Archive for the ‘Thoughts & Rants’ Category

Wildwood

April 19, 2014

ww_shamanWWT-III have a very strong interest in oracles and omens and I think if we can keep our eyes open, we’ll realize they are everywhere. I know, in this modern world that isn’t very well received, but I don’t care. If I come across a certain animal, bird, tree or rock… well, sometimes those encounters have very deep significance for me, even if I can’t explain why at the time. The synchronicities of everyday life, knowledge gained, an action, a conversation or casual comments… these everyday things can really fire my imagination at the very least. This is a pretty amazing place!

It is hard to put into words, but I feel a deeply spiritual connection between myself and pretty much everything else I share this world with. And even beyond this world. Even though I love science very very much, I instinctively feel like we share connections with each other and the rest of nature that science cannot easily measure. I’m probably starting to sound pretty woo-woo, and I usually try to avoid that at all costs, but I guess I also feel like I’ve got to explain so I can also understand…

pageofarrowswrenI have a very strong interest in and am amazed by divination. I think, if you’re open to it, divinitory systems can give glimpses into our shared physical, mental and spiritual connections. Ancient books like the I Ching are, quite simply, beautiful to me. The history behind the Sibyl and other prophets fascinate me. But on a personal level, what I relate to the most would be the Tarot. As an artist, my eyeballs devour this world, and then I express my thoughts and feelings about it visually through symbols. I find the artwork and symbolism on some tarot decks to be extremely powerful and moving. Its goal is to represent visually different aspects and experiences from life that we all go through symbolically on seperate individual cards. Even if you’re not all that open to these symbols as a divinitory system, I think all of us can learn by examining them. Maybe it’ll help at first to think of the pictures as a very complex Rorschach test. Check it out, see what ya see.

KingBowsI don’t have many decks by any means, but if I see one I like, I will pick it up. My personal favorite deck is my Wildwood Tarot. There is something about its primal and animal characters that speak directly to me. With beings like the Green Man, the Ancestor, or the Son of Life running through the deck, how could it not?

As if this post wasn’t already long enough, I have a little side-tangent I’d like to explore.

I don’t know why, but it seems like most of my life I have been drawn to stone-age and bronze-age mythology and magic(k). Not that I practice it really, I don’t think of myself as a pagan or Wiccan, but maybe I lean that way a little bit. I suppose maybe the biggest reason I am drawn to the Wildwood is because it portrays that primitive and primal mythology instead of a medieval court (like many other tarot deck do).

WTT-7SI’ve explored a lot of different religious beliefs. I am very drawn to Hinduism especially, but what I relate to most are the ideas of ancient (i.e. pagan simple country folk) Europe. Nature is magic to me, and spirits move through it. Animals are my friends and trees and rivers whisper secrets. I’ve felt this way for a very long time. I like the city and technology quite a lot too, and even though in a lot of ways it is now, I don’t think it needs to be incongruent with the natural world. Its all a part of Nature I guess. When I was younger running around under starry-skies and tree canopies I used to think to myself that modern man simply cannot relate to ancient customs and thought. Even though I felt a longing for them in my heart, I also felt like an outsider to those customs. I thought the animal in us had died. I think I was right, to some degree. We have changed. But I have come to see more and more that we are all still a part of Nature, and she has evolved with us, and (hopefully) we with Her. These ancient symbols and beliefs still have relevance, and returning to respecting Nature, trying to understand Her language and symbols (and also our own symbols at the same time) are perhaps some of the only things that makes any sense to me anymore. Not that we need to go live in caves, but we need to realize we are a part (not apart) of Nature too and respect that.

thewildwoodtarot.com

I should mention that the Wildwood Tarot was created by John Matthews, Mark Ryan, and illustrated by Will Worthington. Great job fellas!

WWT-IV

sunoflife

 

devil-WW

5 The Ancestor

 

death-WW

 

Chasing Ice

December 29, 2013

chasing-ice

esq-chasing-ice-120512-xlgI just watched a movie that I think everyone should see. A documentary called Chasing Ice. The film follows photographer James Balog and his team as they travel to and through the Arctic in order to capture on time-lapsed photography the effects of global warming and the glacial retreat. I heard a really good podcast interview with Balog a year or two ago (can’t remember which podcast though, dag-nabbit) and meant to see the film, but since it wasn’t out quite yet I guess I kind of forgot about it. This last week I saw it was on Netflix and I had to watch. I’m glad I did.

