Transcendent Journeys eZine
As the nights grow longer, we hear a sound faintly in the distance: jingle bells. It's the sound of that famous shaman, Santa Claus.
Yes, Santa! In his book When Santa Was A Shaman, Tony van Renterghem traces the history of Santa Claus and shows how the image developed from the shamanic tradition of early history.
Think about it. Santa dresses in furs, flies through the air with his power animals, the reindeer, to the jingling of harness bells in the shamanic drumbeat rhythm; shapeshifts into smoke from the chimneys to enter and exit houses, where he brings gifts from the spirit realm to all the world in just one night, three days after the magical time of the Winter Solstice.
How much more shamanic can you get? But Santa Claus wasn't always a chubby old guy with a white beard in a red suit. He comes from a wealth of early Christian and pagan mythology, ranging from Super Shaman to Super Stud, and if that piques your interest, check out Kathie Dawn's excellent article.
...I remember how as a child I’d like to live in
the tree brought home for the holidays.
I crawled along the bottom
And looked up through the nets of needles
crisscrossing to a higher heaven of earth pine sticky vein fragrance.
The taller I got, the higher I could take the camel, sheep, donkey, and cow on an adventure,
up as far as I could along the branches.
I learned to balance on the arm of the maroon stuffed chair to take them near the top
where some times I could toss them onto the same branch as the star.
I loved, too, the glitter cardboard house, stuck with shreds of straw,
where a baby, the blue lady, and handsome bearded man
lived with the donkey, sheep, and cow. As I grew bigger, the creche was a rocket ship
Where all aboard flew east or north to visit the three kings and Santa.
The crew would give sheep and a shepherd to help the easterners and northerners. We
had heard there were hard times in the sandy, snowy places.
Santa would hook up the reindeers
and all would pile on the shoebox sleigh all way to the moon,
turning right past the sun and out to where all the stars live,
where we all would go each holiday season, and in our dreams.
Transcendent Journeys: Tell us something about Mage Shamanic Training (MST) and how you developed it. I noticed that you changed the name from Shamanic Training Program to Mage Shamanic Training. Is it the same program?
Joan: It's basically the same program, though the program has been evolving ever since I started teaching it in 2001. From 2001 to about 2004, it was called the Healing Ritual Training Program. Then it was renamed Shamanic Training Program. Starting in 2013, I'm calling it Mage Shamanic Training.
I was always a very spiritual person, and have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) with the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist organization since 1980. I learned many powerful lessons of being a spiritual leader within this organization - I have been a group or district leader in the SGI almost since I began practicing.
In other words, shamanism is about working with basic experiences that people have when they perceive the inner world: when you focus inward ("close your eyes") what do you experience? The genius of shamanism is to take it a step further: what practical value can you find from what you experience, such as gaining deep inner knowledge from this inward focus?
In this way, shamanism is a technology of consciousness, rather than a dogma or set of beliefs.
People sometimes think shamanism means "Native American religion". But even the word shaman or shamanism is not Native American. It is a Tungus (Mongolian) word. A professor of religion, Mircea Eliade, started using it to describe the intuitive, spiritual practices that he saw were common to people all over the world. These practices include the concept of traveling out of body to meet one's spirit guides, and doing soul retrieval healing.
I have not apprenticed with any indigenous tribes. It should be acknowledged that some people feel it's inappropriate and even offensive to use the word "shamanism" for the type of work I do. They feel if the spiritual work is not from a a direct indigenous heritage, it should not be called shamanic; that to do so misappropriates the tribal cultures' rich heritage of thousands of years of healing work.
I am certainly not meaning to offend anyone by calling what I do shamanic. I feel I can confidently say that I am doing the work I do from a deep place of mission, of being called to do what I am manifesting. When I realized, in 1995, that I felt the best name for what I do is shamanism I asked my guides, "Should I call it that? I don't want to offend anyone by claiming to be what I'm not."
I realized something important about humility. Part of ego is thinking "I'm so great I don't need anyone or anything to help me!" But it's also ego to say, "I'm so unworthy and helpless and powerless, I can't deal with spiritual energy." That, too is ego. Ego is when you are making a judgment about yourself and what you can do from a superficial level.
To be continued
Katherine Chronis is a performance artist: Skapegoat Unlimited, The Get Naked Project, you may have heard of them. She performs at LFAC on December 12, 2012 in conjunction with the Ancestors exhibit: it’ll be about her mother. Liz Baudler edits Transcendent Journeys. Take their meandering, long conversation as a performance; perhaps you’ll learn something too!
Liz Baudler: How did you realize you were an artist? And when you did, why did you become a performance artist?
Katherine Chronis: When I was a really little girl I thought artists were the most exotic people in the world because it seemed to me, (and it’s through a child’s eyes, but I still maintain it’s correct), that they seemed to be the freest people. They had opportunities to explore things that most people weren’t going to explore, they were crossing boundaries. They were travelers, they were, you know, weirdoes. And I always loved weirdoes, and I always loved altered states. I would run, and run and run, and get so whacked out on endorphins. So I just figured an artist was something like that, that kind of feeling but without running.
