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Deities Dialogues & Dreams Extraordinary Conversations with Ordinary People Exhibition 2002

Curators: Kristena West, Tristy Taylor & Mary McCulloch

The Deities exhibit is a collection of artists who are being touched by extraordinary experiences with Other in dreams, visions, out-of-body or near death experiences, meditations or within a shamanic context. Many of the conversations have evolved over the years and are still going on, changing and transforming the artist’s personal and artistic life, while shaping their talents into right-livelihood.

Please take the time to read the stories of how the deity makes itself known, the struggles of accepting such information and where the prompting of the deity is leading the individual. Perhaps you will remember a time when you received such information, or had an experience you could not define. If so reflect on if you choose to take the direction given, the fears or resistance you may have encountered, and if you did take the guidance, did it transform your life? How? If you do not remember such an experience, perhaps you will be open to the possibility in the future, after experiencing the heart and beauty of the intimate stories revealed here.

It is our hope, that all who are open, will begin to develop relationships with the gods, goddesses, compassionate spiritual beings and nature spirits who inhabit our mother earth and other realms. In creating the art, the artists were asked to quiet their ego and will nature, to simply wait and allow deity to reveal itself. The deity in many instances wanted the art to be different from what the artist first conceptualized. The artist then takes the information, images and dreams given by the deity and contributes their own creativity in the translation into form. In this way, we work in co-creation with the spiritual worlds and heal our earth.


Kristena West: The Twins
Tapestry: fabric, beads and plaster masks-$,1800
Dolls: ceramic and cloth-NFS

In the summer of 1998, I drove through southern Utah and spent the night in a small town called Moab. That night a dream visited me that changed my life.
" I am standing before a Navajo woman. She is ageless. The planes on her face are beautiful with the land behind her. She tells me, "You must teach the story of The Twins. It is a teaching (or healing story) for the People." As I look over her shoulder, I spy two young Native American boys pedaling fiercely on red tricycles, their long black hair flying behind them. They are in a neighborhood, tearing in and out of their neighbor’s adobe gates. They are mischievous, bold and dynamic."

Upon awakening, I wonder if I am close to Navajo land. At breakfast, I ask a local if we are near Navajo country. He says I am on the border of the largest Navajo reservation. I am completely unaware of a "Twins story", so I jot down the dream in my journal. A few weeks later as I flip through an anthropological journal I see a small book advertisment that outlined the stories included within the text. My skin begins to tingle, as I read, "The Navajo creation story of "The Twins!" I order the book. I am impatient for information, and go to the local bookstore to see what I can discover. I walk up to psychology section and a title seems to leap off the shelf, "Creation Stories." I pull out the book, Marie-Louise Von Franzs’ "Creation Myths and it opens to a chapter headed, "The Two Creators!" My body tingles all over. As I begin my research I am astounded to find out that there are numerous of twin creation stories from all over the world.

In the summer of 1999
, I drive to the Navaho and Zuni pueblo near the Four Corners region to see if I can find an elder who might be willing to speak with me about the Twins story. I am able to speak with a Zuni elder. I tell him of my dream and research, but it took a while for him to realize that I was not an anthropologist in hunt of a quick story, but a sincere woman who had had a spirit dream. When he understood this, he changed his tone and said, "You have been touched." With brief sideways glances at me, he told me that the Twins are part of the sacred Zuni ceremonial dances, and they come out in the Winter Solstice, that they are indestructible; they cannot be overcome-or hurt. In these dances, the Gods and Goddesses merge with the dancers who are initiated and prepared for this. This keeps the world going. One twin, Killer of Enemies is the Right hand, and the other, Child of Water is the left hand.

The Navaho story of the twins outlines that Changing Woman (the earth goddess) is impregnated with the light of the Sun. Changing Woman has twins: Child of Water (in some stories the child of the Moon as father) and Killer of Enemies or Monster Slayer. They go on a quest to find their father the Sun. In overcoming many tests with help of their allies, the twins pass the tests their father gives them. The father gives the boys gifts to kill the Monsters of the earth. To one, he gives the lightening of the straight bolt, and to another, he gives the blue flashing lightening. With these gifts, the boys go back to earth, destroy the Monsters, and set the world to rights so the earth can prosper and balance is regained. It is very compelling that the ancient Hindu twins are also associated with lightening.

