Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Pull of the Earth

Brian Fisher, "The Pull of the Earth" 84x60 in.  oil on canvas, 1985
Haikus on Gravity by Philip Hart

For the weakest force,
A simple poem form, for the
Least understood force.


The sun does not set,
Leaving the world in darkness -
The world turns away.


To move forward, you
Must lift yourself from the ground
And let yourself fall.
 

Only the weakest
Of the four forces directs
The paths of the stars.
 

The moon falls earthward,
The earth falls into the sun,
And both keep missing.
 

Puffy, lazy clouds -
Daring gravity to do
Something about it.
 

Her body bends light,
Pulls on the planets and stars -
How should I resist? 


I've been making images of Green Men and tree people for as long as I can remember, at least since I first read J. R. Tolkien's descriptions of Fangorn forest and it's tree shepherds.  This painting, The Pull of the Earth is from a series that explored relationship, desire and the mysterious force that is physical attraction.  If every object that has mass produces gravitational force relative to how much mass it has, is there a similar explanation for the overwhelming emotional and physical pull of one for another?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Albus Darach, The Green Man

My Green Man Albus Darach is a more traditional representation of the Green Man, or "foliate head” of the British Isles.  You may find Albus Darach in my Studio, no.16 with his Green Man collograph print siblings, during the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour, May 6-7 & 13-14, 2017.

Darach is Gaelic for "Oak tree.” Around him you can see the leaves and acorns of the tree and rectangular portals representing passage, change or transformation.  The Oak is almost synonymous with strength, steadfastness and historically is associated with the sacred groves and forests of of the Druids.

The Roman Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus lived in Gaul during the 1st century CE and wrote that Druid priests performed all their religious rites in Oak groves, where they gathered mistletoe from the trees with a golden sickle.  Dense forests of Oak covered most of Northern Europe at that time and the tree's human-like attributes of trunk/body, branches/arms, twigs/fingers, and sap/blood may explain what made them sacred and subjects of worship to the Gaelic people.

When Christianity eventually came to Ireland, Scotland and England, Christian churches were often built in Oak groves, probably because they were already recognized as places of worship.  An example is Kildare, where St. Brigid founded her abbey.  Kildare derives from “Cill-dara”, the Church of the Oak.  This association of place between old and new religions may also  explain the carved decorative and enduring interpretations of pagan nature spirits within sacred Christian spaces through time.  These images are now recognized as the Green Man.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Katsura, The Green Man

Katsura is my Green Man collograph named for the beautiful Katsura tree, native to China and  Japan.  Please visit Brian Fisher Studio and Katsura during the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour May 6,7-13-14.

This Green Man is inspired by the mythic Japanese Kodama, spirit guardians and animated souls of the mountain forests of Japan.  Kodama spirits are revered by Japanese as gods and protectors  of trees.

The Kodama bless the land around their forest with fertility.  The villagers who find Kodama inhabited trees designate them with sacred rope known as a Shimenawa.  


Japan honors nature and these sacred Kodoma spirit trees are often found within the grounds of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Baobab, The Green Man

Baobab is Africa's tree and also what I have named my Green Man collograph.

Baobab trees are  indigenous to 31 African countries.  Because the Baobab has a fibrous bark  and has no tree rings, it’s not clear how long the tree lives, though experts say a Baobab may live for 500 years, others estimate as many as 2000! By any standard the Baobab is the living elder of plants on a continent which reveres elders.

Many myths and legends are associated with the Baobab.  Stories of the mischievous spirits that reside within them were collected by  explorers of East and West Africa in the early twentieth century.  In the Northern Cape Province of South Africa some people still believe wood spirits inhabit the flowers of the Baobab and it's said that those who pick them will be eaten by lions!

In many African communities the tree is recognized as a deity who has decided to live among humans. Village life and it's rituals are celebrated beneath it.  In Burkina Faso, a mourning drum rite, reserved for revered chiefs, is also celebrated upon the death of the Baobab tree.

The Baobab is home to fruit bats, weaver birds, parakeets, lovebirds, to owls, hawks and predators of the bush who feed upon rodents that live among the Baobab's roots. The Baobab stores water, gallons  and gallons of sustaining water, even in drought, one of the reasons it is known as "The Tree of Life".