The reason why I went the direction I went in is because…I’m a high school drop-out, and I am not an academic artist, although I do read a lot, and I have a lot of culture. But I always was very interested in what I was interested in, period, and so even in school, I would have a book in a book in a book. If they offered something I was interested in, I would give it my energy, but for the most part I was not interested in anything. So, you know, I got the classic, “she’s very smart, but she doesn’t ‘apply herself’”.
I had a lot of traumas when I was little, and it made me really angry, and it also made me feel that, “I am really on my own.” I mean, my family, they’re really good people, and I’m very fortunate because I always knew I was loved. We had a lot of problems, but these traumas that I had, I just was like, “I’m on my own and so I have to protect myself!” And of course what does that mean to a kid, it’s like, “I don’t know how to protect myself.” I was rushing headlong into things, rushing and opening up to crazy stuff. And whatever someone else said, I was like, “no,” even if it was something I wanted, just to see if I could do that.
And I played weird games. I felt really bad that my parents suffered during World War II. We had food, we had shelter, we did not have to go hide in caves, we had TV shows, Popsicles, all kinds of things that they didn’t have. And so I used to play “Anne Frank”,. I used to go hide in the closet, and I would take a big blanket, and then I’d like [gestures putting blanket over head]. And the goal was not to make any sound breathing, because then “they” would hear me. And it wasn’t just Nazis like World War II Nazis, but it was like the Nazis of the world. I saw when I was little that it wasn’t just a World War II thing. Anybody could be a Nazi. You didn’t have to wear the uniform, you didn’t have to have an accent, you could even look really groovy and be a Nazi.
So I did stuff like [playing Anne Frank] to try and feel what my mother went through. Things like that. I was always like a weirdo, and doing my own thing.
LB: Did games like that, which seem very physical, lead you to performance, as opposed to sitting down and creating something? More of an embodiment of the art?
KC: It’s energy work, and it can be really cathartic and really good, or you can really mess someone up with it, too. When I was younger I ranted a lot, and people love that. I got all this applause, and I was like, “I can rant more”. But then I remember one night, I was up there and I was like, “AAAAAAAAAA!” and like everyone is like, “ttttthhhhhhhhhhh”, stiff as a plank, up there suspended with the energy and I thought, “oh my gosh, where I am going to take us? What have I been doing? I don’t know where to go."
LB: Like you had the control in the room, and the places you could take people would be pretty scary?
KC: Or that I would just leave people in this state.
LB: Oh, because there’s no transformation, it’s like what Joan always talks about, just catharsis versus transformation, which leads to art.
KC: Yes, because [ranting] would just leave people with a reaction and in a reactive state. But then when I realized this, I told myself, “don’t use words.” I wanted to convey something. It’s a lot harder, but I took it as a personal challenge. So I created an aquarium setting, and for months I would go to dollar stores and get these little rocks and stuff. The whole stage was an aquarium, and I took green film and put it between me and the people so that would be the wall. I was just like swimming for two hours. After five minutes I was like, “well, what more can I do?” and went, “well, I’d just better swim some more.” So I just kept doing it. It was very meditative and before I knew it, two hours had passed.
Then the Get Naked project, going naked in public, that reallywas just to find out, “well, what will happen? Will I freak out if someone freaks out on me? What if the cops come? How will I deal with the police? I’m a reactionary: will I react with the police, or will I be able to stay calm? If someone attacks me on the street verbally, will I savage them with my mouth, and is that right, that I would set them up to savage them? Just looking at myself, really. Pretending that I’m looking at the other people, but I’m not.
LB: Wait, so, if you’re wondering how you’re performing in your piece—I always thought performance art was more about the audience. Are you sort of being selfish in a way by learning about yourself through the art? Is it more selfish than say, just painting a painting.
KC: It’s not, though, and the reason why is because you’re actually showing people one person being themselves.
LB: OK, so you’re doing for yourself, but also that deconstruction in public is helping the audience.
KC: For sure. When you do it for the audience, it’s inauthentic. It’s fake, because really, all we have to share is what’s in us.
LB: The other thing about doing it for the audience is that you can do it again and again and again. It’s like me giving tours of a place I know. I say the same thing all the time. If you’re doing for yourself, with an audience watching you take yourself apart, you don’t know what’s going to happen.
KC: But they’re not just watching. It is a connection because it’s an energy connection. And believe me, who is in the audience as I perform affects each and every moment of me performing. It has to be that I’m affecting them as well. If I feel them, they must feel me. See, we live in a world where somehow there’s a message to us that we’re selfish if we focus on ourselves. And I think that that’s part of a lot of discontentment and sickness. I know I can allow myself to be siphoned easily, and I’ve been learning more how to not allow myself to be siphoned without being conscious of it, thereby choosing more where my energy goes. The Shamanic Training Program [here at LFAC] has helped a great deal.
