About my work for Recalling the Chimaera
As a text and image artist, I am interested in the ways that language is moved beyond its primary mode of direct communication into the realm of the indirect and the polysemic. As text crosses and accumulates, it becomes illegible as words, but the shape of language can then shine; text becomes images.
As in the classical chimaera, intersections in text fuse ideas. This bridging or crossing of multiple ideas binds them into something new. I like to force associations so that boundaries are eradicated and expanded possibilities can be considered. I like to think of this in the Surrealist sense: “beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella” (Comte de Lautréamont, Les Chants de Maldoror). Aligning things that do not seem to align creates an opening, a portal, a spiracle that parts the veil.
Also in this way, the path to the extraordinary is often through the ordinary. The Chimaera in all its fantasy is made up of known/familiar creatures. In spellwork stringing together a request, in images chained together in a poem, in the alchemical marriage of opposing parts of self, in the layering of these visual pieces, in separate cards pulled together in a divinatory reading, in two people joining energies and thoughts in compelling conversation— these chimaeras, these Frankenstein’s monsters, are no longer A or B but A & B & more. The chimaera of language is much the same. For these Creatures, the spark that animates them ultimately comes from the reader or the viewer’s own brain.
In many of these pieces, obscured language, gryphonage, or asemic writing frees us from the tyranny of meaning. In a magical sense, all ideas that were included still exist (just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there). Content hides in plain sight yet somehow still transmits its messages. There is a tolerance of not knowing exactly but instead experiencing a complexity and ambiguity, a tolerance for the liminal.
What IS clarity and understanding anyway? It’s essential to challenge inherent vs. projected meaning. Can we really ever know for sure that we have understood what another is trying to communicate? Make many meanings. Change your mind often. Enjoy the frisson in the interstitial space when connections are made. This electricity holds two possibilities together for as long as is needed. When the tension breaks it is merely an opportunity for the next association to arise and re-electrify.
Crossing I: Into Spirit
“Lines and shadows are for us nothing more than the signs of a hidden reality. Beyond the surface, our gaze plunges into spirit.”
- Auguste Rodin
Crossing II: A Beast or a God
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”
- Aristotle, Politics
Crossing III: House of God
“Thus, when--out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God--the loveliness of the many-colored gems has called me away from external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect, transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial, on the diversity of the sacred virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling, as it were, in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven; and that, by the grace of God, I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world in an anagogical manner.”
- Abbot Sugar, De administratione, xxxiii
Crossing IV: The Purpose of Ritual
“The purpose of ritual is to change the mind of the human being. It's a sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant, and the purpose of it is to activate the parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity... 'Magic' becomes the development of techniques that allow communication with hidden portions of the self, and with hidden portions of all other islands in this 'psychic sea.'”
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon
Machines of Language Series
Machine of Language I: The Unknowable
“It being showed that there is a great power in the affections of the soul, you must know moreover, that there is no less virtue in words, and the names of things, but greatest of all is speeches, and motions…A word is twofold…internal and uttered; An internal word is a conception of the mind, and motion of the soul, which is made without a voice…But an uttered word hath a certain act in the voice, and properties of locution, and is brought forth with the breath…Words…carrying with them not only the conception of the mind, but also the virtue of the speaker, with a certain efficacy unto the hearers, and this oftentimes with so great a power, that oftentimes they change not only the hearers, but also other bodies, and things that have no life. Every oration, writing, and words, as they induce accustomed motions by their accustomed numbers, and proportions, and form, so also besides their usual order, being pronounced, or wrote backwards, more unto unusual affects.”
- Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book 1, Chapter LXIX
“The purpose of man’s first speech was an address to the unknowable.”
- Barnett Newman
Machine of Language II: Tension on a String of Letters
Light come into my body and make of yourself thoughts—from this lily of my mind I send a bouquet of words to the one who can understand. May it be received and recited back to me. And all of this through the Air alone until it becomes solid.
Additional text is from Agrippa, Book 1, Chap. LXXI:
“Besides the virtues of words and names, there is also a greater virtue found in sentences, from the truth contained in them, which hath a very great power…verses, enchantments, imprecations, deprecations, orations, invocations, obtestations, adjurations, conjurations...”
Machine of Language III: Volatility of Expression
Text is an excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, First Part, XII (translated by the artist):
Hail to the Spirits that want to connect us;
for we truly live our lives in symbols.
And with small steps the clocks tick
alongside our actual day.
Without knowing our true place,
we act out of genuine relation.
Antennae feel antennae,
and the empty distance fills with…
Pure tension. O music of Power!
Machine of Language IV: The Living Word
Text is from Emily Dickinson, J1212 and J1587:
A word is dead
when it is said
I say it just
begins to live
He ate and drank the precious Words—
His Spirit grew robust—
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his Frame was Dust—
(This work was generously supported by grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and the Ford Family Foundation.)