This may seem a little off-topic, but I don’t think so and its something I have felt for a long time… In my life I have come across two different mentalities and approaches to Nature pretty regularly that make no sense to me.

ChasingIce_filmstill2_by_James_Balog-Extreme_Ice_SurveySMThe first is an attitude that each of us are all too familiar with. That is, Nature is just a resource to be used, put up for sale, and exploited by man. The idea that Nature was created just to benefit our own materialistic greed actually does damage to me physically, psychically and spiritually. This approach, which has seeped into pretty much every aspect of our personal and civilized life, damages all of us. But not only us, it also damages every plant and animal we share this world with (wasn’t the world created for them too?). The idea that we can pollute the skies, fill the ocean with oil and plastic, tear and stab at the mountainside for coal, gas, and minerals, not to mention torture animals for their milk and meat… Hell, its obvious there are still some people who see other people that way too. As a resource to be exploited. Well, that attitude seems so ignorant I can’t even believe it. Its inevitable that there are consequences. Boggles the brain.

chasing iceThe other side of the coin is just as disturbing though. I’ve met many many people who sincerely believe that the world would be better off without human beings. Like we are not a part of this world, that we are somehow apart. But we belong here. I don’t mean that we have more rights than anything else to the air, land, and water, but just as much right to it at the very least.  Its a gift to each and every species that share this world. Sure, I also find it disgusting that we’ve exploited Nature too. This is a huge mistake. Whatever your beliefs, atheist, religious, nudist, we were created by Nature or God or Whatever to live here. We belong here. My feeling is we’re not a mistake. Even if you think it all happened by dumb luck and chance, I’m sure you’re still able to see how incredible it is that you can think that thought. And your ability to think that thought is one of Nature’s gifts to you. Whatever you believe, its plain to see we are Nature’s children and rely on Her for our existence, however our existence came to be.

I love Nature. You could even say that I am in love with Her. Whether its a cloud, a tree, a stream, a bird flying over my house, a mountain, another person’s face, or something that other person has created, I see Nature everywhere and She is beautiful (yeah, gotta capitalize Her beautiful name. Can’t be helped). If I don’t spend at least an hour or two every day with Her just walking up the canyon under some trees, I feel like I am going to go crazy.

chasing-ice-melting-glaciers-6I look at the human species as a whole almost in the same way I look at an individual person. That statement probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without some long-ass explanation, and this post is already long enough. But yeah, sometimes I see our species in the same way that I see an individual. Humanity wakes up for the first time in this strange world and looks around, learns to walk, learns to talk, tries to find its place and meaning, discovers things along the way, gets a little older, and we will eventually die. I know, as an individual, I certainly have made many mistakes in my life. Collectively, we’ve also made many mistakes along the way too. But Nature still gives us Her gifts, and I do believe we can learn from our mistakes and change.

Anyway, a bit of a tangent. You may ask what all these words have to do with the documentary. Well, I guess a good documentary makes you think.

Sometimes I think I need to be more of an activist, but I know that is not my role or calling. My job is to create, to make and share these sometimes strange pictures and ideas that fill my head. But maybe there can be a blending? Anyway, I truly appreciate that there are people like James Balog trying to open peoples eyes to the damage we’ve been causing this world. His film has helped me love Nature even more.

www.chasingice.com

ted.com

upworthy.com

chasing-ice-glacier

Comet ISON

November 24, 2013

crowds1304828860014

When I was a younger man I was lucky enough to spend huge chunks of my time wandering under the starry skies of Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and California. I loved being in somewhat remote areas, able to look up and see infinity looking back down at me. I made good friends with the Milky Way, the moon, Orion, and other constellations. I’ve often thought that my biggest regret living in a city full-time and being a somewhat responsible adult is I’ve lost my connection to the stars. I mean I can go outside and still see Orion, and he is a good buddy, but I sure can’t see infinity in the sky here in downtown SLC. I miss it…

Don’t get me wrong. All-in-all, I like living where I do. I can go out my front door and in five or ten minutes I’ll be walking next to a stream and up a canyon. That’s pretty sweet! I’ll see some beautiful animal running up the trail ahead of me, and constellations in the canopy of tree branches, so life feels pretty good. I love nature, and being able to walk around in it is great, so I’m not complaining. But I do miss the stars.