But also too, I’ve been working on this my whole life, that whole art thing of “I’m going to do it by myself, how I want to do it.” You know, I really, really had a bug up my butt that I was a high school dropout, but then a piece of mine got in at the MOMA. I was like, “I’m a high school dropout, ha ha ha….” But that’s just an ego trip too. I had to let go of that. I never put [my piece] in the MOMA. I never applied to those people. But it still happened.
LB: And once something like that happens to you, it becomes part of the story you tell other people about yourself that makes you who you are: at least, the part you want to tell people.
KC: It’s PR. I had been going around for years telling people, “oh, my work’s going to be in a museum…”, but I never would apply to museums, so I seemed like an idiot. But then a piece went in, and I was really excited. I thought to myself, “yeah, you know, now things are gonna change.” But then I realized, it made no difference in my life whatsoever. I realized the lie of those kinds of things. They’re not bad—there’s nothing wrong with trying to do that—it just doesn’t matter.
I did want to be famous when I was younger. But not “famous” famous. I wanted to be infamous. I wanted people to know me. But I didn’t want to be a celebrity, and I didn’t want to be an entertainer. I wanted to be one of those brilliant weird people that had their own thing and were their own selves and nobody could really mimic it. But then I realized that that’s a lot of work. I should just be me and then that will be accomplished. And I did become infamous. You know what, it’s cool, in some ways, but it’s got a lot of bummer things to it too…and it just doesn’t matter. People look at store clerks and think, “oh god, poor store clerk”, but that store clerk could have a really groovy life. We don’t really know.
I was on the train on Saturday. I was hungry, so I grabbed some egg rolls, put my bike on the train and figured I’d eat as I traveled. But I noticed all these people with their Saturday night clothes on, their makeup. I didn’t know what they’re talking about, but it was just a really vapid moment. And I was just sitting, I looked like, not homeless, but so schlubby, cabbage is all over my face, I’m holding my bike with my ankle, with my foot up trying to hold it so I can use my hands to eat but still so my bike won’t fly in the train and hit someone, and I just thoght that “I am totally non-groovy, so schlubby, not like anyone who people would think, “wow, that person has something going for them.” And I was like, “I am such a precious stone right now. I am the one person not in my fancy Saturday clothes (which I don’t even have). I am totally invisible and it’s really incredible.” ‘Cause I remember when I was younger putting out a signal on the street. I was just like, “I’m here”, and I’d look at everyone, people in cars, windows, without consciously doing it, like an automaton. It wasn’t until I started cutting that out that I was like, “oh, I’ve been doing that for a long time. I didn’t know.”
LB: You mentioned your family a little bit, and since you’re performing a piece about your mother for the Ancestors art exhibit, and are right now living with your father as he’s aging, how is that affecting your concept of family and ancestry, and possibly even your work?
KC: It’s not only that my father is aging, but that he has Alzheimer’s. In a lot of ways, people think that if we don’t remember, that we’re not who we are. But I’m learning a lot from being around Dad, not only about him and myself, but about humans. My dad held onto his identity, who he is, but because Alzheimer’s is changing his memories and informational input and output, I’ve gotten to get to know my father better. He doesn’t have to maintain who he’s always been; he can just be who he is right that moment. And it may not be incredible or like really slick or smart, but he’s really who he is, and I get to be me.
It’s changed my dynamic to go back home and live ‘cause it’s not something I would have ever done or thought of and I was shocked that I made the decision to do that. It’s been about five years. I’ve lived on my own. I left home at 15: I did not want to live at home. I wanted to have my own place, do my own things and be free if I wanted to wash dishes at 2 in the morning or be naked at any time. These things, they’re not a big deal, but they are a sacrifice and they do hurt, but just not that much in light of, “well, I’m getting all this information.”
It changes my perception of myself, and who I was in the group. I played the scapegoat role. And I’m not a scapegoat anymore. I had given up that role, so it wasn’t that this was what eradicated it, it’s just that I’m playing a different role than I had played in my family. I get to change the dynamic. Then the dynamic changed with my mother dying. Then the dynamic changed with me coming home. Then the dynamic changed because Dad really was flourishing with his Alzheimer’s: it was coming on, coming on, but all of a sudden it was “whoooosh”. And it does change my performance, like, for instance, this performance for my mother, it’s a lot different from me performing what I want to say or what I’m about, it’s more…important, that’s it’s for my mom.
LB: There’s this consciousness of this other person in the performance?
KC: Yes. And because of that, I’ve become more thankful, more grateful, more aware of what my mother has given to me. And this makes my life better too. I always was aware, I’m just more aware of it more and more.
LB: You’re almost inviting it into the performance.
KC: Totally. And then it’s like, is it the performance or my life? It’s really my life, too.
LB: It’s like a vehicle to get into it more.
KC: It’s the ritual, yeah, the ritual. And see, the words come easier because of the Shamanic Training Program.
[chants of “shamana, shamana, shamana!]
LB: Performance, though, seems a fantastic way to interface with your ancestry.
