Daphne and Dave Benavides asked me to host an art talk at their Burbank Cleared Art gallery, Enchanted Studio Props.* I was excited (“Of course I will!”) but also nervous. What would I talk about that anyone would be interested in?
Since my artworks are inspired and directed by my (internal) dreams and (external) folklore/mythologies, through which I ultimately construct my personal story, I came up with the title “Finding Myth and Meaning in Our Personal Stories.”
I shouldn’t have worried that no-one would come, on the evening of the event the prop house was full. Here is part of my talk:
I think one big reason I love myths and fairy tales was that when I was a kid I was missing a large chunk of my own family history. I never knew my birth-dad, or his side of my family tree, so I spent a lot of time imagining what that part of me looked like. Was I descended from a tribe of Pirate Lords? Or Falconers from the steppes of Russia? Or maybe Valkyrie Queens? To piece together the missing links I imagined from my own story I read everything I could get my hands on about the traditions and tales of people around the world.
I started with Greek and Norse mythologies, reading all the stories and illustrating all of the characters. I later expanded my reading to include a variety of subjects including mysticism, witchcraft, Tarot, I Ching, Animism, Santeria, Christianity, Taoism, Buddhism and Shamanism.
The earliest artists are a logical starting point for learning the history of art and how our story fits into the whole human narrative. One small group of hominids in East Africa set off on a journey across the world, documenting their experiences along the way. Everyone on earth, and everyone (reading this) is related to that small group of early artists. Here are a couple of the paintings I discussed during this talk.
BLUE SORCERER is an homage to our ancient artist ancestors. In this painting, a shaman is in the process of becoming something new. He is standing in a river, which, for me, symbolizes the flow of time, while a bird whispers into his ear. The bird is whispering fire, which for me is a symbol of life force, so the bird is whispering life into the shaman’s ear.
In this painting, Chrysalis in Falling Ash, the chrysalis is inside a plant in a landscape that appears to be on fire and is raining down ash. Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows what that’s like. The chrysalis is waiting for the disaster to be over so it can emerge. The elemental cycles of the California environment remind me that death and life are part of the same process. My paintings often express the hope of new life emerging from disaster.
Not every one of my paintings is attributable to a dream, day or night. But many are dream-like.
Strange Attractors, the title image (see above) features a fox running through, maybe, a tear in the universe? From death into life? Through elements? He is running towards two rabbits, who appear impassive. This painting is about bravely facing chaos and change. Strange Attractors is a phrase from Chaos Theory that refers to elements that create flux in flowing systems bringing about random change, like a tree falling in a river. The fox is change, change is inevitable, and we are the rabbits. How will we meet Change when it comes?
As a final note, I want to share with you that in 2018 I did locate my birth father through 23 and Me, and also found a brother and sister. It turns out my father wasn’t a Pirate Lord or Falcon Master after all. He was an architect, and his parents came from Romania. I met my “new” siblings last year, but my birth-father passed away in 1982. That part of my story is now complete.
Thank you to Enchanted Studio Props for giving me the opportunity to share my stories, and thank you to the wonderful and supportive Artists, Set Decorators and Art Lovers who came to hear me talk.
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