Back to the beginning

Over the past five or so years that I’ve been on a hiatus from making fibre art, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about my Muscogee ancestry all the way back to the Mississippian period.  The Muscogee, also known as the Creek Confederacy,  are descendants of the Mississippian culture peoples, who flourished between 800 AD and 1600 AD.   The Muscogee were a confederacy of tribes consisting of Yuchi, Koasati, Alabama, Coosa, Tuskeegee, Coweta, Cusseta, Chehaw (Chiaha), Hitchiti, Tuckabatchee, Oakfuskee, and many others.  

I have been influenced by much of the artwork that has survived and been documented.  I have also read many of the stories and legends which have survived orally and were collected throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Alabama Indians’ creation story tells of the beginning of things –

“Once, long ago, before the time of the oldest people,
water covered everything.
The only living creatures above the water
were some small animals and birds
who occupied a log raft
drifting about in the great ocean. . . . . . .”

First World, Neocolor crayons on paper, 25 x 25 cm, 2014

I began this acrylic painting last weekend on a rainy Sunday.  In the summer of 2015 I took a painting workshop led by Nocona Burgess in which we learned about painting onto a canvas primed with black gesso.  I found a couple of blank black canvases recently during a studio tidy up.

One of the tips I learned from Nocona was how to mask off the canvas to get a super straight and crisp line.

A crisp tip

I surrounded this first world with colors from the Medicine Wheel.

In the Beginning there was only Water, Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 cm, 2017

For my current work in progress I’m using Sennelier Oil Pastels on 250gsm mixed media paper.  I love working with my fingers and how the colors can be blended.

Water covered everything, Oil pastel on paper, 30 x 30 cm, 2017

I’m going to the art store tomorrow to get some turpentine so I can see what that does to the pastels.  I also plan to pick up some more square canvases.

I suddenly have a lot of ideas and images for paintings and works on fibre waiting patiently to come out.  It is as though everything I have been taking in over the past five years has had a chance to settle, find roots and is growing once again towards the light of day.

Sources:   Creek Confederacy  ::  Muscogee

Hearing the cries of the world

I’ve been feeling many different emotions in response to all that is happening in the world.  The recent violence in Germany, France and America, and the political situations in the UK and the US.  I was especially upset about the killing of an elderly priest in Rouen.  I’ve lately felt quite overwhelmed and as though I would like nothing more than to retreat from the world and build a hard shell around me.

I woke from a dream the other morning in which I had just finished drawing a portrait of a young man who was dwelling with me. I beheld this young man, paid witness to him and captured his likeness. Next in the dream, I was about to draw a picture of Kuan Yin.

Dream figures reflect our inner state and the outer world. Many of our young men are not well fathered, nor well mothered nor held in the fabric of the world. Some of them are doing really horrendous things. It must be so difficult to grow up into manhood. I know how trapped and diminished girls and women can be by society’s definitions and roles for us, but it is no easier for boys and men.

Kuan Yin goes by many names. She is an Eastern goddess of Mercy and Compassion who hears the cries of the world. Compassion means ‘to suffer with’.

When I woke, I felt a softening and the ability to hold a lot of conflicting and difficult thoughts and feelings with love.

I felt at peace after being visited by the promise of Kuan Yin.  I found a few different images of her online:

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Kannon (観音)

Kannon, (観音

Kuan Yin_chinese

Kuan Yin

Tara

Tara

This morning, I woke with the dawn and sat up in bed and made the drawing that I was about to in my dream last week.  As usual, different than expected elements always appear.  The earth is in the lower left hand corner and a dragon appears to  encounter the world.  This isn’t an evil presence, however.   The dragon, an ancient symbol for high spirituality, wisdom, strength, and divine powers of transformation, is a common motif found in combination with the Goddess of Mercy.

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She Hears the Cries of the World, Staedtler-Triplus Fineliner pens, 25 x 25cm, 2016

I saw a friend last week who has a very similar resonance to me, and it was good to share and reflect together.  She currently has a very spiritual response to life, but said that when she was younger, she had a very political stance and wonders if she will take that approach again.  I think that many people are concerned about the state of the world and are wondering what response is needed.  We can choose to hide away, tune out, become politically active, write and speak to others about our feeling and thinking responses to events.   For myself, I don’t know if I will take a more active response, but for now it is enough to hear and acknowledge the cries of the world.

River Totem

I belong to the Muscogee (Creek).  Our name for ourselves is Mvskoke.  The European settlers called us Creeks, because of our proximity to water.   We originally lived along the waterways in what are now the northern parts of Georgia and Alabama, before The Removals in the 1830’s.   My people lived beside water because water is the First Medicine.

I have a river-drifted stick with a very powerful presence.   I drilled a hole through it so that I can wear it around my neck.  This totem symbolises my connection to the Mvskoke and to the spirit of the river.

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It reminds me that I belong to the Muscogee and of the river of blood which flows through my veins.  My ancestors walked the Trail of Tears;  we lost our homeland and many of us lost our language and the Knowing of our traditional ways,  but the river of blood still flows through our veins.  A hidden river that carries our grief and our memories, our hopes and our dreams.  The river has carried me to where I am.  I carry our story into the world, through my words and my art work.  I have been learning about my ancestors, our history and contemporary life in the 21st century, as well as the Muscogee language.  Hvcce poyvfekcv means ‘river spirit/soul/ghost’ , pronounced /hácci poyafíkca/.