The Night Chant: The Crippled Twins

The daughter of a poor family living near the Canyon de Chelly was taken in secret marriage by Talking God, and soon gave birth to twins. Later the twins go in search of their father, but they do not have the same success as the Warrior Twins. They are caught in a rockfall, and thought they escape with their lives, the older brother is blinded and the younger one lamed.
Because they are now a great burden on their family they are turned out and forced to wander around in their pitiable condition, asking the gods for help. Though they are rejected many times because they did not have a suitable offering, Talking God secretly protected them and endorsed their plea. He hinted to the gods that these children might be their kin. Only when they had been tested, and recognized as the children of Talking God, did the gods relent and agree to hold a curing ceremony.

Unfortunately, while the ceremony was in progress the twins cried out in joy at the hope of being cured, breaking a stringent taboo against talking in the sweat-house. The ceremony suddenly ceased, and the gods departed, leaving the twins stricken as they were before. So the poor blind boy told his brother to mount again on his back. They walked in sadness down the canyon and mourned for what they had done. They now knew not what way to go nor what trail to take; they had no purpose; they wept as they walked along and as they wept, they began to sing.

The Holy Ones stood grouped behind them and hearing the song, said to one another; "Why do they sing?" I wonder what they are singing about?" and they sent the father of the children to bring them back. When Talking God overtook them he said, "Come back, the Yei wish to see you again and speak to you." The blind boy replied "I shall not go back. They have told us, in anger, to be gone. They are only making fools out of us." But the cripple urged: "Let us return once more and find out what they wish to say." When they returned some one asked them: "What were you singing as you went along?" They answered: "We were not singing. We were crying." And why did you cry?" "We cried because you bade us to go away and we knew no longer where to go." " The Yei persisted and when the Yei asked this question for the fourth time,the cripple spoke: "We began to cry, and then we sang; we turned our cry into a song. This is what we sang:"

From the white plain where stands the water, from there we come.
Bereft of eyes, one bears another. From there we come.
Bereft of limb, one bears another. From there we come.
Where healing herbs grow by the waters, from there we come.
With these your eyes you shall recover. From there we come.
With these your limbs you shall recover, from there we come,
From meadows green where ponds are scattered, from there we come.
Bereft of limb, one bears another. From there we come.
Bereft of eyes, one bears another. From there we come.
By ponds where healing herbs are growing. From there we come.
With these your limbs you shall recover, from there we come,
With these your eyes you shall recover. From there we come.

The gods upon hearing this song determined never again to turn away their own children, so the twins were instructed by the gods how to use their cleverness to gain the necessary offerings. Then the curing ceremony was begun, and they were restored to full health. The daughter of Calling God shaped them to make them as beautiful as her brothers. (Matthews, 1902: 244-45)

Kristena West: Sacred Clowns

Augmented Barbies and Wood Manikins-NFS

Around 1996, well into my shamanic training, I began to have dreams about lightening. Over the years, the dreams became more threatening, as if the lightening is going to strike me, until finally I run away from the lighting. In the summer of 1998, while traveling through Utah, I spend the night in a little town called, St. George and have the following initiation dream.
I am with a group of Native Americans who have gathered around me, forming a circle. The tall man says to me, "We, the People, recognize that you have the gift of Heyoka. He gives me a spirit name, and tells me which clan I belong to."

The next day I arrive in Farmington, to take a four-day spirit pottery class with, I come to find out, an apache Heyoka, twin-spirit (see The Twins) shaman. On the first day he says to me, "You are the same as me." I had not told him the dream. It seems clowns recognize each other. Later I found out that Heyoka originates in the Plains traditions of the Lakota. To become a Heyoka is to be called by lighting either in dreams or in daily life. To refuse or run away from accepting the Heyoka status, one runs the chance of being killed by lightning. Given I have had lighting following me I make a ceremonial costume and honor the Heyoka spirit. Then in dreams I meet my clown clan, and they give me the Heyoka colors and teach me.

Clowns can bring energy to a group that highlights the hidden shadow areas and blows it up. This can look like the clown getting into trouble, or the clown can be sitting innocently looking on—this is their folly working. However, the blow up happens so the group can reform at a more authentic and holistic level. Clowns have an affinity with danger, humor, play, innocence, contrariness, borders, death, dissolution and regeneration, and so teach the village about morality and fertility. Clowns are universal and usually found within a religious context. The southwest creation stories abound with tales of Coyote, the Hopi have Kachinas, the Lakota the Heyoka, Europe has the Harlequin, the Christian religion has Fools for Christ, the Hindus Krishna, and so it goes. A classic clown conundrum is, Nothing is Sacred. And that's because it is.


Tomoko Murakami
Woodblock, sculpture, installation

SHE has been floating around me for a long, long time---perhaps even before birth. When I touch a tree, I feel HER.
When I scoop up a handful of soil, I smell HER. When I carve wood, I hear HER.
When I sink into my body, SHE arises.
SHE opens up space to a time before consciousness.

