appears unharmed by its location,


and certainly the turtle is not scampering to escape,
 if indeed turtles ever scamper. 


Most dramatically, the person whose hair is on fire


is making no gesture of alarm.


I notice some apparent safety in 
the otherwise dramatic situation.
The stove seems to have no door so nothing further can be added, 
but neither can it be quenched. 


And who are these people?
Clearly they are engaged with each other 
rather than with the scene inside, 
and their appearance of caring is quite engaging to see. 


Of course, meaning does creep in with the question from the 
Oracle dream
which created the title of the painting:
How is this a gift? 
I cannot resist assembling the following conversation with this art:

We are in a home on this turtle island in which the furnace of our desire for comfort and plenty is now beyond our control, and even our hair is on fire, and yet we inexplicably receive the damage with utter calm. We continue to gaze at each other with kind regard, when maybe
we should at least be breaking in the window,
 to rescue the turtle.  

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Bear Medicine drum


This new drum from the Journey Oracle has layers of story, just as the bear does by healing itself with plants that grow within, and on, and above the ground. Bear medicine brings the strength of introspection, just as the bear goes within the earth for rest and renewal.  The power of bear medicine is in dreams, in guidance that comes from going into solitude to find ego-less confidence and balance.


As I am putting the last wraps of doeskin on the 
interlacing handhold in the back of a new drum,


and oiling the blacktail deer skin surface 
with makwa pemidi, the white gold of bear.

 

I am taking moments to gaze into the drum face, 
like looking at the shifting flow of dreams
moving through the night sky. 


A creature emerges, a bear.
Gazing away from me 
with an expression at the same time
wise and child-like.


A round shape appears, a drum.
Upon its surface is another bear.  
This one fully engaged in 
confronting the viewer.

And between its paws is a stone figure,
a tiny bear. 


I know this little bear. 
I think I am being shown
it is not alone.
It has never been alone. 


Sometimes I am quite sure it is we humans
who are the drums.


We are bound into the wrap between the 
human world, the spirit world and nature
with knots that can fray but never let go. 


And someone is always watching. 
Because,
it's bears all the way down. 


You can hear this drum being played with a felted beater by 
clicking on this youtube link:  https://youtu.be/vkOX6DTDINE 

The Bear Medicine drum is offered for sale in my  Etsy webstore.