I can also tell you that I miss the Comet Hale-Bopp. Haha! Funny to say so long after the fact, but it was so great to be able to see that comet caught up in the spring sky of 1997. In the ancient world, from what I understand, comets were often seen as very ill omens. Maybe because there is some racial memory of a comet cataclysm, or maybe it was just seeing them streak across the (seemingly) eternal night sky was too much change to handle. For me anyway, Hale-Bopp just brought wonder. Any celestial event is a good celestial event in my book, I guess.

Well, there is another comet passing by the sun this week that has potential to become another celestial event that we may be able to see back here on earth. Comet ISON will reach it’s closest point to the sun in its orbit on Thanksgiving, November 28th. There is a good chance that as it does, its tail will blossom and flare and become observable here on earth. I certainly hope so! I’d love to see another omen shouting its way through my night sky, saying to me “Happy Tofurkey-Day!”.

science.nasa.gov

hubble-comet-ison-photos-scale

The Lion Man

February 10, 2013

lion-man1

I love primitive artwork. As a matter of fact, I’m kind of obsessed with it. Of course, it is a connection with the past, and while looking at it I can almost travel back in time and be reminded how it felt to live in the animal past.

I read a couple of articles this week about how new carbon-dating has shown Germany’s “Lion Man” to be among the oldest known pieces of figurative art. I am used to hearing about the ancient “Venus” fertility sculptures, which are also beautiful and very old, and was told they were the oldest known carvings. But I guess there were human / lion hybrid being carved at the same time as the oldest Venus.

I am fascinated by the anthropomorphic hybrid. Always have been. These imaginative representations have appeared in the most ancient artwork of every civilization. The Lion Man reminds me that these hybrid images and sculptures have inspired human beings for tens-of-thousands of years. Long before any known civilization. I don’t know why that fascinates and inspires me so much, but it really does!

news.sudanvisiondaily.com | Lion Man
online.wsj.com | Powerful Images from a Primitive Age

They Live!

October 22, 2012

There is another Presidential debate tonight…

I’ve mentioned the movie here before, but watching news coverage of this election season brings to mind the movie They Live.

So tonight, as we reflect upon the leadership of this fine country, its important we all remember:

No Independent Thought
Money Is Your God
Submit and Conform
Stay Asleep and Watch TV
Buy and Consume
OBEY

“East Meets West” in Ghost Town Cisco

October 7, 2012

It must have been as far back as the summer of 1996. Not all that often, but occasionally that summer I’d travel down to the ghost town Cisco to do some weekend work in the surrounding area and earn a little extra cash. It was kind of nice to get away from time to time. Cisco is a small rusted out and dilapidated town located in the desert about 50 miles east of Green River, abandoned years and years before I ever arrived. The work I was doing wasn’t hard at all, but it could be kind of spooky because there was absolutely no one else around. There was a little trailer set up among the abandoned buildings that I was able to spend a night or two in as I got my work done, but not much else going on except maybe a bird flying overhead, or maybe a tumbleweed rolling along. The truth is, I didn’t mind much at all. I kind of like and find peace in solitude, and the landscape and sky down there are inspiring. Still, it is easy for my mind and imagination to wander, and I can really spook myself sometimes.

Earlier that year, some artists had come down and taken over one of the abandoned buildings. They built sculptures, painted and hung photos, and turned the place into a remote art installation and sort of gallery, and then left town to find their next project. I was always aware of their building, because one of the sculptures was made of strung up twine or wire and, when the wind would blow, the piece would whistle and create these very weird and eerie sounds. And the wind blew down there a lot, pretty much all the time.

