November 28, 2021

Sphinx Tapestry (Addendum)

 

Sphinx Tapestry (Addendum), 2021, hand-stitched cotton thread embroidery floss on linen, 25" x 16"



 "Functional mythology has been replaced by inadequate ideology." - Jordan Peterson





This is another piece that contemporizes an ancient Greek myth. The sphinx is made up of bomb shapes, and the wing is made up of thermometers. I stitched the background using water drop shapes, and it contains four symbols that surround the figure. Two of them denote a sense of urgency (the hourglass and the bell), and two of them point to our lowest and highest potential as humans (the saw and the circle). The saw refers to this quote from the Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich: "In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches." It's placed low under the Sphinx figure, in contrast to the circle at the top. The circle here is more complex and has layered meanings. On a mundane level, it represents the sun that's warming the planet. On a profound level, it symbolizes our transcendent wholeness, the one consciousness that we are all a part of. The idea of universality is embedded in this piece and is the antithesis of the current divisive mind virus that's been infecting much of Western culture. 


A story about the Sphinx by the 8th Cent B.C. writer Hesiod is told in the book Symbols And Legends In Western Art by E.S. Whittlesey: (The Sphinx) frequented a high rock near Thebes and waylaid travelers with the riddle, "What walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?" The answer is "Man"-in infancy, prime of life, and old age. Those who failed to give the correct answer were hurled to their deaths from the rock. I imagine us now collectively on a precipice with a riddle in front of us. The 'Addendum' of the title points to the idea that we need new questions: what does it mean to be human, and who are we really? The Sphinx sits on a coffin decorated with stylized hemlock. A passage about Socrates is on the opposite page in the same book: (he) was allegedly condemned to death for corrupting the youth and for impiety. The latter charge was for his belief in the immortality of the soul. Although I didn't know what he was killed for when I chose hemlock as a symbol, the story connects beautifully to my addendum question. Socrates spoke 'truth in the face of danger', an idea known as 'parrhesia' in Greek. It seems like a necessary, even urgent, imperative for our times. 




September 5, 2021

Mistress of Animals

 

Potnia Theron of Pandemics, 2021, hand-stitched cotton thread on dish towel remnant, 7.5" x 5" 

 



“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it."

- Albert Schweitzer 





This piece contemporizes the myth of Potnia Theron (Mistress of Animals) in the context of not only the possible zoonotic connection to the Covid-19 pandemic, but to our treatment and exploitation of animals in general. This motif is widespread in ancient art from the Mediterranean world and the ancient Near East showing a central human, or human-like, female figure who grasps two animals, one to each side. It's loosely based on an image of a Greek vase painting of a winged Artemis Potnia Theron. I exchanged the traditional Panther and Stag with a Pangolin and Mink, (stitched in red for blood), with a bat incorporated into the dress.





June 6, 2021

Eris/Discordia


Eris/Discordia, 2021, 14.5" x 14.5", hand-stitched cotton thread on machine stitched dish towel remnant.


"The most we can do is to dream the myth onwards and give it a modern dress"  

- Carl Jung 




With this piece, I'm contemporizing the Greek myth of the goddess Eris (Roman name Discordia). Inspired by contemporary Afghan War Rugs, the figure is referenced from an ancient Greek black-figure kylix ceramic painting. This Eris has no nationality or ethnicity or race or religion, and I see her as one of the personifications of humanity's collective shadow. She is, however, the goddess who calls in war and thus represents the asymmetry of overwhelming military might and state terrorism. Her hair becomes a blast ball, her tattooed arms hold an assault rifle, her wings have images of fighter jets, and the hem of her dress is decorated with dollar signs. She's surrounded by bombs, helicopters, grenades, bullets, blood drops, and tanks. 


Here's a description of her from the website The Theoi Project, a site exploring Greek mythology and the gods in classical literature and art: "[Eris] delights in the tumult of war, increasing the moaning of men. She is insatiable in her desire for bloodshed, and after all the other gods have withdrawn from the battle-field, she still remains rejoicing over the havoc that has been made." She was the mother of the Kakodaimones (Cacodaemons), evil spirits which plagued mankind.


