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Medusa

I continue to be inspired by Greek mythology. Here is my “Medusa”:

medusa

In Greek mythology, Medusa was a gorgon, a terrifying female monster of the underworld. Those who looked directly upon her were turned to stone. The hero, Perseus, slew the gorgon by severing her neck whilst looking at her reflection in his shield instead of directly at her and so avoiding being turned to stone.

Perseus gave the Gorgon’s head to Athena, who placed it on her shield as the Aegis.

Originally, Medusa was depicted as a grotesque monster but later on in the fifth century, vase painters and sculptors created her image as a beautiful but terrifying woman.

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Water2

…the dry stone no sound of water…..

…If there were rock
And also water
And water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water…

Quotes from T.S.Eliot’s poem, “The Wasteland”.

This poem has meant a lot to me since I studied it at school. The recurring theme of water and lack of it, put simply, probably symbolises “faith” to the poet. I have been looking up the many and varied symbolisms of water, but first, what inspired me to follow this thread, was my “altered book” project.

I decided to make a visual journal or art book by using an old book copy of Marivaux’s plays that I bought from a charity shop. I decided to start with a sea/water theme as it is one I’ve been drawn to before with my mermaid collages and box etc.

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Water in dreams is interesting, it often represents feelings and emotions. Like the waters of the womb, it can also represent security, life and birth. The nature of the water can reveal your emotional state of mind. For example, if you dream of crashing waves or rocky seas, this may show that your emotions are out of control. A fast flowing river may show emotions that are rushing ahead too fast but if the waters are peaceful then so are you. I have dreamt of tsunamis, big seas and fish tanks!

A more mystical meaning of deep pools and lakes of water can represent the unconscious, or the “Great Primordial Mother”.

Here is a link to an interesting article, Water Symbolism:The Great Mother and Return to the Primordial by Krista Wissing.

There is good information about water symbolism at Professor Chris Witcombe’s site.

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I got on to reading about Greek mythology and water gods and goddesses. I stumbled on a passage taken from Book X of Plato’s The Republic, about the newly dead. In the last step before rebirth into their new, self-chosen life on earth, the dead must drink from the “stream of Oblivion”, Lethe, an underworld river. Those who were not “preserved by wisdom” drank more, and as they drank they forgot everything. But if they were initiated followers of the mystical religious movement called Orphism, they were instructed to drink just a little and then find and drink from the river of memory, Mnemosyne. In so doing they secured an end to the transmigration of the soul.

This picture is my own loose interpretation, “Drinking from the Stream of Memory”.

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Taking steps to paint 2

Perhaps I should call this blog “Flounderings of an untrained artist”. Anyway, I’ve progressed a bit with my painting. My boyfriend said the angels looked smokey so I’m calling it “Smokey Angels”.
smokey angels

The angel on the right needs a bit more definition. It’s a start.

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Outlined images

I have been looking back over my inspirations and the different phases I’ve been through in the past few years as far as my creativity is concerned. Recently I’ve felt like doing a self portrait image for a new start as I’ve seen similar sketches on other peoples’ blogs. I thought that if I did a self portrait, it may just be an outline with nothing inside it. This immediately reminds me of when I was in a training session many years ago with the brighton organisation, ‘Carousel’, that does creative work with people with learning disabilities. It was an art therapy session and we were told to do symbolic images of how we see ourselves using imagery, words or whatever else we fanced. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, an outline representing myself with nothing inside it but lots of colours and ‘life’ on the outside. It was unlike anyone elses.

nullI returned to this simple image when going through what I like to think of as my ‘goddess’ phase. I was initially inspired by an image Rainbow Bodhisattva by the artist Vijali Hamilton which she did on a cave wall in Show Terdrom, Tibet. In her words:

Shoto Terdrom is a place where Buddhist nuns live as hermits in one of Tibet’s most beautiful and sacred places. In a vacant cave, I carved and painted the Rainbow Bodhisattva, an androgynous figure filled with prisms of color, seated in the lotus posture. Her/his legs were molded from the red clay of the cave floor. Neither a Buddha nor a Kuan Yin, this is an energy body, symbolizing the underlying energy connecting everything, the level at which our inner space merges with the space around us.

