This is one of my favorite paintings. It’s goofy and endearing and came to me in a dream.
The day before I painted this Jackalope I was researching Hopi sacred clowns, the ritual clowns with black and white striped body paint and pointed ear-like hats. The clowns are tricksters who dance among crowds of observers ridiculing and deflating the egos of any socially posturing people they encounter.
Similar to our homegrown American trickster, Bugs Bunny, the furry wiseguy with the Bronx accent, sacred clowns and other tricksters [Anansi, Loki, Reynard, Coyote, Crow] puncture the pompous and topple 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 and attached the antlers, but its paws were still empty. What was it holding? I tried a couple of different objects but none made sense. Then I thought of the mandrake, a magical human shaped root, and decided that is what the Jackalope should be holding, except I gave this one a peyote button head.
Why a peyote button? Sometimes an inspiration comes to me like the ring of a bell, and I know it is the right thing. When this happens I do some research to see how it connects to the rest of the painting. I often discover it connects 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. The most interesting connection, in terms of the dream inspirations and symbolic imagery in this painting, is that the Huichol use Peyote in their ritual visionary ceremonies.
The Jackalope dream is then a message about, maybe, not giving away your power [antlers] to tricksters, honoring the visions that come to you, and not taking yourself too seriously.
Jackalope & Peyot Mandrake- 36″ x 18″ with attached deer antlers; oil on canvas. Available in studio.