Of course, I was interested in that building. I had to check it out. Crossing the field behind the building I came across a rattle snake, which was maybe an omen of some kind, but I just moved around it no big deal and made my way to the door. I remember the sky was sunset red, which isn’t all that important, but it seems somehow significant now and really stands out in my mind. As soon as I entered the building, I saw rattlesnakes again, crawling in all of the corners. They seemed to have a place to go though, and quickly disappeared into the floor or retreated around corners. I’d already come into the building by then and didn’t feel especially threatened, although the floor did feel kinda “soft”, and I imagined myself falling through it into a rattlesnake den or something. Since I was already in the main room, I looked around. There was a smashed TV, old abandoned toys and dolls, some broken furniture, weird old cowboy boots mounted on shovels or something, and hung along one of the walls was a row of photos. It was a row of portraits, but they showed the back of peoples heads. I checked it all out but didn’t stick around in there too long, because it was a creepy scene, and I did like the sculpture out front a little more. That noisy one. Then I went back to the trailer, read for a while, fell asleep, and haven’t thought about Cisco much since. Except maybe I have…

The only reason I bring it up now is because I dreamed I was there again last night. I dreamed I was in that room with all of those snakes, the broken furniture, looking at photos of the back of peoples heads, a sun-burnt sky glaring through the shattered windows, with these bizarre and spooky sounds blaring in my head. The actual real-life experience was nowhere near as freaky as my dream. It wasn’t pleasant, but I guess that experience meant something, since it woke me up in a panic in the middle of the night some 16 years later.

When I got up this morning, I did a quick search to see if I could find any more information on the art installation. I guess Time Magazine did a write-up on it the next year, and I have posted that below:

Moses’ Horny Head

November 13, 2011

“And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tablets of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord,” Exodus 34:29. “And they saw that the face of Moses when he came out was horned, but he covered his face again, if at any time he spoke to them,” Exodus 34:29.

It’s known that these two verses from the Bible might not have been translated correctly. The word horned should be something like ray of light instead, and some versions of the Bible have changed the verses to read that way. Personally, I’d rather have horns. I think it’d be pretty sweet if all of the ancient prophet’s foreheads started to calcify and sprouted horns. Maybe they did. One thing is for sure, Michelangelo deliberately carved two short ram horns on the top of Moses’ head in his statue which is now in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli at Rome.

Tomb of Pope Julius II

Horns are an interesting symbol. Sheep are surefooted climbers, and remember, Moses had just come down from the mountain after visiting with God. When domesticated, sheep are so gentle that religions all over the world have  incorporated them into their art forms. Apollo, Hermes, and later Jesus were all pictured as Good Shepherds with lambs either resting at their feet or carried on their shoulders. In ancient times, horns were also a symbol of divinity and physical power. When Alexander the Great was initiated by the oracle at the Temple of Amon, he accepted a great horned headdress so all would recognize him as a leader and conqueror. There were the Celtic druids, whose god Cernunnos was known as the “Horned One”. Or Pan from Greece. Even the marauding Vikings wore horns on their head to symbolize their power.

At one point, symbols were wielded by wizards and priests, symbols were worthy of respect and sometimes caused superstitious fear. Simply drawing an icon or writing a word was a magical act. Dressing like an animal could make you that animal. These days, it all seems so mundane. Symbols are so common and ordinary today that we hardly even think about them, and we tend to overlook their power. Maybe this is off-topic and should be the subect for a different post, but think of all we’ve accomplished through language and art. Pretty much everything we do, especially when communicating with others, relies on symbols. Even science uses language and images to communicate ideas. As I spell these words, you could say I’m casting a spell. We all do whenever we write. The words you’re reading right now are made from symbols that create ideas in your head. The icon you clicked to open this webpage was a symbol. And on and on and on. So damn common! And still, the words we use, the art we make, and the faith we might have all use symbols to communicate and express ideas.

As the adopted son of the Pharaoh and heir to the throne, Moses would have been educated in Egyptian philosophy and worship, and he would have been very aware of all the symbols that they used. Michelangelo, who was well educated in Neoplatonism, Christianity, and mythology, would have also understood the meaning of this symbol. With these horns, Michelangelo showed Moses to be a man of power and station. Moses had stood with God, and had the inner strength to become one with his own divinity.

WHAM, those horns did grow! I think they are fantastic! Someday, I hope to sprout some horns on my own head.

See music? Taste shapes?

November 8, 2011
Many artists are synthetes, like David Hockney

Many artists are synthetes, like David Hockney

Synesthesia.