Her work is amazing, check out her website here. I’ve always liked prehistoric cave art as well and venus figurines, so it wasn’t much of a jump to becoming interested in the ‘goddess myth’.

I read Anne Baring’s ‘The Myth of the Goddess’ and other related material and took note of women ‘goddess’ artists. I think that I was also inspired by statuetes of the Cretan Snake Goddess that I’d seen in museums on Crete. But my image morphed into a ‘buddess’ and from there into an epiphanic, outlined figure, sometimes dancing, sometimes an angel at one with a moon or other planet. It’s an empty simple figure but its whole.I don’t think it’s good art, but it’s what happened/s, it’s just purely work from inside myself, done in my own basic way.

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Taking steps to paint

I have got out a new canvas to begin a painting at last. I keep getting images in my mind and don’t want to hold back any longer. I did want to try new techniques, styles or improve my work somehow but it seems that the best way to progress is just to DO even if the result is not how I’d like. So I’ve been sorting through bags of cord, candlewick and leaves that I collected and pressed in the autumn and listening to Michael Nyman’s “Prospero’s Books” music while arranging them on the canvas, working on the floor as usual.

new-painting-in-process.jpg

It seems like my theme will be similar to my painting “Siren” with underwater figures (underwater ‘angels’), weedlike threads and a moon image. I haven’t finished with this sort of theme yet, it keeps recurring and I feel that it’s where I’m at at the moment. I’m curious about why I put the moon in so many of my pictures; it seems to feature in many of the artworks I’ve seen on blogs and elsewhere. Mine will be an underwater moon in this painting.

Continuing with water, I’ve decided to change my blog name; I like the title image and its associations.

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New year 2010

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything so I thought I’d start the year with the resolution of writing more. Last year was a difficult year despite my doing some interesting things; I just couldn’t engage with it all, perhaps there was too much happening or the timings of things was all wrong. Anyway, this year has begun OK, quietly and with the snow which, I surprise myself by saying, I’m enjoying.

I launched into printing and selling cards last year and that keeps ticking over. I did another design in the “Spirits of Nature” series, which I’m calling “Holly Man”. It’s a Winter/Christmas version of the Green Man and I’ve just used it for my website home page so far, but I’ll consider having it made into a card for next year.

holly man

I’m now keen to get back into doing some art. I stumbled on a whole series of blogs that I find really inspiring, namely ‘Contemplating the Moon’ and ‘Beyond Words’. Both women bloggers make visual books and diaries and this is something that I really want to develop. I’m a diary writer and have been since the age of thirteen but it’s been mainly words with just a few pictures and photographs. Now I want to add more art to my books which can mean experimenting with mixed media, painting, collage and even encaustics. The latter is an ancient technique involving painting with beeswax often pigmented with colour. Bridgette Guerzon Mills’ blog has been a great source of inspiration for this.

So this new year I’ll take quietly. I’ll experiment and be braver about writing even when things aren’t going my way. Watch this space and have a Happy New Year.

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Guatemalan Monkey Drama

Here’s a wildlife experience I had earlier this year when in Guatemala. I wrote it for submission to BBC Wildlife magazine and although they liked it, the ending is unresolved and so unsuitable, I couldn’t tie it up neatly. Still…here we are:

We had to set up the hammocks quickly if we were to get to the ruins before sunset. Huglio, a Spanish guy we’d met on the bus, was the only other person at the campsite. Together we hiked into the park.

ceiba-tree.jpgKevin my partner, and I were on holiday in Guatemala. We had travelled north to visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. As well as being the largest and most famous Mayan site, Tikal is known for its extensive rainforest and abundant wildlife.

Inside the park, we passed a giant Ceiba – the sacred tree of the Maya – with its straight, grey trunk, towering above the canopy.Beneath impressive trees, the undergrowth was a tangle of lianas, ferns and epiphytes. An agouti picked its way across the path, paused to sniff the air and disappeared silently into the trees while overhead, a scattered group of spider monkeys wove their way. We arrived at the Grand Plaza and sat on the steps of a temple watching Montezuma’s Oropendula birds swoop to and from their basket nests making liquid, melodic calls. Then the call of howler monkeys started. First a few grunts followed by a long, low, gasping roar like the sound of rusty bellows.

howler-monkeys-for-blog.jpgI felt really keen to try and locate the howler group, as they sounded quite close by. But dusk was falling fast and the park was due to shut soon for the night, so we had to hurry.

