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Deities Dialogues & Dreams: ExtraOrdinary Conversations with Ordinary People #2

Curators: Kristena West, Tristy Taylor & Mary McCulloch

Trismegista Taylor: Kali-Ma
Sculpture; plaster, and mixed media-NFS

My first memory of meeting the Hindu Goddess Kali was being birthed by her. One night I had a dream that I was sitting in a waiting room with other folks, waiting to be born. I knew that I was inside the Hindu Goddess Kali, and as I sat reading the excellent magazines, I heard her voice inside my head, telling all of us that it is time to be born.

We all lined up in front of a huge red velvet curtain that was the doorway to her birth canal. When my turn came, I sat at the top and started to slide down, just like a slide. As I laid back and slid around and down the spiraling birth canal, I felt the walls with my hands, which were lined in Burgundy felt. As I slid down the canal, I thought "how crafty Kali is, to line her birth canal with burgundy felt!"

When I emerged and was birthed, I was dropped right in front of my parents house. Kali's booming voice entered my head again, and she said, "It's time to get to work on the Church of Craft!" Then I awoke. I had a huge powerful surge of energy steaming through my body. It felt like my entire body was on fire. I felt that energy coming directly from Kali and it stayed with me for many hours. I listened to her advice, and spent much of my time crafting the church and now the Church of Craft is an international organization, bringing together diverse communities in the act of creating.

Since this dream experience, I have had a myriad of waking and sleeping experiences with Kali-Ma. She has become my own personal connection to the Divine, and she always comes to me when I ask for help. Her fierce power and energy has taught me about my own power and how it is rooted in my ability to create and destroy.

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Kathryn Taylor: Green Woman
Polymer tempera paints - NFS

"Green Woman" was never meant to appear in public, let alone hang in a show with other paintings. It was painted in a "process painting" workshop where process is valued over product. But she has had a life of her own and I have been unable to keep her closeted.
She was the first painting I did, in the first process painting workshop I'dever taken. I was raw, nervous and fresh from a year of experimentation in figure drawing, having been convinced since kindergarten, that I could not make art. I knew that the human form was what interested me the most, so when faced with the "kid" friendly tempera paints and the lovely heavy quality paper, and permission to paint absolutely anything I wanted, I was not surprised to find myself drawing a crude face and upper body.

It quickly became apparent one piece of paper would not contain what was coming out and the facilitator rushed to attach more sheets, then more, and more. This image wanted to be BIG. And she didn't want me to use dainty, hesitant, careful strokes. Everything that came out of my hand was a big stroke, a broad line‚ one might even say (and I did) a crude line. She was a raw-boned, strong, oak-sturdy, cougar-wild, far-seeing, owl-eyed, volcanic MONSTER of a woman.

As I painted I felt driven and anxious. Whoever this was, there was no getting around the fact that she was a self-portrait. This nearly derailed me. I wanted her to be attractive. But, if I painted her arm thin and graceful she pulled the brush out and smeared the line until it was thick and rough. I was in control, of course, but I had granted the workshop the power to be a safe place to let the "unspeech-ripe" roll out of me and onto the paper, so I gave that part of me permission to use my arm to manifest herself in the world.

When I look at her I am the nine year old who ran in the thick woods at the bottom of the Niagara River Gorge, who made up stories about giant beings who climbed the thick step-like bolders, who climbed to the top of an impossibly high rock to catch a glimpse of the larger world of the lake beyond the gorge, the girl who dove 35 feet down to the bottom of a murky lake just to grab a handfull of mud and know what was down there; the one who walked silently hoping to come close to frightened deer, to get a bird to land, finally, on my hand. A few years later (around puberty), she dove underground and stayed there, safe like a seed, until this moment, 45 years later. I suddenly had no more energy to keep her hidden; it was a form of surrender (although that isn't a word I would have happily used).

