On Sunday I saw this Yup’ik mask from the early 1900’s, which is part of the Peabody Essex Museum‘s current exhibit of new and old Native American art. The arrow in the drawing points to the disks extending off the face that are supposed to represent the breath rising to the surface of water in the form of bubbles.
I’ve mentioned Rick Bartow before. He’s a contemporary artist living on the N.W. coast whose work astonishes. This sculpture was LARGE… 84 inches long. It was powerfully compelling, and I was both surprised and not surprised to discover that he had made it.
Titled, “From Nothing Coyote Creates Himself”, this piece resulted from the artist ‘following the voice of the wood,’ per traditional methods. I appreciate what he says here:
“Drawing is an attempt to exorcise the demons that have made me strange to myself. My work has never stopped being therapy. I have drawn myself sane.”
(quoted from the show’s catalog – “Shapeshifting – Transformations in Native American Art”).
One of my other favorite objects was a beautiful coat stitched from mammal intestines and esophagus. It was translucent, like a sheer organza, and embellished with the tiniest stitches, all the more impressive for being stitched with sinew and grasses!
I spent several mornings last week creating decorative pieces for students playing Native Americans in a local Peter Pan production… Afterwards, I decided to continue using black fabric with Heat Bond to create this week’s Journal Quilt. In keeping with Native traditions, I allowed a dream to dictate my choice… last week’s dreamscape produced a black bear. I cannot tell you how many Novembers and Decembers found me wishing that I was a bear, so that I could purposefully, rightfully load up on carbs and fat in anticipation of a long, long nap!
Journal Quilt Week 3
Bears are associated with the North, with winter, and with wisdom and introspection. Native Americans call them the “Keepers of Dreamtime”. Their energy is considered feminine, both because of the womb-like cave of hibernation and the duration of mothering time for cubs (as long as 7 years). We have so much snow this winter, it’s no surprise that Bear Energy is strong!
(To satisfy my Journal Quilt Rule of carrying over a fabric from the previous week, I used strips of yellow-ish linen — found on the right side of the bear).
And speaking of bears, for a long time I’ve known that the fourth quilt in a series on global warming would have polar bears in it. The thought of polar bears drowning as they swim in search of ice is heartbreaking. The first three quilts in this series featured hot, saturated colors, with wavy lines signaling heat and circles representing suns and unrelenting radiation. I am not accustomed to working with the pale palette that I’ve collected for the polar imagery and find it challenging — which probably means this is a good exercise.
I am also trying to sort out a more streamlined way to go from the initial collage-phase to the finished quilt. If I piece almost everything, I get bogged down by the slow tempo and lose much of the initial feel of the design. Someday I may just slide a big piece of canvas underneath and gesso the thing together! My recent idea is to create four smaller quilts that I will join.