I know nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
While rafting on the Copalito River in Oaxaca, Mexico, my raft jarred against a boulder, causing me to catapult into the water. Fortunately, I was kept afloat by my life jacket until my rescue. It was this spill that led me to ruminate on the life jacket as an iconic protector. Just by suiting up we are able to allow ourselves to step into wild spaces we wouldn’t normally permit ourselves to.
The solid robust form of the jacket quickly became a stand-in for both the human figure and the environment pushing into that ancient anthropological theme of Mother Nature. It wasn’t a big leap to begin depicting the jacket as an unstable, fragile form as environmental news increasingly dominanted the headlines with co2 rising, industrial accidents, and disappearing ecological niches. Yupo became my paper of choice. It’s slick surface encouraged the paint to roll and puddle in eye-pleasing outcomes. It became easier to depict a jacket fraying and ripping at the seams.
This series, over time, has broadened from explorations of environmental issues, to visualizations to repair my personal heath issues, to this current narrative that explores the potential to image our planet back to health.
To explain how I got here, I need to go back to my practice of using visuals to heal. I was introduced to this ancient practice of visualization by my first painting teacher who helped me transition from university student to professional artist. Sandra had contracted a rare form of cancer and admitted herself to the care of MD Anderson. By the time I had met her she was out of treatment and fully recovered. Doctors had treated her cancer but had also equipped her with the ability to participate in her recovery by visualizing herself back to health. Visualizations are taken seriously by neuroscience and professionals in various careers to provide the extra needed practice to make extraordinary leaps in performance.In my personal practice to heal I began using images from nature. For my weakened lungs it was songbirds. Cancer cells were smothered by the blowing and piling up of sand to smother the sickly cells and replaced by the springtime activity of new growth.
Neuroscience has come a long way to verify what mystics have told us for years- our minds have the potential to heal. Rilke, in this poem above, speaks about the potential of visualizations. He understands that by beholding an image, its potential power and preciousness also grows. If we are capable of healing through visualization, can we turn the mind to do so for our planet? With a little research I have found images of the sun, sacred geometry, and the tree of life that have been used for this purpose. I am interested in recovering this ancient knowledge and building on it. Some scientists have claimed that we have already moved from the age of Holocene to Anthrocene. We are nature and the structures of our body and mind have evolved with nature. No wonder we feel so numb to the continual stream of stories of environmental destruction. Nature has always had a healing capacity on the human spirit, but now that the Earth is in trouble and economic forces are pushing to continue their industrial activities, do we have the capacity to reverse the damage by visualizing?
Love Songs For Earth
Hiking with camera in tow, more often than not the lens is aimed at the ground. The cycle of life and death is played out - as the flower dies, its seed matures and seeks fertile ground to begin the cycle again. This is part of the ground’s ever-changing surface as the earth transitions from season to season. A quiet, dynamic force is always present.
Its intimacy is much more complex than traditional panoramic scenes that include a distant view with a horizon line separating the land and sky lending the viewer to feel a larger encompassing view of space/nature. By focusing on the space under our feet I am able to explore the transformations of this biological ecosystem.
There is an interplay between consciousness and the natural world. The reality is that there is no separation between the world and ourselves. Our culture and our use of language continues to remind us that we are external observers, but the physical reality is that we are the same atomic structure and properties found in the pecan trees, grackles and the moon. We are not at the center of the universe but a small part of a continuum of expressions. This sense of being a part but not the center of activity is most evident to me when I am painting.