What is it? Well, it’s cool as hell. Have you heard phrases like “she’s so sweet?” Or “eye candy?”People with synthesia, or synthetes, invented metaphors like this. It’s because many of them can actually see music, or taste shapes.

I’m a synthete. I suspect my expanded sensory experiences are one of the main things that makes me “weird.” That said, I think even most non-synthetes can relate to the experience, because there is SO much sensory confusion in our language. My version of synthesia mainly manifests in personification – in other words – things that aren’t alive have personalities in my world. And I’m not crazy, I have an extraordinary ability.

Synesthesia is not a disability. It’s actually an enhanced ability, kind of like ESP, at least in my fantasies.  Those who have it typically become artists, writers, musicians and chefs. Those who weren’t blessed with this genetic quirk may encounter it when under the influence of psychedelic drugs. Some of us are lucky enough not to need them.

There are many varieties. Some people see a private laser show when they listen to music. Others associate colors with letters of the alphabet. My personal experience with it is that numbers have colors, genders and personalities. I know it sounds strange, but I’ve always had a strange bond to the number two. It’s yellow, female, gentle and kind. Often, synthesitic experiences are somewhat logical. For example, a book I read said that a gentleman tasted sausages every time he read the word village. It rhymes so it must be true!

I have other symptoms of synthesia. For example, Thursday is burnt orange. Colored days of the week and picturing time in a physical space is also common for synthetes. Tuesday, for me, of course is yellow (like its friend, the number two). People and animals often have colors and flavors for me too.

Since it’s pet month, I’ll disclose more of my weirdness. My pet Scout is butter pecan or peanut brittle. My Airedales have both tasted like pumpkin (in my mind, though I haven’t taken a bite, yet). My dog Cowboy is white bread, biscuits and country gravy. He’s an all American boy. And Todd’s dog, the Rottweiler is licorice and anise.

I’m told about one in twenty people have synesthesia. I would love to hear from you, if like David Hockney, Tori Amos and Duke Ellington, you have it too.

Occupy ArtDuh!

October 15, 2011

"The United States of Corporate America Murdered the World One Soul at a Time ~ OR ~ The Triumph of a Dark Vision" - by Todd Powelson

I believe that most business owners are honest people. Most corporate workers and executives are great people. They are working hard for their families, employees, and community. Providing goods and services the rest of us use, make life better, and sometimes propel the species forward. That is honorable and noble.

But if you or the corporation you represent are using money and success to buy off a politician or influence over public policy, gain unfair advantage, steal from or are exploiting your fellow man, then you are a disease and a cancer. You’re influence needs to be removed before your contagion spreads! If you are a politician who is accepting this dirty corporate money, you are a whore, selling yourself to the highest bidder. Scratch that, you’re an untreated STD, making life unbearable. You don’t represent the people at all. You’re a greedy pig with a smiling face and an uncomfortable itchy crotch, getting fatter and fatter. Better be careful there piggy, there are a lot of people who still enjoy bacon.

We here at ArtDuh support the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy groups around the country, and Occupy Salt Lake City.

“But wait”, I can hear you say, What does it all mean, Mr. Natural? The protesters don’t stand for anything. What are they protesting? What do they hope to accomplish? C’mon. Deep down, we all know what has inspired these protests. The protesters are pointing out and raising awareness of widespread corruption, theft, lack of representation and injustice. We’ve all seen it. We’re paying for it. Corruption in our politics, banking, finance and business. Whether or not you’re comfortable with the status quo is something else entirely, but you’ve seen the corruption. It’s an important thing the protesters are doing because if we are able recognize, accept, and face a problem, we’re able to change it. It is also important to remember if you are not corrupt, the protester’s are not calling you out. Or, at least, I never would.

You can read the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City by clicking here. Are there any points listed that you haven’t seen or can’t recognize?

But they don’t offer any kind of solutions, only a list of complaints. To some extent, I agree. But at the same time, I think you’re expecting too much right now. Many people are just waking up to how bad things really are. Do you think Thomas Jefferson just woke up one morning and thought to himself, “I think I’ll write the Declaration of Independence today at lunch”. No. I am sure it took him years of observing suffering, corruption, injustice, not to mention conversations with friends and the public before he was ever even moved to the point of writing. And then, it was another good ten+ years before the U.S. Constitution was finalized and put into place.

