Monday, March 18, 2019

4 ways to look at art

I love to find new art books.  A new book called Universal Principles of Art begins by saying "the visual arts are unique in that they form a nexus where craft, technology, philosophy and the imagination come together to make something that is both wonderful and necessary."  I have been thinking about these four parts that form a whole, and here are my reflections.

CRAFT in its ancient OE usage meant "strength."  To me this is the sensation of power in a visual image that cannot be explained but can be felt. 

It often emerges from a sensation of ambiguity.  Is the horse aggressive, or frightened? Or both?

TECHNOLOGY from the Indo-European base Tek  means to "shape or make".   For me this is the technical skill of an artwork.

I look for a section of a painting that surprises, as if someone else's mind and hand made the decisions and applied the marks.  And this way of working becomes my teacher for the piece.

PHILOSOPHY is defined as "loving" from the Greek philos and "wisdom" from sophos.  Loving wisdom. To me this refers to the idea or theme that carries the meaning of the work.  In the upper half of this painting the wheelchair is empty and the path disappears either into freedom along the green sward or into calamity in the pond. 

The same theme of dramatic choice is echoed in the lower half--either the bird will be successful or the fish will.  And one or the other will not.

IMAGINATION  is from the Latin verb imaginari "to form an image in one's mind, picture to oneself."  This is perhaps the most praised and pressured aspect of art making. 

Imagination is drama--
the juxtaposition that creates new relationship.

Imagination is a never before seen thing.

But of course these four ways of looking at art do not appear in isolation.  Always they are in effective communion. The strength of the feeling is carried by the match of the  media to its handling, the philosophy is held in view by the imaginative source of all these elements: the artist herself.  

And the source of these paintings is not just from my intention , but also from a series of 47 dreams for the Journey Oracle, asked for when I was creating the divination cards beginning in 1992.  For many years the dreams only existed as the deep source of 47 questions, one for each oracle card.  Decades later I rediscovered the dreams, and decided to paint a image compiled from all the elements in each dream. And so this new journey oracle has begun.  

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A hand drum for the spirit wind

I have just finished for my Journey Oracle Art, 
the making a new style of drum: 
a hand drum for the spirit wind.  

I am exploring how to play song in breath and sound in wind 
as I learn to experience this new spirit companion. 

The  drumhead of goatskin is thin and patterned 
like wind ripples on water.
 I see creatures looking out at me, 
even before I ask them to be in a painting.

The drumhead is sewn onto a 10" yellow cedar frame with stone beads.

The joining of skin and wood is reinforced with pearl hide glue 
and trimmed with doeskin. 

The doeskin braid encircles a surface of sound 
before twining itself around 

the antler handle from a Cortes Island deer.

My favorite embellishment are three micaceous clay beads
enhanced with gypsy caravan bells.  This clay comes
from Felipe Ortega and is all the more precious
knowing he passed away in 2018. 

But what is a spirit wind?  And how does one drum for it?
Or in it?   

I do not think, on reflection, that in the spirit wind
is an easy place to stand. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

How to fire micaceous clay beads

I learned how to fire micaceous clay from Martin Prechtel  and Felipe Ortega while attending Bolad's Kitchen, Martin's  school of spiritual ecology in New Mexico.  The process is a beautiful experience combining practicality and ritual.

I recently made some micaceous clay beads to use as embellishments on several new styles of frame drums that I am making.  The unfired beads are sparkling with hope for a good transformation.

Set up is important because I understand I am building a house for fire to live in, and I want it to be well made.  The ritual tobacco bundle is visible here, and even if it won't be seen in the rest of the story, it will have done its good work to greet fire.

The foundation of the house sits down into the earth, with all the organics and large stones removed, since they did not agree to be part of the kiln.  I am using concrete and fire bricks for the walls, with air spaces at each corner.

The second story of the house is fire brick positioned on two walls, after a mat of paper topped with a grid of cedar kindling is arranged inside.  The paper extends through each corner as these will be what is lit to begin the firing.

Next the beads, which have been drying on lengths of copper wire, are placed across the two fire bricks and held in position by two concrete bricks that are pierced with holes.

The last step in the house construction is the roof, which begins with two pieces of kindling placed through the holes in the concrete brick.  These become the supports across which another layer of kindling is placed.

The micaceous clay beads are small and the risk of this process is to build a fire that is too hot. I make a tobacco offering to the fire to honour its presence and encourage it to be just right: not too hot but not too cold.  Once the paper is alight and the kindling starts to burn, I sing to the fire.  Although I was taught not to fuss with things once the fire enters its house, this time a quick adjustment is necessary.  The roof was too high and so the kindling was repositioned.

It is so exciting, as the fire starts causing the house to collapse, to see a glimpse of the clay beads inside.  They are a rosy colour rather than black, which is a good sign. And I keep singing.

I understand to wait until all the active flame has died back, before I stop singing and remove the beads from their placement on the bricks.

A beautiful experience indeed!  Only a few beads became over-fired; most are a sparkling testimony to my excellent teachers of so many years ago.  Thank you Martin and Felipe from the Journey Oracle.