Posts Tagged ‘spiritualism’

Early morning at the Falls of the Ohio is often the best time to visit the river in the summertime.  Of course, you beat the hard-core heat of the day and there is a clean quality to the light that makes this landscape seem new.  The other animals seem to understand this and birds in particular are more active and expending energy in search of food.  I watched a pair of ospreys diving on fish under the beaks of the herons and struggle to carry away their prizes to a nest that is no doubt nearby.  Along the riverbank, red-winged blackbirds stop chasing each other long enough to pursue and eat the latest batch of mayflies to crawl out of this water.

Following a meandering path I reach the latest version of my temporary studio site under the willow trees.  The big figure with the lacrosse helmet is still here, but we have had visitors.  A saw blade I sometimes use to trim larger pieces of wood is jutting out of the figure’s abdomen, but otherwise there is no damage.  I remove the saw blade and stand the figure back up and turn my attention to making something new.  I found an unusual piece of Styrofoam that looks like folded drapery and I create this small figure that makes his debut in this post.  I remember thinking while I made him that he represented some kind of kneeling holy figure in his sacred robes.  Among the earliest written descriptions of the Ohio River come from French missionaries who called it ” La Belle Riviere”…the Beautiful River.

I wouldn’t describe myself as being religious in the common use of the term.  I would, however, say that what mysticism or spirituality I have been able to perceive in the world has come from contemplating nature and by making art.  Something in the power of creating something from nothing conjures up the divine for me.  I guess that’s what I like about using these river found materials…it’s all rubbish, but what I select and how I put things together has the ability to elicit a positive reaction in others.  It’s more than recycling at that point and becomes transformative.

Walking along the wood’s edge I come across this Large Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala) and I snap its picture.  My collection of butterfly images from the Falls is growing and I follow the same rule I have for the bird photos.  Everything I include in this project has to have been seen within the environs of the park.  I have seen lots of everything everywhere else, but if it wasn’t seen in the park than it doesn’t count for this project.  I want to get to know this place as well as I can and that includes learning the names of the life forms that inhabit or visit this space from time to time.  I’m also building up a nice field guide collection along the way!

Moving my Styrofoam holy man around, I come across the results of the river sweep that occurred several weeks a go.  It’s one thing to collect this stuff, but in order for it to mean anything…some follow through needs to happen.  It won’t be long before these plastic bags rip apart and we are right back where we started from.  It might even be harder to recruit volunteers the next time around because what’s the point right?

I recall from my art school days discussions of early modernism and spiritualism.  Each seems to have informed the other.  Kandinsky in particular stands out for me because of his theoretical writings.  I confess liking his words a little more than I cared for his later paintings.  What resonated with me is the idea that there is an inner necessity for both time and space that finds expression out of the inner necessity of the artist. 

The world was in a little better physical condition a century a go when Kandinsky and the early modernists were active.  People, other artists, ask me why I’m still doing what I’m doing at the Falls because surely by now I’ve made what points I can make?  My reply is that I’m still compelled to come out here, still feel the tug of inner necessity and with each passing day feel that what I’m doing is more important than before.  What is now necessary is that we need to acknowledge and care for the physical world and the other forms of life that also call this place home. 

Artists are important in that they possess the ability to help generate the visions that will help get us through this point in our development.  This is something which seems lacking to me at the moment.  Where is the optimism we should have at this point in the new century?  Is the blatant materialism all we can connect with anymore?  Fortunately, I’m meeting more and more young people who want to become artists that are actively questioning things again and I will offer my help to them however I can.

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