That Obama sure has messed things up for us hasn’t he, he’s a real sun-o-bitch. Maybe. But our problems didn’t start with him. The ball got rolling with Richard Nixon and (bank sponsored) Fiat Money, and probably even earlier. Our financial problems became obvious when George W. Bush & Co. were allowed to let free market policy go unchecked. Or at least, it was deregulated way too much. Big business and banks had a big damn party, a party we are still paying for. I’m sure it was profitable for George and his friends, and they are still partyin’ down. If people are as selfish the free market suggest, then selfish people are going to take you for everything they can… and they sure have taken us, haven’t they.

The system is broken. Our government has sold out to the highest bidder. Accept it. They’ve pretended to fix the marketplace with trillion dollar band aides, but we are still hemorrhaging money, jobs, public services and homes.

Adam Smith (1723 – 1790, Scottish social philosopher and political economist), whose ideas are cornerstone for our current free market system, basically believed a successful economy needs to serve an individual’s greed, self interest, and selfish desires. If the economy serves those selfish desires, he says, an “invisible hand” will come on down and balance out the marketplace, cast aside ideas that don’t work, and embrace those ideas that do. Okay, great. But doesn’t it make sense that this invisible hand would serve and be easily manipulated by selfish people? Greed and selfishness are not admirable human qualities. I’m not a religious person, but isn’t greed one of the seven deadly sins? If we pursue and indulge it, greed will lead to our downfall. We are not just greedy monkeys. Sure, we might all have that side embedded into our nature and we need to recognize that, but most of us also have so much more than that one character trait.

Looking out for yourself and trying to control as much of the world’s resources as possible doesn’t work. Making sure that every time you give, you get more back than you need just doesn’t work. It might seem to work for a few people for a little while, but not for long. Because we live on a finite planet, it’s impossible for greedy behavior to go on forever. Consider this: when people share what they have (a skill, talent, time, food, money or whatever), they make friends and build community. When people exploit and take from others, they make enemies.

Money is just a symbol. It’s an abstract concept. We give money it’s power and meaning. The meaning of the symbol resides only in our heads, and we can change our mind. Why base our economy on greed and self interest? Wouldn’t it be better to base our economic system upon satisfying more admirable human qualities? There are so many noble human traits to choose from. We can change the paradigm of what money means if we want to. If we are able to change, the whole world will be better for it. If we don’t change, we are in serious trouble.

youtube.com | No Way in US System to Vote Against Banks

youtube.com | Chris Hedges – Occupy Washington D.C.

nytimes.com | Panic of the Plutoctrats

cnn.com | Occupy Wall Street

nycga.cc | who-we-are

occupyslc.org | mission

____________________________________________________

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism – by Ha-Joon Chang

The “N” Word

October 4, 2011

I’m going to indulge in another rant, that isn’t necessarily related to art. But I do think it’s relevant to the art culture of Salt Lake City. There is a word I can’t stand. Call me the “c” word if you must, or the “b” word, or fling an F-bomb my way. I can hold my own when it comes to cursing.

But don’t tell me I’m not “normal.”

Let me qualify that. If we are having a statistical discussion, where we are discussing a normal curve, or standard deviations relative to a mean, throw out the N-word all that you want. I understand what you mean.

But if you tell me I don’t dress “normal,” cook “normal,” have “normal “hobbies, or live in a “normal” neighborhood or vote for “normal” candidates – well, then you have just outed yourself as an ethnocentric son-of -a -bitch.

The word normal in these contexts is, in my opinion, relevant to the culture you are discussing. So for instance, if you said, “that isn’t normal in my culture,” I get it. But if you assume that your culture IS normal, and everyone else’s culture is abnormal, then it is time to pull your head out of your ass.

I suggest folks who throw the word “normal” around take a mental trip to Africa, where female genital mutilation is “normal.” Or to Amish country, where electricity and cars are abnormal. Or visit Haiti, where witch doctors are common. Now tell me that your beliefs would be considered normal there.

I declare the “n” word, the new bad word. On the other hand, the word “weird” almost comes off as a compliment.


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