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Between the Nagual and the Muse


The influence of animistic indigenous cultures, rich archeological sites, and a tangible sense of transformative magic in Oaxaca, Mexico has infused my creative consciousness in ways I am still attempting to understand.  I do so through painting.


The present works may be understood as meditations on the process by which we negotiate provisional understandings—or provisional truces—with that which we doubt or only dimly know, sense or suspect; in some cases what we fear and detest in others and ourselves.  The paintings are not expressions of certainly, nor are they ungrounded fantasies. In fact, I have no feeling that they are the products of self-expression in the ordinary sense.  Rather, they allude to simultaneity, non-locality, and the spaces in, around and between us, as in the "weird science" of the quantum domain.


The nagual, a term borrowed from pre-Columbian spiritual philosophy, is a pan-American mythic embodiment of that silent animal-like aspect of our being from which impulse and raw energy surges forth in moments of our greatest authenticity and creative susceptibility. Through art, the nagual's growl may be transmuted into terrible beauty, a quality capable of delivering an aesthetic jolt, silencing our chattering minds.  The whimpers and growls of terrible beauty strip our usual defenses that shield us from the fullness of the sensual world and reveal those rejected but still influential aspects of our total being. In this present work I have permitted a bit more growl than in past work.


The title, Between the Nagual and the Muse, seeks to convey my sense that artists operate best and most usefully to others when they are metaphysically and psychologically positioned between the raw, honest and sensuous wilderness of internal impulses (where the nagual stalks), and the civilizing muse, whose gift it is though the experience of aesthetic pleasure to arrest perception long enough for the energetic reconfiguration of our being. You might think of these paintings as slow dreams born through attention paid to liminal border states between consciousness and the unconscious: an activity Jung called active imagination. Such a working method only indirectly utilizes intentionality, resulting in art that is, even to me, a series of cryptic spectacles.

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