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The Near Extinction Series is an exploration of cultures that no longer exist, but left behind are their artifacts, knowledge and ideology preserved in the remaining architecture, art and symbols. While studying the Aztec, Toltec and Mayans of Central America with archeologist, Dr. Craig Sheldon, and later the Anasazi Indians of New Mexico, and the Southeastern Indians of the Mississippian Period, I discovered civilizations rich in culture and symbolism. It has been intriguing to learn something of their differences and similarities, trade routes, ways of life and spiritual beliefs, compare them to our own present day culture and create contemporary works of art based on them.
The work is about revelation as opposed to exposure. According to Timothy Ely, Out of Egypt: “Exposure is like a sudden summer storm with lightening and thunder so close you shudder. It provokes. Revelation is about being in a higher place. When certain symbols come together, (even simple ones) they can evoke a sensation that has very little to do with language, written or spoken. They can evoke a sense of illumination or enlightenment. Art can either evoke or provoke. Provocative images irritate, make us think and ponder. Evocative images elevate, bringing forth other energies, bringing enlightenment.” Both can be transformative, just in different manners.
In a contemporary study about symbols, children and adults from diverse cultures and backgrounds were asked to draw particular words that do not have a physical appearance, for example; joy, anger, and love. The results were surprising. Each of the words, when drawn by the participants had similar shapes or forms and in many cases were almost identical. The results indicated that an innate visual language and symbol system may lie within each of us, and even though we are not taught a language of symbols, we understand and respond to them instinctively, and maybe universally. Perhaps it has been with us since the dawn of mankind. ■
My fascination of non-western and primitive art, especially the symbols is related to the notion of revelation. Symbols, images that represent other things, have the power to bridge what we think of as reality–the physical, and things unseen–the spiritual, and they also have the ability to speak to us on a subconscious level. They can serve as clues to a universal awareness, and whether present or past, they are timeless. I am trying to combine symbols in such a way that a shift occurs in the viewer. Shift in this sense implies a mental change, a heightened sense of awareness. Sometimes they are from a particular culture or period of time and other times they are personal, from within. They are not portraits, or are they? Maybe they are maps that take us from the “in here” space of imagination to the “out there” space of objective reality, and perhaps they have the ability to take us simultaneously inside and outside the mental constructs of the spiritual and organic universe. ■
SUN CIRCLES: Watercolor and Wax, 18.25” x 17.25”
SEEDING: acrylic on canvas, 24″x 29″