This open space she evokes in me intertwines with the earth with forms with nature with neither contradiction nor duality.
SHE penetrates my body and it becomes a container for her infinite expansion.
SHE sets me in motion.
Her movement is as smooth as silk yet so powerful.

Ah! SHE is a celebration of life!
Mary McCulloch: Honoring the Mother
Sculpture and mixed media installation
My relationship with Spirit began less than two years ago, when I was fortunate enough to be trying the brew of an analogue of the powerful "vine of the soul" known as Ayahuasca. Grown in regions of the Amazon basin, Ayahuasca is used by local shamans to access visionary or mythological worlds for the treatment of disease or revelation and healing. To be brought to a place that felt much like pure consciousness; breath was my bridge to a deeply expanded sense of myself. What I didn’t expect was to realize how much reverence I felt I now had for the wisdom of the plants and what they were opening me up to. My third ceremony contributed to what has become to date my most powerful encounter with an energy that feels wholly Other. I had the fully physical experience of having a block in my fifth chakra burst open and waves of sound flowing out of me that came from deep down inside. It was as if I experienced a creative rebirth on a core level. I was completely humbled by the sense of what a gift I had received and knew on a deep level; my path would involve work with this plant teacher.

Soon after this, I found an ad and signed up for a shamanic doll-making class taught by Kristena West. My first doll, Eagle Spirit Woman, opened me up to learning the core elements of shamanism and ways to access spiritual realms of existence for healing and guidance. But what it really did was usher in a profound transformational period that I find myself still in the midst of experiencing.

I wish to share with you the experience of being in the presence of the Mother as I’ve experienced her in my work with the plant medicine. The challenge was to create with sculpture something that conveys a felt experience. As my intention was to open to what wanted to come through me, I was surprised to find that the doll became so large. She is a reflection of the potential we all have within.

Betsy Bergstrom: Dreams of Isis
Two Egyptian Broad Collars: Cloth, beads, and mixed media
In my child life, I was lonely and felt unloved in a sometimes-chaotic alcoholic, nomadic military family. However, as a young girl of seven or eight years of age, I embarked on a series of wondrous dreams. One night I went to bed as usual in my flannel nightie, but after falling asleep, I woke up in another realm as a grown woman of consequence, living in an amazing and colorful world.

In that other world, I found myself experiencing the unfamiliar sensations of being an adult woman. I waited and complied while two female attendants prepared me for the day; bathing me, applying makeup, wig, jewels and a soft dress. I walked barefoot, savoring the feeling of stone beneath my feet. I watched the dawn and sang hymns to the rising sun. All was orderly, potent and somehow contained in away that felt marvelously right. I walked to a temple, a place of worship. In the hush of this place, away from the fierce sun, I bowed to the golden statue of the great Goddess Isis and entered into a state of communion with her. Becoming lucid at this point, I was aware that communion with the Goddess was not a rare event, but a way of life. In that moment, She appeared as a presence of unsurpassing love and golden light and I knew myself to be bound to her throughout all eternity. That knowledge gave me peace and a place in the world, a calm that I could take with me into my life and family. I lived a life of a little girl during the daytime, but after falling asleep, I continued my life in Egypt as an adult woman, with day by day continuity.

When I was asked to participate in this show, I had an immediate image of a painted triptych of my experience with this deity. Try as I might, however, that was not what she wanted. I employed the shamanic journey to connect with Isis and determine what she wanted me to do. She specified that collars were to be made in the Egyptian fashion. While making the collars, I found myself entering into a contained state similar to that experienced in the dream. Isis told me of the specific store and remnant bin to find the flannel for the child’s collar. When I got the remnant home and unwrapped it I was amazed to see my initial "B" on the blocks and the text of "I love Mommy and Daddy." This sentiment exemplifies the longing that I felt for connection in my childhood.

Isis then led me on a journey through my home, finding memorabilia of my childhood in this box or that drawer that she wanted on the collar. All of my history and longing is what I bring to her in her world. The second collar is Isis, a startling contrast and testimony to her transcendence. The feeling I had as a child was that Isis’s world was the real world, a realm of light, colour and consequence. In my childhood dream journeys, Isis showed me that I would not always be a child, and gave me an experience of sacred order. Isis gave me a reason to live and showed me the way to do it. She continues to be a close presence in my life and shamanic practice, allowing me to be a vehicle for her healing gift to the world.


Click Deities #2 to view entire exhibition