KC: What’s weird is that I have never, ever, in my life, cared one whit past my grandmother. I read Nikos Katzantzakis books and I just figure, “they’re all my relatives. All my relatives were like this.” I mean, I don’t need to know what their names were. But the weird thing was when I had the soul retrieval with Joan, she told me something about my great grandmother on my mother’s side, and you know what, it just opened up a lot for me. So it’s funny that I have never been interested in that but I am receiving information about it. It’s helpful, and I know it’s real and true.
LB: Keeping with the family theme, you always joke about how your family were all immigrants. In fact, last time we hung out you were telling us about going to the doctor with your relatives as a translator. Does that affect your art, your conception of family?
KC: It’s just part of me. I think it’s really cool when little kids have jobs that instill them with a sense of empowerment. Here I am, four years old, with my Aunt Artemis, who’s a “big” person. I’m a little kid, a nothing. And I’m the mouthpiece. That’s incredible empowerment. This was an important job, to tell her what the doctor was saying.
My parents were immigrants, and they did not have much school in Greece, either. They had grade school. My mother became a beautician, so she had that school, but when she came to the U.S, my dad knew how to write English, but when it came to school, I had to write my notes, and then my mother signed it. So I had a lot of power.
And of course, I abused it. I was a kid. I got called into Mr. Myron’s office, (the disciplinarian at Mather, one of the three high schools I went to), because there were like, I don’t know, 120 notes of all this dental work. Mr. Myron, I don’t know how he became the disciplinarian, because I would never pick him to enforce anything. He was a very nice man, and he was like, “you know, you have a lot of dental work being done,” and I was like, “Yeesss….I have…a lot of problems…with my….teeth.” And he never came out and said, “you’re a liar,” but he said, “I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to call your parents to school.”
But I would do things. When I cut school, I would go to diners, and I would talk to veterans. World War I, World War II veterans. This was my backup. I knew I was going to get caught one day, and I also was interested in it. I loved going to diners, having coffee, and talking to old dudes about the war. Not that they talked a lot, but sometimes I could get it going. You could do it without asking direct questions. If your energy’s cool, they might open up, and you know, I needed that as my justification [for cutting school]: “you know what I found out?”
LB: You were learning: pretty much designing your own school.
KC: Yeah, but you know what, it was like just so goofy and stupid, just silly. One time I decided not to go a diner, not to go to the zoo, not to go to some kind of “oh, I have my lesson plans” activity, and I stayed home, like, I left for school, but then came home. But my dad, who usually was gone all day at work—he came back. So I ran in my closet, I was so freaked out, and oddly enough, it’s funny that I brought up the Anne Frank thing, but I threw a comforter over my head. I was afraid of getting caught now, for real, not by a Nazi but by my Dad. So I’m like, in the closet again, and I see my dad come in my room and look for stuff. And I wanted to jump out and accuse him, but I couldn’t, because then I would expose myself. That [time] saved me. I would have been home watching TV and eating stuff, and I would have lost my little lesson plans. I needed to do something.
LB: Did you go on these adventures alone?
KC: Yes. I was a total weirdo. Your friends won’t understand. And you can’t do it with them anyway. I grew up in Uptown. There was the Goldblatt’s, the loading dock, there was the area with the most halfway houses around, and there were a lot Native Americans drinking at Goldblatt’s. I was obsessed with people passed out in public. I just thought, wow, and I think it has to do with the art of, “this person doesn’t even CARE that they’re on the pavement just like THAT! That is INCREDIBLE!” But I had to also watch it with my romanticization of these things.
LB: Because then you want to do those things…
KC: I did, I did. I made myself unconscious, I took a lot of hallucinogens. It was hard to get off of heroin, but I did it. It’s been like 19 years. It was really great for me to be unconscious and to be a zombie, just because I’m not one now. It’s made me very appreciative. I would not recommend it for anyone, but I’m one of those people that for a long time, the only way I could learn was through some kind of extreme, harsh condition. Otherwise, I just would not learn. Yeah, intellectually, but because I’m saying these things, it’s gonna cover that I’m not doing them, but really, I still am. You know how when you talk, it glosses over your actions? I don’t bemoan it, but it’s a rough trip, and I’m really fortunate. I don’t want it. I know a lot of people give up stuff and they still want it every day, and that’s gotta be really hard. I still struggle with things that I have going on in my life, but that trouble, it’s gone, it’s done. There’s nothing there; you can only use something to a certain point and then there’s just nothing there. You know what the effect is, and so it’s not magical anymore. Math is so much cooler if you can do 1 + 1 + 1 = 1, instead of 1 +1 =2. When you feel the effect of a drug that you know, it’s like doing 1 + 1 =2. It’s just boring. You’re not gonna come up with anything cool.
LB: So then, how has your art changed as you’ve gotten older and presumably wiser?
KC: Since I’m changing, it’s changing. I stopped performing for many years just because I did not feel that I could do what I was doing from day to day and then be different and plug into the ego of performance. I had to really keep away from that ego to get myself together.
