Friday, 30 August 2019

Wise Words: Wild Body, Wild Mind

Our bodies are wild. The involuntary quick turn of the head at a shout, the vertigo at looking off a precipice, the heart-in-the-throat in a moment of danger, the catch of the breath, the quiet moments relaxing, staring reflecting—all universal responses of this mammal body. They can be seen throughout the class. The body does not require the intercession of some conscious intellect to make it breathe, to keep the heart beating. It is to a great extent self-regulating, it is a life of its own. Sensation and perception do not exactly come from outside, and the unremitting thought and image-flow are not exactly inside. The world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us. There are more things in mind, in the imagination, than “you” can keep track of—thoughts, memories, images, angers, delights, rise unbidden. The depths of mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now. I do not mean personal bobcats in personal psyches, but the bobcat that roams from dream to dream. The conscious agenda-planning ego occupies a very tiny territory, a little cubicle somewhere near the gate, keeping track of some of what goes in and out (and sometimes making expansionistic plots), and the rest takes care of itself. The body is, so to speak, in the mind. They are both wild.

(Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild: Essays, North Point Press: New York, 1990, p. 16)

Friday, 9 August 2019

Wise Words: The Left-Hand Path

Many patriarchal “bad omens” are simply reversals of what was sacred to matriarchy and the Goddess religion. The left-hand path, in patriarchal religion, is called the path of evil, of woman, of black magic. The left side of the body, where the heart beats, was considered by the ancients to be the seat of divine feminine power; all life comes from her heart. The word sinister, which originally meant “left,” has come to mean everything suspicious, evil, ominous; while dextra, meaning in Latin “right,” or “right-handedness,” has acquired wonderful meanings like skillful, mentally clever, correct … That these connotations remain with us in modern politics is not accidental; the right is father-fascistic, the left is mother-communal.

(Monica Sjöö & Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, Harper One: New York, 1987/1991, pp. 157–158)

Left Hand, ball point pen on paper (2019)

Saturday, 3 August 2019

She is One, She is Two

At long last, my new painting—quite a lesson in perseverance—is complete. 

She is One, She is Two, watercolours and gold acrylic gouache on gesso prepared paper (2019)
The main inspiration for this piece was the Neolithic figurine of a dual goddess (perhaps a forerunner of later mother–daughter pairs, such as Demeter and Persephone) from Çatal Hüyük in modern day Turkey. I find this little figure, with two torsos sprouting from one lower body, quite evocative. Is she both mother and maiden as Anne Baring and Jules Cashford suggest in The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image? Is she a representation of the two integrated sides of the Goddess?—the interplay of light with darkness, full moon with new moon, life with death, matter with spirit—those dancing complementary opposites.

Baring and Cashford state, ‘we could anticipate that our habit of thinking in opposites might have dulled us into assuming that they are absolutes in themselves and not provisional distinctions of inseparable terms belonging to one underlying unity (my emphasis, p. 665). 

Thus, the simple truth: she is one, she is two.

Of course, this symbolism calls to mind the moon, which led me to the secondary inspiration: an image of Artemis from an Etruscan vase (6th century BC), wearing a dress decorated with squares and a cross and dot design. Baring and Cashford point out that these cross/fourfold designs, representing the lunar phases, date as far back as the Neolithic period!

I must also acknowledge that some inspiration came from my previous work, Rainmaker

My initial drawings for this painting also brought self-comfort to mind. The notion of being able to hold my own hand, to offer myself support when I feel alone. Of course, relationship with others is necessary, yet the relationship we have with ourselves provides the foundation for all else.

This work is far from perfect. There are mistakes. But she is born!

Now I am off in search of the next elusive image. Wish me luck.
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