Ireland Visit 2016
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
I am currently in my room at the Leenane Hotel in Connemara. I arrived yesterday afternoon on a Connemara Tour bus. I will be here for almost a week – leaving on Monday, September 26 to return to Galway and then back to Ballyvaughan the following day. This week I will be enjoying a quiet restful time of reading, reflection, drawing and painting.
Looking back to last week – two artist friends from The Netherlands arrived on Monday, September 12th to spend a week with me working on a Burren Landscape Immersion Project. Hannah Kockx from Amsterdam and Doet Boersma from Leeuwarden arrived around noon on Monday to start an active and intense week of landscape exploration and artwork creation. This was Hannah’s first visit to Ireland while Doet had visited Ireland at least 3 times before including a 6 week stay as an Artist in Residence at the local Burren College of Art in 2007. The landscape exploration started Monday afternoon with a walk along the Ballyvaughan seaside, along its two piers, the Ballyvaughan Bird Hide and then a drive out for a shoreline exploration of an area known as the Rynne.
Tuesday, September 13th the exploration continued with a morning walking inland mountain landscape excursion including entering the interior of the mountain at Aillwee Cave.
In the afternoon we explored the limestone pavement of the shoreline of Gleninagh.
Ireland Visit 2016
Friday, September 9, 2016
I arrived in Ireland yesterday morning, Friday September 9th. All 3 of the flights I had to take to get here were perfect – boarded on time, departed on time and arrived on time. It was overcast and rainy when I arrived in Ballyvaughan – Breada and her helper, Angela were just finishing up with their guests’ breakfasts. Breada greeted me with a strong cup of coffee. Because I did not get any sleep to speak of on the flights I decided to take a nap. I awoke after a couple of hours to partly cloudy skies.
Before I walked into the village to buy some things and have a late lunch I spent some time reading a book I found on one of Meadowfield’s bookshelves “Stones of Adoration: Sacred Stones and Mystic Mystic Megaliths of Ireland” by Christine Zucchelli, The Collins Press, Cork (West Link Park, Doughcloyne, Wilson), 2007.
The introduction of the book intrigued me and I found that some of the information helped provide a type of “foundation” for my thoughts regarding the piece of artwork “Back to the Garden” I’m in the process of creating for the February 2017 ALCHEMY exhibition at the Richmond Center for the Visual Arts at Western Michigan University.
About Sacred Landscapes . . .
“In numerous cultures all over the world, adorable or highly revered stones and stone monuments form integral parts of what we can describe as “sacred landscapes”. Other prominent aspects of these spiritual landscapes would be sacred trees, waters, islands or mountains. The term sacred is used here to denote a spiritual or religious significance, and does not necessarily appear in its Christian understanding. Generally spoken, sacred features of the landscape come into being when humans acknowledge the presence of an “anima loci”, the spirit or the essence of a place. The nature of the “anima loci” is determined by the concept of beliefs that prevails within a society. With history being a continuous process of cultural development and change, the spiritual and religious concepts develop and change as well, and so does the definition of what is considered sacred for a particular reason. A perfect mirror for the changing perceptions of sacredness is folklore, because it is conservative by its nature yet also absorbs new ideas and influences from outside, and likewise adapts older ideas to new situations.
“The earliest spiritual concept is the animistic tradition, which regards all natural features as spirited, animated parts of the earth. Where the earth is seen as the body of her creator, natural features in the landscape are regarded as body parts of the creating earth mother or earth goddess. This concept predates formal religions, and would still surface in the oral tradition of stones that walk about or speak. When polytheistic religions emerged, the earth mother manifested herself in the shape of various goddesses; male deities appeared by their sides, usually presided over by a father god; sacred stones and stone monuments became interpreted as homes of goddesses and gods. Monotheistic religions finally identify sacred sites as places chosen and blessed by members of the hold family, or by saints and prophets.”
The image on the left is a preliminary composite study of “Back to the Garden” where I have incorporated the female figure with images of flora. The above information challenged me to pose the question, “should I consider including additional features of the landscape in this composition?”
I continued on into the books first chapter entitled “Goddess, Hags, and Fairy Queens”—
“The goddess is understood as the life giving force and at the same time as the reaper, embodying the cycle of birth death and regeneration. She is the creator of the earth, and the earth is seen as her body. Mountains and hills are taken for her belly and breasts, caves for her womb and pillars for her navel.”
Many scholarly documents tell us that megalithic structures started being build in Ireland around 3,800 BCE and that the importance of fertile land, combined with the cult of the ancestors who took possession of a territory, had initiated the development of megaliths.
One such megalithic structures is known as “The Hag’s Chair” in Loughcrew, County Meath.The image on the left of “The Hag’s Chair” appears on page 4 of the book.
I immediately noticed the carvings on this megalith and saw that they were very similar to the spiral engravings I have seen on the kerbstones of Newgrange Passage Tomb in County Meath when I visited the site in 2006.
I would like to find out if there are any theories as to the meaning of the engravings – the guides at Newgrange on the day I visited could give us no information about them.
On page 17 of this book there is this information:
“The most common motifs are spirals, which are generally taken as symbols of the constant flow of energy and the cycle of life, and accordingly fir representations of the earth goddess; concentric circles and cup-marks, widely believed to symbolize the sun, or else the navel from which all life comes; zigzag lines standing for water; triangles and serpentine lines, again represent the earth mother.”
Limited Edition Book: August 30, 2016
The design and production of a limited edition book is part of the ALCHEMY Initiative. The book will be a compendium of original works by ALCHEMY’s artists and writers around the theme, alchemy. The artists and writers who submit work for the this book have been asked to include a ‘statement’ to accompany the work.
