Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New shamanic painting of Ker Dupa

I have been working on this new shamanic painting of Ker Dupa for nearly a year.  It is the most unusual image I have ever worked with, since the source photograph was of a real place: several little upwelling mud pots in a stream near the trail to Small Inlet on Quadra Island.  Yet even as a photograph—the image made no visual sense.

 My friend Ann Mortifee joined me for lunch and picked up this print—but upside down—and said, “This is the one!” when I told her I was looking for my next painting from among the scattered prints on the table.
Back in the studio I taped together several overlapping views, still keeping the prints upside down, and that is when Ker Dupa appeared. Ker Dupa is my favorite song from the CD Entering the Circle, by Olga Kharitidi and Jim Wilson, and I have never forgotten the haunting lyrics about a giant fish that turns the world upside down.
 Ker Dupa (giant fish)
Ker Dupa
Oh my giant fish
Stay asleep and dream of the future
See us in your infinite dreams
Happy and free
Strong and forceful
Keep your tremendous eyes closed
Let your breath be calm and unharmful
Carry us on your mighty back as your children
Safe and healthy
Sleep for centuries, sleep for ages
Our speech is rest for your ears
Defenseless and trustful
We ask for your gentleness
To keep us alive, in your dreams forever

In the CD liner notes, Olga Khharitidi retells this ancient Siberian folk tale:
One day a giant fish monster named Ker Dupa turned the earth upside down.  The climate in Altai had always been warm, but after Ker Dupa changed the earth’s rotation it became very cold.  Altaiding Aezi travelled to the sky to ask the High Burchans, the most powerful spiritual beings of the time, if they would help. While he was going from one Burchan to another in an attempt to find Ulgen, the highest of them all and the only one able to turn the earth right side up again, it was still becoming colder and colder in Altai.

I now believe that this is an ancient story of a polar shift, a phenomena that apparently has happened several times, and may be coming again.

When I hung this new shamanic painting at the Old School House gallery here on Cortes Island, my first choice was to hang it with the painting in the upright position which hides the fish, but an unexpected circumstance required that Ker Dupa be visible which means the painting, Ker Dupa’s world, is upside down.  It is both alarming and exciting when art making moves beyond the known and the calculated and takes the artist and the viewer on a soul-altering journey into mysterious realms.


available as a fine art print

For more information about purchasing a print go to my web store.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Participating in a native drum circle

During a ceremony honoring the new partnership between the Cortes Community Forest Co-operative and the Klahoose First Nation, I was invited to join with native women and a spiritual leader of the community, Ken Hanuse, to drum and sing their woman’s warrior song.  The sensation of drumming in that circle, after making drums here on Cortes for 2o years, was profound beyond the telling.  And I learned some significant lessons about honoring drums.

 After our circle completed the songs that opened the gathering, Ken drummed a welcoming song using a drum of mine made many years ago in a workshop, and then given to the band by the maker because she was not using it.  Afterwards, when I noticed how warped the frame was—with cracks and tears in the hide—I offered to make Ken a new drum.  “Oh no,” he smiled, “This drum has character now.”  As a drum maker, I have always been alarmed and self-critical when a drum frame warps, a sure sign that I have not done a good job balancing the tension between the frame and the skin.  It never occurred to me that this would be sign of maturity for the drum, of its being old and well used enough to have character.  Ken played this drum hard and loud, and it seemed to literally shout for joy during the songs he performed.

I also wanted to replace, with something more ‘special’, the drum sticks we were using—cotton wadding fastened to a stick with tuck tape—until I used one while participating in the native drum circle and discovered their excellent bounce and balance.  Being able to use whatever materials are available, without elaborate construction or expense, is a lesson we in the dominant white culture need to learn in so many ways.

