Fée Intoxicated

Yesterday I picked up a copy of The Book of Celtic Verse edited by John Matthews. Not surprisingly, it contains a number of faery-influenced pieces, including the one below:

"The Others"
by Seumas O'Sullivan (1879 - 1958)

From our hidden places
By a secret path,
We come in the moonlight
To the side of the green rath.

There the night through
We take our pleasure,
Dancing to such a measure
As earth never knew.

To song and dance
And lilt without a name,
So sweetly breathed
'Twould put a bird to shame.

Collapse )

Huldre - ACEO

It just occurred to me that I never posted this particular ACEO to this journal. I originally uploaded it to my dA account on January 24, 2008, hence the description below.

With the bitterly cold weather and the stark elegance of bare trees, my thoughts have increasingly turned to the lands of my ancestors. The huldre (also called the huldra, huldfolk, or huldu) are the Hidden People who haunt the wild and ancient places of Northern Europe. Among their ranks are the wights of the landscape, alfs both brilliant and dark.

This huldre maid carries a stang inscribed with the rune for hail. Like the season of winter itself, this rune reveals the skeletal structure of many other runes in the Elder Futhark. Flickering candles are a reminder that in the midst of this darkness, the light is increasing.

Size: 2.5" x 3.5"
Media: pen and ink

Faery Art: Beyond Glitter & Wings

DeviantART recently added a new feature where you can create collections of various artworks based upon whatever parameters strike you at the time. I've actually been wanting to create some sort of compendium of mythic faery art for some time, and this new feature really suits that purpose nicely. The only issue is, of course, that you can only include art that has been uploaded to deviantART.

"The artist must summon all his energy, his sincerity, and the greatest modesty in order to shatter the old clichés that come so easily to hand while working, which can suffocate the little flower that does not come, ever, the way one expects." - Henri Matisse

Faery art is often sadly plagued by a reliance on a hackneyed set of features which many assume to be the totality of this enchanted state. Depictions of cute, tiny creatures decking in flower petals abound as do images of attractive women with butterfly wings. In this collection I hope to draw attention to pieces which I feel hint at the realm of Faerie as expressed in genuine mythology, legend, and folklore: mysterious, dangerous, in a constant state of flux and wonder.

I doubt if the creator of each and every piece considers their work "fairy art" and perhaps that it so much the better - Faery hides in unexpected places.

Without further adieu, may I present: Faery: beyond glitter and wings

Don't get me wrong, glitter and wings can be fun. I think just about everyone, including myself, likes to indulge in them every once and a while, and for those of us who need to earn a living based upon our art, glitter and wings do tend to dominate the fairy art market right now. However, there are so many other collections of faery art (not just on DA) in which the glitter and wings are the overwhelming majority, I think it's good to show that alternatives exist.

Childhood Friends

I created these four drawings during my early elementary school years (I'm estimating in the range between kindergarten and second grade). In the form of imaginary friends and favored art subjects, deer were my constant companions.

I had some weird obsession with trying to laminate my art at that time, I suppose I felt it would help preserve them which may, in fact, be the case. The first two were laminated with a clear, sticky film that you can buy in the grocery store where you can also purchase patterned film to line kitchen drawers, while the second two were laminated with a technique I invented which involved layering pieces of Scotch tape over the image, affixing it to a cardboard backing. Both methods have caused the ink to bleed over time, and they're certainly not archival! On the bottom two images I used clippings of metallic paper as necklaces/collars for the deer.

Everyone has to start somewhere!

La Muerte - ACEO

The imagery in this piece is derived from spending most of my free time in a tattoo shop, surrounded by panels upon panels of flash, cap-fulls of luscious ink, and the melodic buzz of running machines. It is also equally inspired by Dia de los Muertos imagery and the strangely arcane icons from cards of La Lotería which I encountered in Mexico.

For some more information regarding La Loteria I recommend "Loteria! or, The Ritual of Chance" which is concerned with the pervasive presence of this game in Mexican culture. A very basic explanation of the game itself as well as some imagery can be found at Lotería Mexicana. The Wikipedia entry on Loteria contains some brief introduction, history and a listing of the traditional 54 cards along with their accompanying riddles. To see examples of the cards themselves, which are reminiscent of Tarot decks and exist in different variations of style and theme, please visit the following links:
I currently have a number of double-sided, glossy prints of this piece available for sale at my Etsy shop.

Media: Prismacolor colored pencils, ballpoint pen, watercolor, acrylic, sumi ink
Size: 2.5" by 3.5"

Respecting Your Elders

As an artist, I'm interested in how humans interact with and depict faeries in the present day. But as someone who is enamored with mythology, legend, etc. and also is academically inclined, I believe that artists can gain valuable touchstones to Faery through tradition and folklore which can deepen their work. I don't believe that modern people should be chained to the lore of the past or that Faery is immutable, but I do think that there is tremendous value in seeking the knowledge and experience of people whose daily lives were much more closely entwined with Faery and Nature than ours are. (Not to mention that the faeries of folklore are much more interesting and complex than their fantastical counterparts!)