Its' leaves and flowers serve as salad for humans. Its edible seeds, when cooked, provide a substitute for coffee. The white pulp of the fruit can be boiled into a sherbet-like lemonade which is very high in vitamin C.  The tree provides no timber, its wood is soft like balsa, but the bark serves as food for elephants in drought and can also be made into rope, roofing material, and clothing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Banyani, The Green Man

This is my Green Man collograph, Bayani.  Visit him during the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour, the first two weekends in May 6-7 & 13-14, 2017.

Banyani was inspired by a Philippine creation, vegetation/resurrection myth.  This story is interesting because it involves a combination of three gods to bring mankind into this world.

One, Bathala, (caretaker of the earth), battles, kills and burns the second, his challenger, Ululant Kaluluwa, (sky serpent, orphaned spirit), befriends and loves the third, Galang Kaluluwa, (winged, wandering spirit). 

Upon the peaceful death of and request by Galang Kaluluwa, Bathala buried Galang’s body where the serpent god Ululant Kaluluwa had once been killed and burned.

From their common grave grew a tall tree with a large round nut, the coconut palm.  Its’ leaves looked like the wings of Galang Kaluluwa, but the trunk was sinuous like the the serpent Ulilang Kaluluwa.

When Bathala husked the nut he found what looked like two eyes, a nose, and a round mouth.  This fruit from the vegetative union of two dead gods inspired him to create the first man and woman in the image of the coconut and then the first home for them from the trunk and leaves of the coconut palm.

My collograph Banyani is a symbol of rebirth and the cycle of life.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Atticus, The Green Man of Attica

The mythic Green Man represents a union of humanity and the vegetative world.  He is the sacrificial human conduit and connection to the plant cycle of birth, reproduction, revitalization and resurrection.

Known by many names, through time and a spectrum of cultures, including but not limited to: Dionysos, Orpheus, Osiris, Adonis, Cernnunos, Khidir etc… he is the god born to sacrifice and through his union with the goddess to be born again.  

Historically, his seasonal incarnation was worshiped locally.   My print Atticus (man of Attica) celebrates the area of Greece that includes the region centered on the Attic peninsula that projects into the Agean Sea, encompassing the city of Athens, capital of Greece. 

Atticus is the first of many Collograph images I have made to celebrate The Green Man.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Collagraph, Collograph!

Artist Valerie Willson shared her approach to collograph in a couple wonderful workshops at Vashon's Quartermaster Press.  We attached thin materials like paper and cloth to plexiglass plates with gloss acrylic medium and created texture with modeling paste.  The result was a very sturdy collograph plate.

Inspired by what I learned, I've been exploring the process in a series of prints about myth in nature.  Here is a drawing and collograph plate of "Atticus," from my Green Man series.

Collagraph, collograph, no matter how you spell it, refers to a collage of materials glued to a substrate to create a printable plate.  Ink may be applied to the high surfaces of the plate with a brayer, like a relief print, or ink may be applied to the entire plate and then removed by wiping from the upper surfaces leaving ink between and around collage elements, resulting in an intaglio print.  I now employ both methods when making my own collographs.  Below is a detail that illustrates both the relief and Intaglio approach to inking.

Monotype Workshop

Prints by Lynn McClain and Janice Campbell




























Ilse Reimnitz and I teach a monotype workshop one or two times a year.  It is always fun to share this print process with others and spend creative time with Ilse.  Above and below are a few examples from our April 2017 workshop.   Each was made using oil base etching inks over a smooth plexiglass plate and printed in layers with a Takach etching press.


Prints by John Riley and Lou McBride

























Monday, March 6, 2017

Byzantium

"Byzantium"  Oil on canvas,  15 3/4 x 39 3/4 in.













My painting takes it’s name from the ancient city of Byzantium, at the confluence of trade between the Aegean and Black Sea, founded in 667 by Byzas of Megara, Greece.  It would in the course of history become Constantinople, (324 AD), the Eastern capitol of the Christian, Roman Empire and eventually the seat of the Muslim, Ottoman Caliphate, (1453 AD). Today it is called Istanbul and a remarkable city that is representative of what is past, passing and to come.

This painting is inspired by Yeats vision of a layered but fixed world that is artificial, unchanging, where ornament or object are perhaps the ideal incarnation of the soul.  These lines from his poem “Sailing to Byzantium”, in particular, are a reference for my painting “Byzantium”.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enameling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


Sailing to Byzantium


Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Persephone Cycle, Part 1



































Above is my Collograph about the myth of Persephone and Demeter, named “The Persephone Cycle.” Image size, 18x18 in.  It’s on display at Hinge Gallery  in March, April  during the Quartermaster Press Print Show:  Life-Cycle  and during the "Vashon Island Art Studio Tour" at Brian Fisher Studio, map #16.