I have many ways of operating. For a long time, I though there was something wrong with me, because so many people talk about “you’re either an extrovert or an introvert”, and I’ve always maintained that I’m both. And people will say, “you’re a liar because you have to be one or the other. You have to be one and then maybe you have the skills of the other.” And I’m like, “no, I really am both.” They’re both equally strong in me. I can be on the street going “yeah, man, then I told him, bah bah bah bah bah!” and then I can walk into a room and be like [casts eyes downward, folds hands]. But not always, it just depends on how that room is. And my coming into it. If I’m aware not to be big anymore, or I don’t want to be big, or it’s inappropriate.
I’ve had a lot of people try and tear me down. I’ve been fortunate I’ve had a lot of really good people in my life, but I’ve also experienced since I was little—and I was doing performance stuff since I was little, I was crazy. My parents, we went to this family place when I was little to visit and they got this new coffee table, and I was like 3 ½, and all the adults are standing around admiring the new coffee table, so course I’m like “Hey, look at me!”, jump up on it, start dancing—and broke the table. I mean, I was always doing stuff like that. And fortunately, my mother knew I was not mean, I was not trying to break the table. She said to me, when I was like, 13, she goes, “huh, oh, I know…I know what you are!” And I was like, oh man, what is…what is it, and she goes “You’re a free spirit! Oh, my daughter’s a free spirit!” So she was always very kind in that way.
And I was a free spirit, and I am a free spirit, but some people don’t like that. I’ve had people get me fired, I’ve had people do things, say things. I’m sure everyone does, people say things about other people all the time, but I felt like I was always experiencing a large amount of negativity from a certain type of person. No wonder I was playing Anne Frank hiding from Nazis. In the past, I would be upset about that [negativity]. I would also pull back, even if it never looked like it, because I was always “GAAAAGGGH!”, monster-like.
LB: But something that negativity can feed the monster in a bad way.
KC: Totally. So now, I don’t care. For real, I don’t care. I’m just doing what I’m doing. I’m not trying to put you down, I’m not trying to boost myself up. Some people have said to me recently, people I’ve known for a long time, “Well, you act superior,” and I said, “really? Do I act superior? Honestly, I’d like know if you really mean what you’re saying. Can you look at all the years we’ve known each other and say that you think I have a superiority complex, and they’re like, “well, not really…” And I’m like, “well, do you think that it could be that you feel inferior? And you think that I’m acting superior because you feel inferior?” And they were like, “uh, yeah.” I’ve experienced that, and I know about that, so a lot of times I would pull myself down and make myself smaller and not go for what I want or something because I don’t want to be that person open to more attacks.
Stopping performing for a while was one of the best things I ever did, because when you perform, you have to have a big ego to do it. And you’re psychically open, too. If you want to work on yourself, you really have to psychically shut yourself down for a while. I couldn’t be open like that, I couldn’t take care of Dad, and then be like, cabaret at night. I just couldn’t do those both worlds, and that’s just helped me to become a richer person inside.
LB: And that will translate into your performance.
KC: I’m better than ever, but it’s in a weird way. It’s not like I’m like “I’m HERE now”, more like, “I’m here, where do you plug in, what do you do.” It’s just like life. It’s not a big deal being special. Like, there’s a lot of special people. It’s not even that special being special, but there’s a specialness to it. As I grow, my poetry grows, my writing grows, my performance grows, my connection with people grows. I mean, even just going to the corner store I feel more connected. I like that, because the more connected I am with my environment, I’m more part of the world. I’m not just, as Steve says, in my “lonely bubble”.
LB: How does something a little more contained like your writing affect something that’s a little more public like a performance?
KC: My writing totally affects my performance, the more I write about it. I don’t necessarily memorize my writings, but sometimes when I write something, it’s in me. It’ll just pop out in the right place.
LB: Is it like a processing mechanism for what you eventually do?KC: Actually, I am doing that right now, and I’ve never done it this much before. But usually what I do is it’s kind of like a storyboard in a film before it’s fleshed out, so I have parts, and they don’t have to have a specific order. But the endings are what I want to work towards. I have points that I touch on. I’m breaking down this performance for my mother, and I was wondering, “what kind of loose structure could I give it so that I can hold onto it and yet know where I’m going in the piece?" So I can really let go, but also have an anchor. I was thinking about it, and I was like “oh, I’ll use the chakras as a code.” The next morning, I thought, “oh, I’m gonna code a story through the chakras for my mom, and then mine, and then weave them. I don’t want to give everything away—I know what the ending is, and so, I thought to myself, yes, weaving is the way to go. That’s why it was revelatory, the chakras, to convey a story for my mother, or my mother’s story, and then also I felt the brilliance of “oh, mine too!” and then combine them. Because we are inextricable. We are always inextricable. Infinity, inextricability!
The following is the Exhibit Guide to Ancestors, an art show running September 21, 2012 - January 8, 2013 at Life Force Arts Center, 1609 W Belmont, Chicago IL 60657. Opening Reception is Friday, September 21, 2012 from 6 - 10 PM. Closing Reception is Tuesday, January 8, 2013 from 7 - 9 PM. Gallery hours are Mondays and Thursdays 1:30 - 6:30 PM, and by appointment. Admission to the exhibit and Opening & Closing Receptions is free. Workshops, performances and other events related to the theme of ancestors will also be held as part of the show.