It's interesting that these qualities were connected to a Goddess. Usually, I think of the Feminine as being associated with nurture, compassion, and relationship, even though soldiers in many contemporary societies are also women. I came across a book called Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, by Charlene Spretnak, and learned a lot about the origins of classical mythology. Spretnak writes that "...for thousands of years before the classical myths took form and were written down by Hesiod and Homer in the seventh century B.C., a rich oral tradition of myth making had existed. Strains of the earlier traditions are evident in the later myths, which reflect the cultural amalgamation of three waves of barbarian invaders. These invaders brought with them a patriarchal social order and their thunderbolt God, Zeus." This idea seems very apt when thinking about Eris, even in a contemporary context. Perhaps the power of a true Feminine archetype is rising again, and war and war mongers will no longer be worshiped or valued in a world in dire need of healing. 


March 21, 2021

The Sacrifice Of Gaza Tapestry

The Sacrifice Of Gaza Tapestry, 2020, hand-stitched cotton thread on dishtowel, 15.5'' x 25''

                                             



The Sacrifice Of Gaza Tapestry is stitched in its entirety in my mosaic style, and each medium-sized square shape has an average of twelve stitches. My three-dimensional mosaic piece The Sacrifice of Gaza (2009), is the direct progenitor of this tapestry. With an obvious reference to War Rugs, the background portrays fighter jets, bombs, surveillance cameras, guns, bullets, and flash grenades. The 'Sacrifice' of the title refers to a world that has turned its back on Gaza, and specifically to Western complicity. In that way, the bombs and the other machines of war represent me, dropped in my name while the mainstream media, by its omission, tells me it doesn’t matter. The world’s power system remains silent and complicit while Israel bombs Gaza anytime it feels like it, including in the summer of 2020, with constant bombardment during a world pandemic. I think of 2014 when the explosive power that Israel fired on Gaza by land, sea, and air far surpassed one of the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Japan in August 1945. Over 550 children were killed during that summer of massacre. 


And there's the Great March of Return, which began on March 30, 2018. The demands were simple: An end to the now 12-year siege on Gaza, and the ability for refugees, which make up more than 70% of Gaza’s population, to be allowed to return to their homes. Over the course of one year, scores of Gazans, mostly young men, were shot and killed, or severely injured, by Israeli snipers stationed along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel. On just one day, May 14, 2018, more than 1,300 protesters were shot by the Israeli army. Sixty people were killed. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has placed the death toll as of March 29, 2019 at 266, including 50 children, three medics, and two journalists. Doctors Without Borders called it “unacceptable and inhuman” violence by the Israeli army against Palestinian protesters. This is what United Nations Special Rapporteur Michael Link wrote about Gaza: “There is no comparable situation in the world...where a substantial population has endured such a permanent lockdown, largely unable to travel or trade, and controlled by an occupying power in breach of its solemn international human rights and humanitarian obligations.”





 

February 6, 2021

Camel Pull-Toy Tapestry

Camel Pull-Toy Tapestry, 2020, hand-stitched cotton thread on monk cloth, 13"x12".

 

"Ain't gonna study war no more" - lyrics from an American gospel song




Camel Pull-Toy Tapestry is stitched in my faux weaving style and is directly influenced by War Rugs and by my continuing interest in woven textiles. It's based on my Camel Pull-Toy sculpture, which I created in 2005 in reaction to US warmongering in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those wars got me interested in Islamic art and culture as I observed the ubiquitous propaganda and demonization of Islam in the US during that time. Like the original version, this piece refers to themes of US Imperialism and hegemony-along with its allies - in the region of Southwest Asia. The tapestry's two - dimensional format enabled me to expand the narrative by filling in the background with fighter jets and bombs. 


I chose the dromedary camel as a shorthand signifier that makes an immediate connection to a specific geographic location, and not as any definition or judgment of a culture. The camel in the context of a child's pull-toy has political connotations that refer to Islamophobia and Western domination, pointing to its manipulator and to the hubris and terror of Empire's military might. 