I have submitted 2 pieces. The first is entitled ‘Divine Complexity‘. It is 12″ X 12″ and was created using encaustic, oil pastel, tucshe and digital media
Before the beginning of time – mixtures of water, hydrogen, methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide were exposed to various forms of energy.
400 million years ago the first vascular plant appeared – evolving another 40 million years until trees covered areas of planet Earth.
My second submission is entitled ‘Conversion‘. It is also 12″ X 12″ and was created using encaustic, oil pastel, tucshe and digital media.
Someone posted a photograph of a tree on Facebook – tagging me with a comment expressing their thoughts about how it would inspire me.
The process of seeing a photograph of a tree – the image floating in my mind and mingling with my soul to finally appear as “Conversion” – the moment of ignition that creates transformation in a living thing.
Exhibition Piece: August 28, 2016
I am encouraged with what has been happening as I work more on the composition of this artwork. This is a preliminary figure study and below is my first try at putting things together for this full figure composition. Although I am somewhat happy with the pose – I now think the model’s right hand should be in front of the figure resting on her belly.
Currently I’m thinking that there will be plant life throughout the entire composition – we will see how that turns out. The circles and lines that appear in red are from a medieval diagram of the proportions of the male figure. I plan to adjust that to align with the model’s figure proportion when I have her completely drawn out. For now I’m calling this composition “In The Garden”.
I will be leaving for Ireland on Thursday, September 8th. While I’m in Ireland I will be doing more drawings of plant life for this composition. The portion of the plant life drawings I have already finished are from photos I took in a hazel forest when I was in Ireland before.
Workshops: Encaustic Play Date
The Alchemy Exhibition will take place in the Netzorg & Kerr Gallery, Richmond Center for Visual Arts at Western Michigan University during the months of February through May 2017. The specifications of the artwork is that it must somehow relate to the Alchemy Initiative and not exceed 24″ in width. A loose description of the Alchemy Initiative appears immediately below – it is taken from the project’s blog.
ALCHEMY is about process. As writers and artists, we trust that through process we will be lead to the gold, the transformations that take us to new understandings of ourselves as makers. The initial ALCHEMY involves workshops and demonstrations by Kalamazoo community members as we fortify our grasp of the chemical, psychological, and practical aspects of this complex theme. From these investigations we will generate works, then invite our audience to step into the creations we have imagined in the gallery, on the page, and in public presentations. A good collaboration takes chemistry, our initiative strives for more: we want alchemy.
The Alchemy participants are encourage to do research, attend the initiative’s sponsored workshops, participate in discussions and demonstrations and explore the many varied possibilities that may relate to the topic of Alchemy.
The workshops started in January of 2016 during the winter and early spring months were held during the evenings. Because of my nightly teaching schedule I was not able to participate in the workshops until the semester ended in early May. I am finding that the workshops and discussions that I have been able to attend have been successful in inspiring me.
My academic research has consisted of the exploration of what Joseph Campbell had to say about alchemy in his book, Pathways To Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation, New World Library, Novato, CA 2004.
Now, the alchemists always had the feeling that they were helping nature to bring forth gold from the gross metal, but what they were really interested in was not so much raw gold as the GOLD OF THE SPIRIT.
This caught my interest so I decided to read more of what Campbell had to say and found more interesting concepts that refers to artists and poets. (The Power Of Myth, Anchor Books, New York, NY, 1988) . . .
Bill Moyers asks, “Who interprets the divinity inherent in nature for us today? Who are our shamans? Who interprets unseen things for us?” Camplbell answers, “It is the function of the artist (poets) to do this. The artist is the one who communicates myth for today. But he has to be an artist who understands mythology and humanity and isn’t simply a sociologist with a program for you.”
This discussion of the “divinity of nature” is something that related so well with what I strive to communicate in my artwork I started taking notes and read more.
Moyers, “Scientists are beginning to talk quite openly about the GAIA principle.” Campbell, “There you are, the whole planet as an organism.” Moyer, “Mother Earth. Will new myths come from this image?” Campbell, “Well, something might. You can’t predict what a myth is going to be any more than you can predict what you’re going to dream tonight. Myths and dreams come from the same place. They come from realizations of some kind that have then to find expression in symbolic form. And the only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody on it.”
The discussion went on . . .
Moyers, “So you suggest that from the begins the new myth of our time?” Campbell, “Yes, this is the ground of what the myth is to be. It’s already here: the eye of reason, not of my nationality; the eye of reason, not my religious community; the eye of reason, not my linguistic community. Do you see? And this would be the philosophy for the planet, not for this group, that group, or the other group.”
For reasons for which I am not totally sure – this was enough to inspire me to start doing some exploration. I’m seeing GAIA in this – I am beginning to intermingle plant forms and in this exploration may add other things.
This has led me to decide to work on a series of foliage drawings to incorporate into this concept (see below). Also, I am thinking of giving the drawing of the woman more information – complete her face, hair and figure (and perhaps include a child). The drawings in the piece above are all graphite on paper. They were scanned and layered together digitally. The color was added digitally.
Below is the progress of a one of several foliage drawings.
I’m am honored to have been invited by artist Sydnee Peters to participate in a project entitled ALCHEMY: An Artists & Writers Initiative. The project consists of a collaboration of over 50 Kalamazoo area visual artists and poets that will result in a Print Suite – a set of broadsides whereby an artist teams up with a poet to create a limited edition print suite; a soft bound book that will showcase of work of both the artists and writers – as well as information about the initiative itself; an artwork exhibition in the Netzorg & Kerr Gallery, Richmond Center for Visual Arts (RCVA), from February to May 2017; and poetry readings.
As one of the visual artists I am to contribute to the Print Suite, the Published Book and the 2017 Exhibition.