Part 1: The Myth of Persephone and Demeter 

 
Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of fertility, harvests, and perhaps the earliest version of a Great Earth Goddess except for Rhea, her own mother.  Beautiful, virginal, Persephone was Demeter’s daughter by Zeus and the maternal focus of her life.


Hades, Persephone’s uncle, fell in love with his young niece and decided that he would have Persephone for his bride but knew that Demeter would never approve of such an arrangement.  So, Hades colluded with Zeus, her father, his brother, who agreed to a secret “union” and to his plans for Persephone’s abduction.


One day Persephone was collecting flowers, when the earth suddenly opened before her and Hades rose from the crack and carried her down to his realm of the dead, beneath the Earth.


Upon learning of Persephone’s disappearance, Demeter searched the Earth, asking all she met if they had seen her beloved Persephone.  She even turned her daughter’s handmaidens into birds, later called the Sirens, so that they could aid her in her search.
Demeter grieved for her lost daughter. Nothing else mattered but seemingly nothing else could be done. In her despair she became unconcerned with the fruitfulness of the Earth and famine, for the first time, came to mankind. 


Eventually Demeter rested from her search at Eleusis. Disguised as an old woman, she found a position as nurse to Triptolemus, the infant son of King Celeus and fell in love.  This was a new, another, child to embrace and Demeter decided to favor him by feeding him ambrosia and each night in secret, holding the child over a fire to make him immortal.  Triptolemus’s mother stumbled upon this ceremony and misunderstanding Demeter’s intentions banished the old nurse from the palace. Demeter now revealed her true identity and ordered Celeus to build a temple that she would reside in, could grieve in, while a world devoid of her attention, starved.

The Persephone Cycle, Part 2

Left: Plate for Persephone cycle series of prints  Right: "Persephone Cycle II"













Part 2: The Myth of Persephone and Demeter

When Zeus could no longer ignore the suffering of mankind.  He sent Hermes as emissary to negotiate Persephone’s return to her mother.  Hades reluctantly agreed to her release and in parting gave Persephone, who had eaten nothing since her abduction, a pomegranate.  This apparent act of kindness was instead a deception and curse.  Anyone who eats the food of Hades must remain in his realm.  Persephone ate only a few seeds but that was enough for Hades to make the legitimate claim that she must remain with him.

Finally, Rhea, the mother of Zeus, Demeter and Hades, proposed a compromise. Persephone would have to stay with Hades in the Underworld for six months each year. The rest of the year, she would be allowed to ascend to Earth and live with her mother.  Hades would have Persephone as a consort and Demeter would restore Earth's fertility.

Persephone's cyclical descent to the dark Underworld and subsequent ascension to Earth, signify the progression of seasons, Fall and Winter succeeded by Spring and Summer. In the Fall, seeds are buried beneath the Earth and in the Spring, the seeds emerge to grow and flourish in sunlight. 

This cyclical transformation of life after death was celebrated at Eleusis, the site of Demeter’s temple and became known as the Eleusian Mysteries.  Demeter shared her knowledge of plant culture and harvest with Triptolemus who became her priest.  He in turn shared that knowledge with the people of the world and began teaching her mysteries in two types of initiations.  According to the “Homeric Hymn to Demeter” those initiations prepared the aspirant to receive the vision of light, to release subconscious fears and master them.  One was concerned with the reunion of the goddesses; the other concerned the possibility of man's immortalization.

The mythic story of the abduction of Demeter's daughter, Persephone, and her subsequent resurrection and return is thought to have been celebrated at Eleusis for almost 2000 years and it has continued to engage the world for thousands of years since.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Daphne, Want the Change at CVG Show
























Want the Change

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.
What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.
Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.
Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

Rainer Maria Rilke

My "Daphne," an oil on canvas over panel, who runs towards change and away from someone or something that she  perceives as inescapable (without change,) is on exhibit in: 

The 2017 Wahington State Juried Art Competition (The CVG Show).
Jan. 21- Feb. 25, Wed.  11 AM-5 PM, Sat & Sun. 12-4 PM.,  Collective Visions Gallery,   331 Pacific Avenue, Bremerton, WA