In this Exhibit Guide, we list each artist's pieces, along with the artist's statement about his/her pieces.
The exhibit celebrates ancestry of various kinds: biological, spiritual, geographical, cultural, ethnic. Contemplating one's ancestors is about belonging, acknowledging or discovering who you are, how you express yourself, and understanding the primal instincts of your beginnings. Cultural expressions including art, music, architecture and fashion are connected to ancestors and their creativity over the generations. There is also the aboriginal concept that all of nature is "the ancestors". However diluted our conscious knowledge or awareness of them may be, ancestors influence us. Artists featured in the exhibit are:
For an overview of the Ancestors show
read an interview with LFAC Executive Director Joan Forest Mage:
STEVEN BLAINE ADAMS
2012. Antler, Bone, Shell, Starfish, Agate, Carnelian, Amber, Red Jasper, Leather. 2’ X 1 ½ ‘.
Antler Healing Dish
2012. Painted Feather, Abalone, Aquamarine crystal. 1’ X 1’. $100
Solar Wheel (Shaman's Necklace)
The Lord & Lady of the Greenwood
2012. Pyrography on walnut. 10” X 81”. NFS.
J. PENNEY BURTON
Doe A Deer
2009, 34 x 18.5, $400
The pyramids represent the age-old quest for illumination, for the Divine. We are now rediscovering what many of our ancient ancestors knew, that the Divine lies within and always has.
2012, 26” X 21”, $325
As the Nautilus grows, it creates new, wider and larger chambers that are perfectly proportionate. A lifeline connects one chamber to the next, so previous rooms are left behind but not forgotten. The Nautilus is emblematic of continuity with our ancestors, interconnectedness, and change.
2011-2012, 34” X 19”, $400
This huge rock near Widow Gage Road in Massachusetts is also a glacial remnant. The surrounding land, now overgrown with forest, is very rocky and at one time was used for grazing sheep. The ancient megalith still serves as a silent sentinel and guardian. There's a very interesting effect especially visible in the print version--it has the appearance of a light source coming from within and beneath the megalith.
Remembering Her True Self
Paint & Pastels, 16” x 20”,
The tree of my soul is one full of branches that grow into individual stories. I use the imagery of trees in my paintings to represent the ever changing experiences of the universal mind brought forth through "Individuality". The trees in my art are a reflection of my childhood spent in the Ohio valley. The trees I played in as a child are now part of the images in my paintings. They now make up the forest where my ancestors planted them. I find trees are symbolic of the past, present and future in the way they are resilient to the elements of nature. Like trees we all grow in many ways and our branches' "experiences" go many directions. Life is symbolized by the tree, an element of nature created out of a cause to keep life growing and reaching upward in becoming aware of our higher power.
2009, Acrylic & Oil on Canvas, 54”x54”, $4500.00
My paintings speak of my perception of life, its unknowns, and a new dialogue. “Waiting” is a story of the human’s past whose messengers carry the message through a winding staircase from generation to generation until they reach the last person who is standing in the middle of painting between the sea and the land. That last person’s being is waiting, looking to the future, and the line between the sea and the land depicts future and past. The girl in the middle of the sea is going towards an unknown with bright future with someone in the sky waiting for her. The girl’s red color is an indication of today’s humans who live within the rays of pain, indignation, war, and inequality, but still with hope and brightness heading towards the future. This is evident in the choice of colors and the manner of the brush strokes, which make the sky and the sea always bright and hopeful.
The existence of another woman in the space blow is the symbol of our Ancestors who is given a message to some others with someone still carrying it. Historical junctions are also depicted in this painting.
Ladan Ghajar was born in Tehran, Iran into a family of artistic backgrounds. Her father was caricaturist with a talent for poetry and writing as well. Her mother used to paint as a self-taught painter. After 16 years of growing in a rich cultural and historical era of the Middle East (Persian) she came to the U.S.A About 20 years ago, Ladan was enlightened with strange dreams which changed her entire life. Science that erratic and unbelievable phenomena she find herself. She could imagined the meaning of life, by stepping into the world of art as a surrealist painter and writer. And she reveals her existence and her need of creating art. Art is not just beautiful pieces of work to her, but another way of life and dimension which is the only way that she can interpret her life with the world around her. Her work has been shown In Chicago, Iran and Canada in solo and group exhibitions. Her expressive perspective reveals a duality of western and eastern cultures on her work. What make her art interesting and eternal are her inspirations of emerging cultural and historical intuitive thoughts and emotions into the work of art with no borders.
Portrait of Man
Oil on canvas. 19.5” X 23”. NFS.
Indian Portrait Oil on canvas. 19” X 23”. NFS.
Lauren Macklin says, “Phyllis Gordon was my maternal grandmother. Based on the paintings we have and what my mom has told me, she liked to paint from nature and painting people, and used mostly watercolors and oils. I never had the chance to meet her, but I often wonder how we would have gotten along. According to my mother she was very warm with a contagious upbeat personality and an adventurous spirit. My grandmother started painting as an adult, taking many art classes at the village art gallery in Skokie, IL. She evolved to become a teacher there where she became close friends with several other instructors. They would travel together all over the country to paint outdoors. She displayed her work in many shows around the Chicago area. She died young, at age 47 in 1983. There was a show at the Skokie Public Library to honor her and her artwork.
