Alison Hildreth—Wisdom in the Darkness

The Feathered Hand (at UNE), multimedia installation, dimensions varied, 2011

As winter sets in and the days grow darker I am reminded of the time in ancient Greece when caves symbolized the entrance to the classical underworld. A person entered the cave to seek wisdom in the darkness not the light. A place where the opposites meet and where there is room to confront and make meaning of our anxieties, whether fear, shame, helplessness and now for some artists to sort out a collective angst; to peel away the veils and make meaning and form.

Beekeepers, oil and collage on canvas, 84” x 66”, 2001-2002

Many artists are attracted to the subconscious realm where one travels in the shadows, where the boundaries between reality and imagination are occluded; much as they are for children who are unabashedly drawn to the dark side through fairy tales and gothic stories.

Migrations Series (panel #1), oil on canvas, 56” x 30”, 2017

As a child I had two made-up friends who were so real to me  that  that even now I can picture them. The boundary between imagination and reality was merged. As adults the daytime world makes demands that can disrupt our focus and independence. Sometimes we need a guide.

Bat #17, drypoint etching, 6” x 8”, 1997

Hermes was the the guide to the underworld and also the god of the unplanned journey, taking serpentine paths where discoveries happen. This would be familiar terrain to those artists whose work changes constantly with unforeseen results. This way of working is to give yourself up to that which is not readily explainable, to try out forms and inventions and to trust the process.

  

Zone, oil on linen, 72” x 66”, 1989-90

Baudelaire refers to the north wrapped in mists. The Northern painters, although aware of Italian artists who idealized human forms and perfected perspective in their work, chose a different path following their gothic heritage. Durer’s use of agitated line and his momenti mori prints reference the transitory nature of life on earth. The Isenheim altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald  portrays the graphic pain and suffering of Christ and the torments visited on St. Anthony. Hieronymus Bosch vividly shows us fires, demons, and horrors of all kinds.

Night Writing #40, oil and encaustic on panel, 16” x 12”, 1999-2003

One is reminded of the lines from Paradise Lost, “One great furnace flamed but from these flames no light but rather darkness visible.” Darkness made visible can also refer to inner psyche which can be shaped in the outer world. This tradition of the grotesque is now evident in the work of the Quay brothers. They exemplify the same dark vision in their videos of detritus and puppets, based on the work of Bruno Schulz and other eastern European writers.

  

The Feathered Hand (at UNE), multimedia installation, dimensions varied, 2011

For a long time I have been interested in puppets and bats. Bats which weave the night sky and shape shift the spaces between them in their chaotic flight could be seen as symbols of continuing change as in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Their flight evokes a metaphor for the process of making. In the imagination of a child, puppets can burst into life connecting reason and intuition. In my installation at UNE of hanging puppets and other sculptural elements, the puppets were mirrored in a dark pool of water below them. At first one saw figures in flight, but they were also reflected in an endless descent.

Night Writing #64, oil and collage on linen, 16” x 16”, 1999-2003

Dante’s descent to the nine circles of purgatorio, with Virgil as guide, was to seek a path (from the dark wood) and to gather wisdom. The intersection between searching and mark making can happen in the fertile terrain when we travel below the surface and come face to face with the darker sides of our nature, which is washed away in the daylight.

Forthrights and Meanders #26, graphite, encaustic and ink wash on rice paper, 12.5” x 56”, 2009

 

 

 

“Must the morning ever return?

Is the thralldom of the earth unending

Unhallowed activity swallowed up

The heavenly visitation of the night”
Novalis  1800

Word-Salad Wars

K.Weinberg, Night Road, photo

 Report from the Front Line.

I woke up this morning thinking about spam.

Since I began the Events/News and Newsletter pages of the Maine Arts Journal, I have also been marking off spam. Last week I emptied the folder at 2,500 plus entries, and after a weekend off there were 250 more to catch up with! I have seen into a gyre of mind-scrambling proportions. Vast distortions of reality threaten to engulf, enmesh and hobble my time and thoughts as I delete, delete and delete.