December 13, 2020

Gouache Studies


The Last Centaur, 2020, gouache on paper, 15"x17"





Sphinx (Addendum), 2020, gouache on paper, 22"x15"




I think the pandemic has been a catalyst for me to start painting with gouache. I've painted with oils and acrylics before, even though I'm often more drawn to art that's created in gouache. I started out with the idea that these paintings would be studies for future stitchwork and/or sculpture pieces. The Last Centaur and Sphinx (Addendum) were created with that intention, but as I've continued to learn and experiment - practice, really - my new paintings are becoming stand-alone pieces. I used a sort of faux weaving style with both of them, even painting vertical 'warp' lines before working the horizontal lines in. Painting is not a language that I'm really comfortable with, and I'm thinking about how I stitch and trying to incorporate some of those ideas into the process. For instance, I like the built-in boundaries of certain materials and processes, including the limited color palette of thread or rice paper. I'm enjoying the challenge of figuring out what works for me with paint, though, and It's been nice to work in a medium that's faster and more immediate than the painstakingly slow hand-stitching that is my main practice.





August 23, 2020

Girl In The Plasma Fields

 

Girl In The Plasma Fields, 2020,
hand-stitched cotton thread on vintage linen table cloth remnant,
25'' x 16''


“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion”—Rumi 



Girl In The Plasma Fields started as a portrait of my teenage niece, referenced from a black and white photograph of her face. She hated the photo, but I thought it was beautiful, and that she looked very classical. I think the piece has an overall quality of antiquity about it. I stitched it by interlocking circle shapes together in what I call my modified chain stitch. I began it in mid-March, coincidentally around the same time that Seattle and Spain - where my niece lives -were each beginning their lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When I worked on this piece I felt a synergy with her - even though we live so far apart - especially when I was stitching the face. She went through a long period of fear, when she would barely leave her room, and it was around the time that I started working on the background that she ventured back out into the world. It felt significant and synchronistic. 


This piece is about perception rather than transformation, about seeing ourselves as we are beyond our physical bodies. In addition to being a specific portrait, it's also a depiction of the luminous and unchanging presence underlying every person's particular story, and of the exquisitely tuned frequency of unified consciousness-the plasma fields - which create the manifest world. The images of the pinecone, the shell, and the Spanish moon moth act as both personal signifiers and mystical symbols. I associate the pinecone with the Fibonacci sequence that my niece learned about in school, and which is found consistently in nature. Here it also represents the sacred symbol of the esoteric third eye, or seat of the soul. I stitched it in purple threads to allude to the Violet Flame of the I Am presence. The shell denotes place and proximity to the sea, but it also has a liminal quality, representing an in-between state like that of existence during the quarantine. It contains the mystery and power of spiraling infinity, and I created it in colors that are very close to the rest of the background, as if newly formed out of the swirling energy surrounding it. I chose the wings of the Spanish moon moth, placed on the figure like a piece of clothing, to signify personal identity, while at the same time acting as a metaphor for the transience of the physical body and for the multidimensional reality of our human existence. 







April 12, 2020

Outrageous Fortune


Outrageous Fortune, 2020,
hand-stitched cotton thread on linen, 
4.5"x4.5"

"Our true nature is divine and eternal. Our true purpose of life is to awaken and realize that permanent divinity that is within us.” 
Amit Ray 


Outrageous Fortune is stitched in its entirety in what I think of as a modified chain stitch, and is inspired by the Sphinx creature on the top of the Wheel of Fortune tarot card. These figures are usually portrayed in the Egyptian version but this one is based on a Greek stone statue from the 6th century B.C. I added a crown on its head to represent divinity and a sword above it to symbolize the cutting away of delusions to discover who we actually are. I believe that this discovery is ultimately the greatest fortune of all. 