Peter M. Rojcewicz, in his essay entitled Between One Eye Blink and the Next: Fairies, UFOs, and Problems of Knowledge highlights the importance of folklore to humanity:
Folklore, because of its generally unschooled, informal, and conservative nature, more clearly presents the outlines of the mind's organization than does the more self-conscious and stylistically variable popular and elite arts. Having a more intimate relationship with their own archetypal roots, traditional societies have lived closer to the quintessential spirit of nature, which employs the human mind as the context of its own 'individuation.' Nature individualizes it spirit in all forms of cognition, human or otherwise.[...]

Anomalous folklore [...], would not, rightly speaking, point to a 'supernatural' realm but toward a natural order that embraces all life. Folklore, from this perspective, does not bring us further from reality, but brings us through our 'imaginal' archetypal roots to the nature's 'truth.' Folklore is never literally true, but it may always be fundamentally true. [...] The scientific worldview would rob the universe of spirit and purpose; fairies [...] re-enchant the world, not in the way of 'glamour' or 'pishogue,' but in the sense that the world and our place in it is more and not less than it seems to the eyes. 1
In other words, folklore represents a collection of metaphorical truths. Unlike literature authored by one specific person, folklore was originally transmitted orally through numerous people, often generations prior to being recorded, and through this process its most potent elements are preserved and distilled: "Myths are naturally conservative, seeking out the archetypal pattern, so that whatever elaboration we make on a myth will, if it is not from the mythopoeic imagination, be forgotten. On the other hand, a comparatively trivial tale will always be remembered if it has come from there. 'If a tale can last, in oral tradition, for two of three generations, then it has either come from the real place, or it has found its way there'2." Folklore and mythology then are a series of powerful guides to humanity's relationship with the landscape, life, death, and other beings (human and non-human) which has been stripped of its nonessential and extraneous tidbits through the profound filter of time.

Much of the "knowledge" we currently take for granted regarding Faery is actually derived more from contemporary literature than from folklore, including the extremely tiny stature of the elfin people, their delicate insect wings, and their rather benevolent nature towards humanity — traits that a great number of people mistakenly believe to be the defining characteristics of faeries. To say that all literature regarding faeries (including work from such luminaries as Shakespeare whose writings have had a profound influence on the modern view of faeries) is false is not entirely accurate, of course, because to do so would be to deny that Faery does genuinely continue to inspire individuals. However, to take the views presented by literature as the only truths and to ignore the lessons of folklore regarding Faery is a grave mistake.

Collapse )

Threads that Shimmer

Once upon a time something need not be literal to be real and meaningful, and myths were not falsehoods. The passage of time snarls into unwieldy knots and on rare occasions smooths into deliberate plaits. The hands of the weavers include the profound influence of Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) which place extreme importance on the historicity of their spiritual stories which they have fixed from the fluid wreath of oral teachings and rich imagery into the written word; dualistic perspectives which seek to divide and conquer, and nary shall one of the subjugated seep through the barriers to associate with another; and the cool, detached scrutiny of science. Through their hands and those of others the tapestry of our consciousness has changed. The shimmering beneath the surface of ideas, of tales, of the membranes of water, skin, stone, and leaf which threaded the world together with significance is either denied or demonized by prevailing viewpoints: those hands who would weave in their own favor.

Only what is repeatedly verifiable in controlled environments is real, they say. Only what coincides with our interpretation of holy text is true, they say. They have been saying it for so long and with such persuasion that we believe it. Their rhetoric saturates deeper than we can imagine and with profound repercussions. And then we forget that there ever was another way to perceive and relate.

Deprived of a context to make sense of that shimmering beneath the surface, we may mistake it to be a manufactured glitter we tucked under the rug in order to avoid a stern scolding for the lack of neatness and conformity in our abodes. There is a brief tolerance of so-called "magical thinking" in children, but even this is only a temporary respite until the powers that be educate the enchantment from the world:
It is said that some people retain a vivid memory of the passage from earliest childhood and its magical, fluid world to an awareness of the discrete and ordered adult world. Visual, tactile, and other sensory impressions mark such children so profoundly they forever seek to reexperience or re-create them, to keep life sensuous, mysterious, and whole, perhaps to the point of changing appearances and meaning. Perception rides on watery ripples, "real" life refuses to stay within the lines. Storytellers and artists mine these veins, Reality masks a different language, beauty its antecedent and far, far closer to instinct.1
Despite the long-standing (and largely successful) attempts by the major forces of Western culture to eradicate, ignore and dismiss the wisdom of ancestors, artists, shamans, and mystics who say that Otherworlds permeate our own, the mortal soul still hungers for that interaction, a relationship which in the past was seen as an integral part of being human.