I woke up this morning at 2am knowing I would not get back to sleep. There is a war on. A war of words that are being puked out by drunk computers from the mind’s dungeon where writers of propaganda meet and mash up with algorithms and endlessly create fictitious names and accounts, attaching toxic links. Even worse is the some times rational voice that emerges and may find a soft landing in someone’s heart or mind. Earworms, heart strings, viral memes are being bombarded at our inbox. There are ominous rants from Holocaust deniers, men who want to boycott American women and promote third world sex slaves. There are messages in many languages, pages of characters directly from the tower of Babel. Some is computer gibberish, strings of brand names, random sentences and live links. There are awkward translations, broken English, robot English, praising the content of our small Arts Journal Blog site, promising to bookmark us and return. This compliment sounds like a threat.

Yesterday I brought this report to my team and we weighed the options. We decided to terminate the comments feature and cut ourselves free from the entanglement.
At 1800 hours I received this message:
“I took a deep breath and installed the plug-in to disable all comments. It means we lost the good ones from Spring too… I hope it works ok.”

Perhaps I will sleep better now, but I can still hear the distant clicking of keys, like the mandibles of an ant army scuttling over leaf and rock, streaming into my devices. Blocked, for now, by a thin veil of technology but there and just waiting for an opportunity, the slightest slip.

Then, before dawn, this note arrived from a friend.
“Somehow I keep thinking of this lately,” they said. It was a quote from Thucydides, an Athenian historian and general who chronicled the war between Sparta and Athens in the year 411 BC.

The regular meaning of words changed to fit the state of affairs. Insane risk was now bravery for an ally; careful forethought was cowardice; moderation was considered an excuse for being unmanly; circumspection was an unwillingness to commit; heedless attacks was termed manly behavior, and self-defense was a bland excuse for conspiracy.

The one seeking extreme action was considered trustworthy; anyone who spoke against him was suspicious. If you were a successful conspirator, you were smart; you were clever if you discovered a conspiracy. But if you made provisions against either situation, you risked dividing your party and living in fear of your opponents. It was simply the same whether you stopped someone from doing wrong or you discovered a new opportunity for wrongdoing.” Thucydides

Day is emerging now from night, the half moon setting, and Antares no longer visible. The sun will rise, and day will come.
The day will come.
In many ways, that day is already here.

ARRT! Update

The Artists Rapid Response Team! is a project of the Union of Maine Visual Artists. Members of ARRT! are UMVA members and activist artists who work to provide visuals for progressive groups throughout Maine, seeking to add a visual voice to help carry their messages far and wide. The following images are recently completed banners. Click on them to expand images.

The slideshow below gives a glimpse of the July 4th 2017 parade in Whitefield Maine, titled “Liar Liar Pants on Fire!” Artist Natasha Mayers has organized a community Independence Day Parade in her hometown of Whitefield for decades. Many of the props, banners and constructions in this year’s parade were created by ARRT!

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LumenARRT! is a project of the Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!).  We work through the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) to advocate for artists and further the work of progressive non-profits in the state of Maine.  Our video projections create a visual voice for these organizations and like electronic graffiti, bring awareness to issues of social, political and environmental justice.

LumenARRT! participated in the River Jam Fringe Fest in Biddeford Friday, September 15 with a projection of “Warming of the Gulf of Maine” video-mapped on the facade of the Marble Block on Main St. Festival goers of all ages also joined in the draw-your-own-comments/electronic graffiti using “Tagtools” and shadow puppets projected around the corner on a Franklin St wall.

Click on images below to see a short video of the project.

On July 14th, LumenARRT! created a projection extravaganza at MIFF (Maine International Film Festival) Opening Night Party.  Click on image above to see a video of the event. FIVE projectors were going and had an interactive component was available so viewers could Tweet and draw onto the party tent.   They were reacting to finding out the air quality in their zip code. Try it now! Visit the 10Green project at the University of Maine –> http://10green.org/ #WhatsYourBreathableNumber

Other LumenARRT! projects:

9/22 —Tag tools interactive projection on Mechanics Hall celebrated the Community Television Network and highlighted their annual fundraiser, UMVA Gallery renovations and transformation to becoming the “Portland Media Center” 516 Congress St.

10/6 — First Year anniversary of opening of the LGBTQ Equality Community Center:  LumenARRT! will be projecting interviews (with sound) on shapes in the Plaza, as well as some interactive components on Mechanics Hall, 511 Congress St, Portland.

Visit: lumenarrt.org for more.

ARRT! is thankful for the generous contributions from the Broadreach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation and the support of the UMVA and its members.