December 29, 2019

Rota Fortunae: Extant/Extinction

Rota Fortunae: Extant/Extinction, 2019,  hand-stitched cotton thread on linen, 9"x6" 


This is my last finished piece of 2019. The idea for it came to me in 2018 when I was researching the tarot for my piece 'The Queen of Wands Contemplates Saturn's Return' and I discovered The Wheel of Fortune (La Rove De Fortune) card from the Tarot De Marseilles deck, circa 16th century. On it are three fantastical and intriguing creatures that can represent luck or destiny, as well as the ever changing cycles we go through in life. The card has been modeled ever since the tarot's inception in the 15th century after the medieval concept of Rota Fortunae, the wheel of the goddess Fortuna. 

The theme of my version is the sixth extinction, and I stitched three different animal species and positioned them on the wheel according to their conservation status. On top is the Golden crowned kinglet, a bird that is thriving in population and also has a 'crown', reflecting the animal on the top of the Marseilles card. Going down on the left side is a critically endangered Red wolf, which is nearly extinct with fewer than 50 living in the wild. Heading back up on the right side of the wheel is an Island night lizard, which has made a dramatic comeback from its earlier endangered status. 


I made the spokes on the wheel into thermometers that surround a central earth to indicate the warming planet. The top of the piece has the words 'extant/ extinction' and I incorporated the card's number- Roman numeral X- into the word 'extinction'. I stitched these words in a similar color to the background so that you have to look carefully to see them. Many versions of the Wheel Of Fortune have a winged figure in each corner, and I placed wing-like shapes in this piece as part of the overall background design.









December 8, 2019

Fracking Paradise

'Fracking Paradise: Original Lies And The Temptation To Plunder', 2019, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen, 12'' x 16''



"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction." -Rachel Carson 



My work, and this piece in particular, is very much informed by woven textiles, and I'm describing it as a needlework tapestry. While most of the figures and objects are rendered more or less naturalistically, I stitched the background with repeating stylized floral designs, and I filled in the land and sky with stitches that try to mimic weaving.

'Fracking Paradise: Original Lies And The Temptation To Plunder' is influenced by my maternal grandmother who understood the deep misogyny of the Adam and Eve myth and who read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring the year it was published. It's the culmination of my Fracking Weld County series, with visual ideas converging as a sort of contemplation on how we've gotten ourselves to the brink of creating an unlivable planet. The myth of Genesis is one of the stories that illustrates how we've become disconnected from both the natural world and our inner nature. The idea of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil points to duality and describes our separation from wholeness and the emergence of egoic identity stories that divide the world into parts to be conquered. The massive irony is that this narrative arose from the left-brained linear 'knowledge' of the patriarchal religious structure. It describes humanity's separation from the natural world by scapegoating the feminine, demonizing nature, and designating human sexuality ('man born of woman') as original sin. Without the dualistic view of the world, the tree and apples represent the abundance, generosity, and intelligence of nature. 

The central figures are taken from a 14th c Italian fresco by Bartoli di Fredi called 'The Creation of Eve'. I discovered the image in the book 'The Androgyne, Reconciliation of Male and Female' by Elemire Zola. Contrary to the title of the book, the idea that Eve is created from Adam's rib disempowers the feminine and reflects women's second class status as being merely adjunct human beings. I remember my grandmother asking, "if Eve came from Adam's rib, why aren't men missing one of their own ribs?".

Some of the images make compelling pairings of visual comparison and symbolic contrast. The first pairing of note is of the prehistoric goddess statue on the lower left (taken from the cover of The Chalice and the Blade, another book that my grandmother admired) and the oil rig carrying an exit sign on the far upper right. Another important pairing is of the serpent- which, rather than being the agent of deception from the Bible myth, here represents the universal Kundalini energy that is present in everything, connecting earth and cosmos- and the fracking pump, which represents the unsustainable and destructive extraction of fossil fuels, a form of energy that is inextricably linked to our current climate crisis. 

Other images include three critically endangered species: the Actinote zikani moth from the Amazon rain forest, a Brown mouse lemur, and a Pitcher plant. The lemur hangs on a fig tree near the sleeping (unconscious) Adam. Its leaves surround his head, foreshadowing the expulsion from paradise and the attendant shame that needs to be covered up. A plastic bottle lies on the ground, a surveillance camera points at Eve, and a small fighter jet hovers above the fracking equipment, close to a waxing crescent moon. The border is of a repeating ankh, bomb, and thermometer. 


