Monday, October 10, 2011

Crow Hanging 1995

Shaman:  A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination and control over natural events.

As a young woman, I loved the works of Carlos Casteneda.  I couldn't wait for each new book to come out, and I would read and re-read the books on a regular basis.  I even developed a way of  seeing the world, which broke people into Stalkers and Dreamers based on what Carlos had to say (which I still use to this day).  In graduate school I did a paper about Diane Arbus and Shamanism, which proposed that, had she been born into a culture which practiced Shamanism, Arbus would have been a Shaman, and her death would have been symbolic rather then real.  I imagined that artists could act as Shamans in our society, but I wasn't sure what that really meant.  For instance, I wasn't sure any of us could control natural events, or heal people, and the divination part was a little dicey for me.  I fasted, I read, I talked  and studied shamanism, but I didn't ever think I was a Shaman, and only once met a man who claimed that he was.  I wasn't sure, but he talked a good line which made me suspicious that he wasn't the real deal.

However, something has been going on all these years that does address a Shamanistic part of me.  Every so often, a painting will emerge that will be about animals that are people, and people that are animals.  I don't think about the paintings before hand, and when I start a piece, I have no idea of where it's going. I'm always surprised by what happens, especially when these animal/people show up.  I have a hard time explaining them.  I'm not really sure what they mean, just that they are honest and make a deep connection, first with me, then with other people outside myself.  I wonder sometimes if I, like Arbus, might have been Shaman material in another place and time, and in  this culture, only able to bring up remnants of the ability to go between the two worlds, unable to know the real meaning of what my paintings are saying.


  1. We have very similar pasts in terms of the writings of CC.....and some commonality in our thoughts about our current work. Doesn't surprise me really. CC taught me allot about the transcendent power of place-felt more than understood.....

  2. This new blogging about your work and your life path allows me to share your insights and motivations. So happy to be able to understand some of the inner workings of the artist's mind and thoughts. Thank you.

  3. I loved reading this entry. I had imagined that the animals in your paintings were a strategy on your part: I love reading that they "emerge." I hardly ever get to that state of not knowing with the work that I do & I wish I knew the secret of that, so it does seem shamanistic to me.

    Once, waiting in line to see a theater piece in SF, we got into a conversation with the young man & woman in front of us in line. It was Valentine's Day & he claimed that he had been in love with her for a long time & now she was going away to Shaman School & he was contemplating who she would be when he next knew her. He himself was clearly the Trickster but she said she really was going to Shaman School somewhere deep in the desert...My husband, Patrick, says that they were a visitation. That's what your animal/people seem to me to be.

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