This is one of my favorite paintings. It’s goofy and endearing and came to me in a dream.
I had spent the day researching Hopi sacred clowns, the ritual clowns that have striped body paint and costumes. The clowns, like other symbolic icons I store in my library of imaginative images, are tricksters who ridicule and deflate the foibles and social posturing of their onlookers.
A favorite character from my childhood is Bugs Bunny, the homegrown American wiseguy with the Bronx accent. Much like the sacred clowns and other tricksters [Anansi, Loki, Reynard, Coyote, Crow] Bugs punctures inflated egos of the pompous and topples the self-important.
That night I dreamed of a jackalope in black and white striped pajamas, holding…something, but I couldn’t tell what. In the morning, I painted the rabbit, added the antlers, but it’s paws were still empty. What was it holding? I tried a couple of different objects, none made sense. Then I remembered the del Toro film, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, and the scene with the little mandrake, and I decided the Jackalope was holding a mandrake, a magical root-herb, except mine had a peyote button head.
Sometimes images come to me like a bell ringing, or a light switching on. They pop in suddenly and I know they are what I was waiting for. When this happens – it doesn’t very often- I like to research them to see how they connect to the rest of my work, usually they connect a lot. This is what I learned:
Jackalopes were first described by members of the Huichol, or Wixáritari, people of Central Mexico. Mayan mythology relates a legend of a horned rabbit losing its horns to a trickster deer. And the most interesting connection, in terms of serendipitous associations with imagery in this painting, is that the Huichol use Peyote in ritual visionary ceremonies.
This trickster jackalope then, is a messenger, like Hermes, bringing wisdom with a humorous twist.
Jackalope & Peyot Mandrake- 36″ x 18″ with attached deer antlers; oil on canvas. Available in studio.