Here are the words of Sandra Steingraber - biologist, poet, and environmental activist:

We are all musicians in a great human orchestra, and it is now time to play the Save The World Symphony. You are not required to play a solo, but you are required to know what instrument you hold and to play it as well as you can. You are required to find your place in the score. What we love we must protect. That's what love means. From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act. 




August 18, 2019

Fracking Weld County part 2

Fracking Farm, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  4"x6",  2019



Fracking Fields, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x5",  2019



Fracking Elementary School, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  4.5"x6",  2019


"If fracking treated all people equally, that is, if every person in Colorado were threatened with anywhere from 10 to 50 fracked wells in their neighborhood, the oil and gas industry would be long gone." -Philip Doe 


Here's a sampling from the compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking:
  • Over 90 percent of all original research studies published from 2016-2018 on the health impacts of fracking found a positive association with harm or potential harm. 
  • People living within setback distances are potentially vulnerable to thermal injury during a well blowout, and they are also susceptible to exposures of benzene and hydrogen sulfide at levels above those known to cause health risks.
  • In 29 out of 76 samples, toxin concentrations far exceeded federal health and safety standards, sometimes by several orders of magnitude. 
  • Fracking fluid was found to contain arsenic, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, and mercury. 
  • Pollution near drilling and fracking operations is high enough in some Colorado communities to raise cancer risks, according to a 2018 study. 
  • Data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission showed that fracking-related chemical spills in Colorado exceed an average rate of one spill per day. Of the 495 chemical spills that occurred in that state over a one-year period of time, nearly a quarter impacted ground or surface water. 
  • Water withdrawals for fracking can deplete water levels by 51% in nearby streams. Streams near drilling and fracking activity had significantly higher numbers of methane-metabolizing and methane-producing microorganisms. 
  • Wastewater samples collected from 329 fracked oil wells found that virtually all—98 percent—contained benzene at levels that exceeded standards for permissible concentrations in drinking water.   


http://btc-usa.net/compendium-of-scientific-medical-and-media-findings-demonstrating-risks-and-harms-of-fracking/



June 2, 2019

Fracking Weld County part 1

Fracking Neighborhood, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x5",  2019



Fracking Playground, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x 7.5",  2019



Fracking Highschool, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen,  5"x 7.25",  2019



“If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money.”     – Professor Guy McPherson, School of Natural Resources, University of Arizona



These pieces are the first three in a series of six. This work is inspired by contemporary Afghan war rugs, with their vivid pictorial scenes and border decorations interspersed with images of tanks, fighter jets, Kalashnikov rifles, military helicopters, and other depictions of war. I created these small stitchwork pieces by referencing photographs of actual fracking sites in Weld County, Colorado, portraying the fracking rigs, tanks, and other drilling paraphernalia within the landscape. Utilizing similar visual motifs and styles of the war rugs, they include small repeating images- mainly around the borders- that I associate with the fracking industry: dollar signs, water drops, flames, and thermometers. I played around with different kinds of stitching, and each one has a slightly different style.

I'm calling the series Fracking Weld County, which refers to the county in Colorado where I grew up. The vast majority of fracking in the state is concentrated in this area, called the Niobrara shale formation. It currently has more than 25,000 active wells in this area alone, with many more permits pending. Many of the drilling sites are within neighborhoods and are very close to schools and playgrounds, and every time I go to my hometown of Greeley to visit my dad I'm astonished to see what the extraction industry is doing to this area and the ugliness that it brings. Using new technologies applied to horizontal fracking, the raw greed of the gas and oil industry, with the full complicity of the local government, has overlooked the health and safety of its citizens and of the earth itself in favor of profit. Fracking is extremely toxic, contaminating both the air and water. It also directly contributes to climate change by releasing methane. I think that true wealth is a healthy environment and an authentic connection to the beauty and intelligence of nature.