Dancing Shaman 2011 /dimensions: Framed, giclee print (original - india ink and watercolor). 34” X 42“. $600.00.
Sacred Birth 2012. Framed giclee print (original – india ink), 34” X 42“, $600.00
Twenty five years ago my sister, daughter and I set out for an adventure in the American Southwest. We traveled through New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado hunting for ancient Anasazi ruins. We climbed mesas, hiked nearly vertical cliffs, boulder “hopped”, waded through canyon rivers, explored caves and rock ledges. We found many ruins as well as the markings on walls and floors that the Ancients left. These markings are defined as “Rock Art”.
Now, every summer for the past 25 years, we plan a new pilgrimage to visit the ancient ancestors. I have viewed and photographed Rock Art in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Hawaii, Bonaire, Hawaii, and Ireland. There are so many sacred sites to see and each one brings cultural and artistic as well as spiritual vision. The styles vary by century, cultures and clans. Many are mystical and inspiring. Some are 10,000 years old. I was invited to present my field findings and lecture at Cork University in Ireland as well as the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. My photographs have been published in the Theosophical Society's journal, Quest. I draw with great admiration, respect and humility for the ancients who inspire my work. Some images represent world views, spiritual rituals, hunting magic, time keeping, vision quests, and more.
Mixed media, 16”x20” framed
Based on a photograph taken at Sinnissippi Park in Rockford, Illinois of a sculpture on display by the Rockford Art Museum called Rockford Rock Guardians by sculptor Teresa Agnew, 1988
Rose & Polly
Pen and ink. 17.5” X 15”. $400.
Pen and ink and watercolor. 20.5” X 16.5”. $400.
The images I have submitted resurrect people and moments from my ancestry. I often wonder about that lines that connect us to those who came before us. I believe that my interest in the stories of my family’s past stems from a desire to have gotten the chance to meet my maternal grandmother, Phyllis Gordon, who passed away before I was born. She is the only artist I know of in my family, and growing up, the closest I could get to know her was by hearing family stories and by studying her drawings, sketches, and paintings that filled my home. In my own work, I render the stories of my past back to life. I think that drawing from these images helps me to honor and remember where I came from. Through studying the details and feelings emoted in old family photographs, I attempt to connect myself to the past be recreating it in my artwork.
Djinn. Framed archival pigment print on rag paper, 12.5” x 10.5”, $200.
Arab traditions hold that the Djinn were a race of superhuman beings which existed before the creation of humankind. According to legend, the djinn were the first inhabitants of this world, where they lived for thousands of years before humanity arrived. Angels took the djinn out of this world and placed them in a dimension that parallels our own, In order to make room for humans. They have the ability to see and interact with us, but we have difficulty seeing them. They are cloaked in mystery, and it suits their purpose…
Jon on Marilyn Zimmerman
In “Djinn”, Marilyn Zimmerman appears as a Djinn in the background of a portrait of my sister, Lorene. I first met Marilyn Zimmerman when I was an art student at Wayne State University in Detroit, and was taking a photography class with her; it was her first semester teaching at the university. Marilyn’s teaching encourages students to discover their own unique vision and voice, to express themselves in a way that is true to them. This is one of her greatest gifts; it is the culture of teaching and learning she has established.
Over the 30-plus years Marilyn and I have known each other, our roles have shifted and morphed many times, with each of us playing, variously, parent to child, mother to son, father to daughter, student to teacher, and peer to peer, among others. One day I may be the grounding element in her life, and the next day, she may provide insight and clarity in issues I am facing. One thing has remained constant through the years however: we are family through choice, if not through birth. It is very apt that she portrays the Djinn observing my sister in this image. Although I was once her student, we are now peers. I feel I am totally in command of my gifts of an artist – I know, now, who I am. And Marilyn played a huge role in that journey.
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. " ~Jane Howard
Weaver of Dreams.
Beauty and youth
aren't all that they seem.
"Structure lends balance"
sings Crone Woman's voice,
"the wisdom of aging
is all conscious choice."
Maiden, Mother, Crone - Honoring Herstory and Wisdom
Eyes of the Ancestors
2002. Print. 8” X 16”
This image is all about touching, earthing, connecting with the love, wisdom and strength we receive from our Ancestors – both those of our bloodlines and those who are Ancestors to our spirit. The energy of vision and the fire of love emanate back and forth between the spirit world and this one, enriching both in the circle of life. Through the eyes of the Ancestors, we may see our own life purpose and soul identity as a unique offering and service to the Creation.