Today I set my easel up and got out my (mostly grey) chalk pastels to draw my river totem.

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It was so fascinating to really look at it and follow the shapes and patterns with my eyes and to try to capture their fluency on paper.

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A magnifying glass helped . . .

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It looks a bit like a person, or an animal.  Perhaps it has something of the shape-shifter and Trickster Rabbit, Chufi.

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Hvcce poyvfekcv – river spirit, 38 x 69cm

The word totem comes from the Ojibway word dodaem and means “brother/sister kin”. It is the archetypal symbol, animal or plant of hereditary clan affiliations. People from the same clan have the same clan totem and are considered immediate family.  The Ojibway scholar Basil H. Johnston defines dodaem, or totem, as “that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being,”

Source :: wikipedia

Going into the moment

One of the great and liberating things about becoming older is becoming more confident.  I’ve been such a perfectionist for so long, a bit of a control freak and so worried about ‘getting it wrong’.  I wrote about this in relation to art and creativity eight years ago.   As with many things, this particular lesson is one which spirals around again and again, giving me the chance to work on it some more!

With art making, these tendencies have allowed me to make some very finely crafted pieces of art;  the art quilts and fibre art that I focused on for the first years of my voyage as an artist are very well thought out and meticulously crafted.  But, it has always been difficult for me to let go, experiment and play with art materials.

Unexpectedly, the people who come to my  creativity group for people living with dementia are my great teachers.  In providing them with the opportunity for process oriented creativity, I am experiencing for myself the liberation of being in the moment, letting go of an ‘outcome’, going with the flow, experimenting and experiencing.
With my new found confidence and certainty about who I am, I am more and more able to shuck off my insecurities and do stuff I was previously too chicken to do.

This weekend, I made marbled paper which I have admired for a very long time.  I found a ‘how to’ article in Country Living which I didn’t follow because it had a supply list requiring an initial outlay of dosh that I wasn’t prepared to spend on marbling specific materials.  I ended up going with a very user friendly, simple tutorial using shaving cream and food colouring.  It was really fun to do and the results are amazing! 🙂

This was the palette for my first pass.

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Shaving foam marbled with colour

I kept adding colour and/or foam for subsequent pressings.

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I simply pressed the paper onto the bed of foam and lifted it off.

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Then scraped the foam off with a ruler.  The colour on the paper didn’t budge and I could wipe off the excess foam with a paper towel.

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The shaving cream dolloped ruler was a joy to behold.

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Et voila!

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A delicious, serendipitous and temporal piece of art

I had a lot of fun doing this and excitedly showed Steve each one as it became revealed.  I did a couple of them twice.

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My results from the day

 

These were printed onto 120gsm cartridge paper.  I folded them in half and glued the backs together with PVA to make them double sided.  I went back to the Country Living tutorial and made decorations for an Easter tree, which I will show in another post.

Word

My word for 2016 is ‘Focus’.

Opera Glasses ;; Joseph Lorusso (b. 1966)

Opera Glasses  ::   Joseph Lorusso (b. 1966)

In 2015, it was ‘Brave‘.  For the past year, I’ve been open to lots of ideas and possibilities, and have begun some explorations.  I actually haven’t produced very much, which is OK.   Now I feel ready to narrow my vision and choose.

Already, a very exciting opportunity has come my way which I have grasped with both hands.  In February I start/develop my new role as an artist working with people living with dementia.  This is pretty much my dream job.  I’ll be sharing and developing the post with an artist friend who lives in my village and I think that she and I will complement eachother very well.   I have an academic background in Counseling Psychology  and a lot of personal experience of my own and in facilitating the deeply healing aspects of artmaking and creativity with others.  I am going to London tomorrow to a workshop on Early Stage Dementia Awareness Training for Arts Facilitators.  I’m really stoked, a little nervous and have the feeling that a new world of opportunities to combine my counseling skills and working creatively with people is opening up before my eyes.

I have also decided that in May,  I’ll submit some artwork to a juried show open to Native American artists on the theme of Spirituality & Borderlands.  Last year I got my Muscogee (Creek) Nation Citizenship ID card for this express purpose.   More on that later, but I have already begun working on a piece.

What is your word for 2016?

 

To the moon

As promised, here are a few more shots of the nearly completed paper moon.   I collaged  vintage sheet music covers from the 1920’s and ’30’s onto the back.

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We attached the moon to one of our kitchen tables, which was the perfect height and very stable too.  We glued a piece of wood to the back, which we then screwed onto a supporting structure.  Our weighty tomes and Le Creuset cooking pots came in handy.

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Et voila!  The paper moon.  We did some more work to make the midnight sky background, scattered with gold stars and a skirt to hide the table legs.

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I can tell you that it looked fantastic!  We’ll have access to many photos that our photographer and many of our friends took on the day of our Fifth Anniversary Celebration over the next few days and weeks.

We gave each of our guests a crescent moon lino print and an admission ticket to the Paper Moon Gallery when it comes online.

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Today, Steve and I are off to Austria for about 10 days, traveling by train and staying in some beautiful places.  And guess what?  The moon in the sky looks just like our paper moon!

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