We left the trail and followed the calls into the trees. Soon we were right beneath a troop of seven Black Howler monkeys bellowing into the evening. The three of us craned our necks to watch their silhouettes against the sky.

alexi-photo-for-article.gifSuddenly a dispute broke out in the group. With shaking branches, grunting and squealing, a chaos of monkey drama unfolded above us. Startled, we backed away from the debris that rained down all around us. After a frantic chase, one monkey was left hanging from another, dangling precipitously.

Wow! Hold on, I thought, don’t let it fall! Monkeys do fall from trees – but not that often!

But then it did fall! And landed with a thud in front of us from a height of 15 metres. It lay there, a motionless bundle of black fur.

Was it Dead? Injured? Despite the commotion, Kevin, Huglio and I agreed that we should go to look for help rather than approach the monkey ourselves. We found a park guard dozing in his truck not far away. Then Huglio explained, in his native Spanish, what had happened.

At the scene, the guard walked up to the fallen monkey. I sighed with relief when it picked itself up and appeared unhurt. As it slunk off into the undergrowth, a baby monkey was left behind in the leaf litter; it couldn’t have been more than a few days old. The guard picked it up and began talking into his radio.guard-with-monkey.jpg With Huglio’s help we learnt that he was calling for a vet. Immediately I felt concerned for the mother and wondered whether it may have been best to leave them to their fate together.

Translating as best he could, Huglio explained that the vet would look for the mother. The guard thought that she would probably die and suggested that the pair were the unfortunate victims of a dispute or had been rejected by the group. What was the dispute about? Violence in Black Howler monkeys is uncommon, perhaps a newly dominant male was trying to commit infanticide.

We never learnt what happened to the baby and so this is where my “story” falls flat; there’s no happy ending. I contacted the park later on my return to the UK and also contacted ARCAS, an organisation that takes in abandoned, sick or injured wildlife. Neither knew the outcome of the event, what happened to the baby or the mother. At best it is still a sad story. We can only hope that both survived and were reunited with each other, but I think the chances of that having happened are slim.

Lying in our hammocks in the twilight, beneath a starry sky we mused about it all. There’s no doubt it was a good wildlife encounter but I wondered whether it is ever a good thing to intervene in natural crises or to leave nature to run its course. Well into the night, the howlers still shook the forest.

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Water

Sometimes I hate words, they fill up my head like beans in a jar, all crammed in, words upon words. But then, words can be like water, spilling, flowing, spreading across the page in a shifting stream.

I fell in love with water images a while ago. Photos of sea and sky, beach, pebble, seaweed, waterfalls; the glistening light on water mesmerised me. Perhaps I should try harder at photography with its lenses, glass, transparency. And voids. Words can fill voids.

And then I discovered cave pools in Laos. I stripped off and went into sparkling, pristine water with a baking, morning sun overhead and shadows that cut the shallows with cool. I’ve done this before, I thought, – sacred cenotes in the Yucatan, rainforest rivers in Costa Rica, serpents threading the water beside me, almost alone.

alexi-in-laos-pool-cave-2.jpg

There’s something so precious about swimming in natural, wild places. Water joins up memories like one, giant underground river.

I stumbled on photos of a dancer in water while searching the web. This is of Salma Nathoo, an ecological dance artist taken by Ben Ellis for a ‘Waterdance’ project.

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Water, nature and movement, my interests all coming together. Soon, I went out and bought myself an under water camera case. I haven’t used it yet, but watch this space. I have Roger Deakin’s ‘Waterlog’ from the library ready to read and the other day I stumbled on wildswimming.co.uk. It’s a challengue for a feeble swimmer like me.

To get back to words, there’s Alice Oswald’s poetry that I’m just discovering as well. Here’s a quote from ‘Sea Poem’;

What is water in the eyes of water
Loose inquistive fragile anxious
A wave, a winged formsplitting up into sharp glances

What is the sound of water
After the rain stops you can hear the sea
Washing rid of the world’s increasing complexity,
Making it perfect again out of perfect sand….

alexi-in-itchen-for-blog.jpg

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