Thursday, February 27, 2020

Big Magic makes a birthday present

Big Magic has changed my view of the art muse. I recently finished this book by Elizabeth Gilbert, just before my chosen granddaughter's 3rd birthday.  Her mom mentioned that Zyla wanted “animals and their houses.” What to do with that?
Gilbert writes about how ideas are alive, and go about searching for a collaborator to give them an eloquent voice and thumbs through human expression.  I certainly know this experience from the 16 years it took me to create the Journey Oracle Divination cards--so now this baby idea and I are sitting around, wondering what to do with each other, when the art muse shows up. I see her as quite Victorian in manner, mine anyway: stern, excessively disciplined,  given to small expressions of impatience at frivolity. Not someone who would win a smile from a 3 year old, but still, a present needs to come. 
I decide to “follow from in front,” and wait for a clear inspiration to guide each step.  Zyla loves my chalk pastels. Her mom said, “5 minutes and a crayon would make her happy.” 
So paper and chalk.  I find a package of folded note cards, missing their envelopes, in a box while looking for something else. Humm. What about a drawing of an animal house on the front, and an animal in the house on the inside? Each one a different version of “Who lives here?” Wait.  Each one a different version? Two drawings per card? What happened to 5 minutes and a crayon? Oh well. When the art switch flips, I am a moth drawn to the shine.  
What about cutting out photos of the animals but painting the houses. Might satisfy the muse without my falling down the time investment rabbit hole. 
My partner John walks by and wonders why I am making paper toilet seats.  Really.  A quite astonishing mess ensues. Big magic has caused my own 3 year old to appear. 
After every object, including the floor, has a requisite layer of chalk dust, 5 creatures and 2 birds are laminated into 7 environments.  Here are some small big magic moments met during the progress. 
In a small area, simple has more drama.
Emphasize the unexpected and uncontrolled,
rather than try and hide the bumps.
In art, and perhaps life, attitude is everything. 
So what does a 3 year old's paper birthday present have to teach about big magic and inspiration from the art muse? Art is art, no matter where one finds it. The creative gesture deserves respect, regardless of its intended purpose.
Certainly Gilbert says it best with regards to the forces of creativity: ...this is how I want to spend my life--collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand. Sort of like receiving a present from someone you don't know well, but certainly would like to know better.

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. 
it's bears all the way down. 

You can hear this drum being played with a felted beater by 
clicking on this youtube link: 

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