After the ceremony Norman Harry Sr. and my partner John Shook renewed their friendship from our early days on island when Norman made drums with me.  Still for us, and I think also for many others, the feelings of renewal and reconnection have continued to radiate out from that happy day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A new spiral dance

There is a new spiral dance of shadows on the field of the Old School House Gallery here on Cortes Island.  This outdoor installation by artist Peter Schmidt and Noba Anderson has invited the elements to a sacred dance, even before the humans have a chance to play.  Many of us remember the spiral dances of the 60’s and 70’s with our flower children selves weaving in and out, passing streams of smiling, painted faces.  Now the sun is weaving light and shade through the reclaimed beauty of old machine parts, cables, poles and fibre sheeting.  There is something especially potent about finding magic in what we previously discarded as worthless, like the current phenomena of Stomp Musical Theatre which uses only common household items, like garbage cans and brooms, for sound-making instruments.

A new creation from castoffs is also an opportunity to create a new way of relating to those materials.  This sculpture spirals like a seashell, and seems to invite us to be the ocean filling its curves—pressing and flowing in and out with it and with each other—rather than using the form as a background for our relating only to each other.  I believe there is a lesson in this for how to be with natural forms and forces.  I sometimes hear people speaking of the need to connect in deeper relationship with the environment, and yet the action of that connection stays between people, and not with other-than-human people, like Sun and Shadow.

Creating the Journey Oracle Cards has given me 20 years of experience in having a relationship with the flickering glimmers of other than human wisdom from the elements and the substances they create.  In this new spiral dance, there is a lot to be learned from old machine parts, cables, poles and fibre sheeting.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to have discipline for making art

 Making art seems always to require the discipline to say “no” to all the little demons that bite chunks of time from my day.  When it comes to art making, often the easiest person to steal time away from is me.  There is always something that needs doing or cleaning, someone who needs a Journey Oracle reading or a shamanic drumming session, some meeting or gathering that needs my presence.  These are all wonderful things to give time to, and I love that my island life can have such variety in it—but where is my time for art making?  And why am I showing you a picture of a rusty shovel in a rusty wheelbarrow as the illustration for how to have discipline for making art?

 Because when we keep our ability to say “yes” to time for art-making, which means saying “no” to others—our discipline for making art becomes like rust which never sleeps.  The ability to open and fill the little cracks and spaces in our day with art is like how rust grows over the surfaces of exposed metal.   Soon enough those spaces in time join up, and like rust does, our discipline for making art fills our awareness.  Even though I am not able, nor do I want to, say no to every request of my time, like rust I am never asleep to my looking for an opportunity to create something with my hands.

On reflection, I also like that the picture I took this morning is of a shovel. Finding discipline in art is like using a shovel to dig down beneath the layers of should and ought to hit the bedrock of personal will, which is a taproot of healthy selfishness out of which grows my creative freedom.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stories of Courage

As we are watching the Olympics and appreciating the many of stories of courage we see, I am remembering stories of courage that happen every day as part of our Cortes Island life.  Because we live and work near and on the water we enjoy spending time on our Bristol sailboat, Pearl. We needed some small repair on the top of the mast and I was very self-critical because I didn’t have the courage to go up to the top of the mast by myself.  Our friend Amanda said that she has been aloft many times because she loved the view and so offered to help.  She arrived with all the right gear: a climbing harness for security, a canvas bucket for tools, and long pants but bare feet for protection and agility.  My first lesson about having courage is that it is easier to do this when we have the right equipment and training, because courage is not the same as foolishness.

Before my partner and I hoisted Amanda up the mast, she wanted us to know that the people turning the winch and “tailing” the rope were the most important in the process, because they were the ones who gave the person aloft the confidence to focus on the work.  Someone below who is not paying attention is more than just sloppy, they are dangerous. My second lesson about having courage is that it is the care and attentions of the people behind the courageous one in front who are truly helping make the courageous act possible.

Yet there is Amanda up the mast.  And so a willingness to say “Yes” is surely the most profound lesson at the beginning to any story of courage.  All actions that begin with this commitment to Yes are at their heart a story of courage.  The drum’s voice is not apparent in the wet hide and so the courage to trust experience is necessary.  The blank surface of a new painting requires the courage to make a mark without the security of an established form.  Receiving signs from the unseen world when conducting a Journey Oracle reading grows from the courage to believe in what can be experienced but cannot be proven.  

I guess there are lots of ways to climb a mast.  And the views are always unexpectedly beautiful.