Stace 2010, Framed, 16” X 20”, $500
Vinnie 2010, Framed, 16” X 20”, $500
Waiting: Portrait of Marilyn Zimmerwoman
2010, Framed, 16” X 20”, $500
All three images connect to Ancestry/Ancestors each in their own way. The portrait of "Stace" is connected to his ancestry via the cultural imagery of the poster and the masks in the background. "Vinnie" is connected to her roots by way of the antique weather vane that once embellished the home of her grandparents. "Waiting; Portrait of Marilyn Zimmerwoman” is the not-too-remote ancestor to the baby girl that was born on the next morning. (Marilyn Zimmerwoman was my teacher in the art program at Wayne State University.) The only connection between the subjects in the photographs, as far as I know, is me as the photographer.
2011, Acrylic on Canvas, 24" x 36", $1300
2011, Acrylic on Canvas, 20" x 16", $600
Being a bright girl I was my mother’s hope since she thought I could become independent and something she would be proud of, like a few other girls we knew. Her words gave me a purpose in life, and I became what she could not. And since I was one of the first girls to do so, I made it easier for the girls who followed me. But I could do what I could because there were many other such girls in our country who were doing what I was doing silently, proving their worth to the world, and
Sarcophagus for My Mother
2007, Digital Photograph, 6’ wide and 2’ high
We not only remember our ancestors, we become them. I took care of my mother during the last five years of her life. It was joyous and challenging. We were primary companions and best friends. As I bathed her, it was my future body I was bathing. When I laughed, it was her laugh. My hand reached out and I recognized her hand. When she was failing and fighting for her life I slept by her side at the hospital. I was by her side even as she was ultimately and finally entered into the crematorium. I arranged her memorial service. I have three siblings yet they could not handle her caretaking, and one sibling did not attend her memorial service. After her passing I would hear her voice calling my name. She was for me the exemplary unconditional love one yearns for. In the Jewish tradition it is said that the name of the deceased becomes a blessing. Maxine! Maxine! May you join the ancestors and be my guardian angel. I feel your presence everyday, in my very being now that you are everywhere.
Marilyn Zimmerwoman is the Artist in Residence at the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University in Detroit. She continues to confluence the teaching of art with peace education. Her work addresses the re-envisioning of the Urban Environs, honoring the aging of women, anti-censorship, and the joyous reframing of gender identity in the internationally traveling exhibition Marilyn: Artist as Icon, which debuted at ARC gallery on her 60th birthday this year. Her work is collected in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Detroit Institute of the Arts, etc.
December 1st is World AIDS Day, and in conjunction with our Ancestors show, LFAC is taking a moment to recall some of our artistic friends whom AIDS has taken or who are still living with the disease. There is no more appropriate person to present this event than Steven Blaine Adams, a valued member of the LFAC community who has been living with AIDS for 20 years. You can read about Steve's healing journey in this 2010 article by Shantal, and please do join us on Saturday, December 1st for Honoring Ancestors and Elders!
From painting tips to musings on her life as a South Asian woman, LFAC artist Sujata Tibrewala always has something to say on her blog, Pratibimba. On November 15th, Sujata will be giving her workshop Libation: Painting as an offering to the Ancestors at LFAC. Come prepared to meditate and try some painting!
Our own Joan Forest Mage will be taking part in Mapping the Occult City, a conference on a city's role in the mystical and magical realms. Held at DePaul University in the Loop on November 16th, admission is free! Come and support Joan while learning about how cities can enrich and embrace their place in occult lore.
- Following the Lineage: Curating the Ancestors Show
- Ancestors: Artists and Their Words
- The Team LFA Campaign
- Fur Healing's Sake
- Healing with Art & Animals in the Chicago Public Schools
- Why You Should Begin Astrology
- Autism, Animals, and Making Sense out of Senselessness
- Lughnasad: Goose train by mushroom light.
- Bees: An Ancient Love Story
- Liz's Greatest Hits: A Collection of Interviews and Articles
- My Transcendent Journey
- Every Blooming Creature: Bridge to Eden Closing, Animal Wisdom, Animal Soul Opening
- Jungian 60137
- Human Nature and the Natural World
- Death and Beyond-Heaven on Earth
- City in a Garden
- The Language of Music
- Excerpts from Mandragora
- A Storyteller's Garden
- Nature, The Best Artist: An Interview with Judy Demchuk
- The Renaissance of Song: Kellyann Binkowski of Courtly Consorte
- Bridge to Eden: The Green World as Artist
- The Muse Changes the Pattern
- A Woman's Strength: An Interview With Artist Vivian Gutierrez
- “The Divine Feminine Propels Us Onward:” The Legacy of 19th-Century Romanticism for Today’s Spiritual Seekers
- Mercury and Art: The Art Retrograde Sale
- A Magical Mystery Tour: The Music of S.J Tucker
- Excerpts From Glimpses
- The Musical Life of Brynn Mawr
- The Creative Side of Tarot
- Bringing Stones To Life
- Analytical, Poetic Astrology
- An Excerpt from Echoes of Earth: Keepers of the Mountain
- Sound the Singing Bowls
- Understanding Interceptions
- The Memory Mirror
- The Healing Sound
- Making Keys and Spirits Sing
- Softly, Ever So Gently He Comes
- The Tree's Tale: An Excerpt from The River Goddess