Collapse )

Fecundity - ACEO

My second ACEO piece is in homage to creativity in its highly sensual aspects (as opposed to a more intellectual approach) which I believe is fairly self evident in the imagery itself. The concepts of fecundity, fruitfulness, and fertility have often been represented visually via the soft curves of the female form. For example, the prehistoric sculpture known as the "Venus of Willendorf" with her pendulous breasts and rotund belly is commonly cited as a fertility figure and potentially a Goddess of growth. The association between women and fecundity in the physical realm is a strong one, of course, because women have the ability to literally give birth to new life. However, I personally do not think the association between women and creativity should only be a matter of biology nor that fecundity should relate only to making babies (or producing seeds, spores, etc.). This image is intended to convey another more metaphorical view of fecundity.

The swirling green patterns were intended to represent stylized flora and foliage, but it also ended up resembling green fire which is also appropriate in some sense.

Size: 2.5" x 3.5"
Media: Prismacolor colored pencils, watercolor, acrylic

Dusk + Down: the beginning of an ACEO journey

This is my very first ACEO (Art Cards, Editions and Originals) image. I only truly learned about this art movement rather recently, although I had some knowledge of ATC (Artist Trading Cards) which are essentially the same except for the fact that ATCs cannot be sold, only traded. In keeping with the requirements of ACEOs, this drawing is 2.5" x 3.5" meaning that the full size image on your screen is bigger than the actual piece. This drawing actually began in black ballpoint pen while I was contorted in the seat of a plane on my way to Mexico.

The title is inspired by the color palette and by the texture of soft feathers. Perhaps the figure is Freyja with Her falcon cloak? He or She was not very forthcoming with His/Her identity.

I think ACEOs will prove to be a true blessing for me at this point in my hectic life. Long periods without art-making cause me to feel as if some integral part of my soul begins to slip away, and numbness begins to bleed in from the edges - I start to become someone other than myself. While I have not had the time to produce larger images, the small format (and thus portability) of ACEOs have opened up a portal for me to more easily incorporate my art in my schedule. They are pages from a Book of Hours of my own devising.

The original, one-of-a-kind Dusk + Down ACEO is currently up for sale. I am also offering prints of this piece through deviantART.

Size: 2.5" x 3.5"
Media: black ballpoint pen, Prismacolor colored pencils, watercolor, acrylics, sumi ink

A Muse in México

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Mayan Riviera region of Mexico for some sorely-needed respite from my busy schedule (I'm actually going back to that same area in a few days for business too). When browsing the shops lining 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, my boyfriend and I took notice of some wonderful artwork created by a local artist. While there is certainly no shortage of shops offering hand-crafted folk art, crafts, jewelry, etc. I was really taken by this artist's unique melding of traditional imagery with her own vision and style. Luckily, she has a website so her work can be shared more readily than having to take a plane or cruise ship to Playa del Carmen (seeing some of her work in person is a lovely excuse to escape to the Mayan Riviera though, not that one really needs an excuse to visit!):

Her work is an interesting combination of playfulness and eroticism populated by scarlet-horned women, dual-tailed sirens, bird- and insect-winged folk, and numerous hybrid creatures. Much of it is embellished with Mendoza's own scrawled handwriting (en Español, of course) as well as with found materials:
My work is a primitive struggle between sweet nightmares and grotesque dreams, of people with tame bull horns and bitter bird wings, fish tails, forgotten insects, impossible bodies dancing with unnatural positions to music that never happened...

I have learned that art has a life on its own and how I play with it is my endless task. I could say my work is often aggressively-whimsical, much like my own country México.

Although not native to the region of Mexico I visited, the Yucatan peninsula, there were numerous pieces of art available for sale created by the indigenous Wixárika (Huichol) people of western Mexico. Upon entering one particular shop, I was immediately drawn to a yarn painting of a deerwoman with a resonant voice singing beneath a midnight sun (or at least that is my interpretation). I knew that piece was going to have to come home with me. I also purchased another beautiful painting of a multi-hued deer sigil so she would not be too lonely ;) Deer play a very important part in Wixárika mythology not only because they are a major, sacred food source, but also because the God Kauyumarie in the form of a deer enables shamans to communicate with the rest of the Wixárika pantheon. Deer are also said to have the ability to transform themselves into the greatest sacrament of the Wixárika, the peyote cactus Lophophora williamsii, which is ingested to inspire divine visions and for medicinal purposes. (You can click on the image at left to see a larger version.)

· crossposted to mythicart