But while buried in the earth she had grown, and grown a little twisted and mangled and marred. When I looked at her painted form that afternoon I found her so frightening I thought I’d never look at her again. I quickly folded her into a small bundle and stuffed her in a bag and then in the back of my closet. Later, she came out to visit with some friends with whom I worked my dreams and I found myself astonished that they were not immediately repelled by her "injured" qualities. They saw other things, and finally I did too. She had stayed with me, underground, all these years, at the center of my being.
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Nancy Albro: The Dark Angel

 The Dark Angel came as a vision while I was living in a small county cabin in the woods. I believe the quiet and the wooded hill behind the cabin had something to do with the rich detail of this vision. I wrote in my journal:

" I see the black or dark angel, dressed in black and spun silver. Pearls border the edges and folds of her gown. A band of spun lace and pearls surround her forehead. Her hair is silver, partly bound in braids and partly loose. She carries a sheaf of calla lilies."
After the initial visit, she began to come to me in dreams. After some time, when I finally began to paint her, she revealed herself to me as the Angel who guides one from the body, at death, to the light. For me, the "grim reaper" is a sad image constructed from fear. The Dark Angel has removed this fear from my vision of death. Many months after I finished the painting, she came to me again in a dream, and thanked me for painting her with love and grace.
This painting is so personal, and it has changed my work in extraordinary ways. I have always loved painting angels, but now each one I paint has a divine purpose. The Dark Angel opens me to a spiritual force that flows through me into my paintings. Faith, spirit and soul informs the work as much, or more than surface and medium.



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Susan Shanti Gibian: Memorial Installation

About a year ago, ten Eucalyptus trees were cut down near my home. When I went to survey the damages, I had an experience that significantly changed my life and my art. It is hard to explain exactly what happened that day. In fact, I am still in the process of trying to understand this event in its fullness.

I found myself running my fingers through the sawdust and crying. My heart felt such incredible pain and sadness. When my eyes fell upon the scars inflicted by the chainsaw as it cut into the limbs of the trees, I felt a burning sensation on my arms and legs, as if the saw had cut into a part of my own body. At first I was a little scared, and I wasn't sure what was happening to me. I took a deep breath, and summoned the courage to remain in the present moment, and experience it fully. Then, it was as if all my years of spiritual practice and time spent in nature crystallized into one moment of profound clarity, a tangible experience of truth. I realized that there was no separation between my Self and the earth. Immediately, I understood that the imbalances that are present in my own body were related to the thoughtless destruction of the natural world. It became very apparent that the prevalence of human disease was a result of this destruction of the earth and its ecosystems: and that when balance is restored to the earth, human beings will experience greater physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

Standing in the sawdust of the freshly cut trees, surrounded by limbs and stumps in the blazing California sun, I had a direct experience of my connection to all of nature. What was I supposed to do with information like that? For weeks I was completely absorbed in a state of not knowing what this all meant to me, and why I had received this profound knowledge. I had no desire to create anything. I had picked up one of the limbs from the ground and placed it on the picnic table outside my window. I could see it from inside my apartment, and every time I looked at it I would feel such an intense pain in my heart that I would fall apart crying. Instead of distancing myself from the pain and sadness, I knew that I had to surrender to it, and to experience it fully. Rather than forcing myself to create art during this time I worked hard at allowing myself the space to just be. To simply be present and to trust that when the time was right, that the inspiration would come and move through me, and a creative work would manifest. Embracing the limb, or just sitting with it and gazing out at the hillside was how I spent my studio time. That period of stillness and quiet contemplation was an indispensable part of my creative process. It was also a means of gaining access to the knowledge in my heart, as opposed to trying to understand this event through the logical mind.

The limb became a symbol of vulnerability. I felt extremely protective of the earth, and wanted to take action to protect it. I was no longer inspired to use paint to express myself. Eventually, my work was formed from the sawdust and the limbs of the beautiful trees that once stood and offered me their shade on a hot summer day, their scent of Eucalyptus as the fog rolled in, and the rustling sound of the wind through their leaves as I drifted off to sleep at night.

After a year of meditating on and contemplating this experience, I have come to understand that the earth is speaking through me. It is my sacred duty to listen attentively, and to convey her messages to others. I pray that we, as humankind, take care of the earth, love it, nurture it, and protect it, as if it were our very own Self.

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 Click Deities #3 to view Kristena's Sophia Installation