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The first images of making marks, which could be read and understood by our fellow humans, happened somewhere around 30,000- 40,000 years ago as best were can tell. We see these on the walls of Lascaux, Chauvet, and many other painted caves of the era, as well as in occasional 3-D artifacts found here and there from the time. This was during what some refer to as "The Big Bang of human consciousness and intelligence". We began behaving and doing things in an altogether different and remarkable way than we had done prior. Though we were virtually unchanged as biological animals from what we were for the previous 250,000 years (ish- that's approximate), in a comparatively short period of time we somehow became very different. Why? What the hell happened? What changed in this tool-using hominid (only one of several tool-making hominids alive during this time) hunter-gatherer, and changed in a very short period of time- that made him so remarkable different than his very close cousins? What made "them", "us"? What made you not just who you are, but WHAT you are? What makes me....me? This is what I'm asking, exploring, digging around for in myself. And by making this art- I try to pluck my string on the piano and see if that makes the others near me resonate as well.

 

All of my life, I have had incredible dreams of deer, elk, and horses- they come to life from the forest and rocks around me. They fly. They float. They swim through the soil and pass through brush and trees as if they are smoke. But I know what "dreams" are- at least as much as science currently knows and understands. Our ancestors did not. How incredible it must have seemed- to relive those days hunting in your sleep, but the prey animal flies, floats, morphs into a different one, or into a human form. Then through the naturally selected software in our heads called pareidolia- that next morning we find a pebble or weathered tree branch that looks like a horse from that dream. Imagine the mind blow of seeing something from your strange vision the night before- physically manifested there in your reality. You are already an accomplished tool maker. Spearheads, knives, probably clothing, possibly baskets and containers- are all already quite familiar. You do this by manipulating objects and materials, attaching them to create efficient and useful things- so it's not a great leap to realize you can take this stick/horse from your dream, and expand that little hole in the wood that looks sort of like an eye- into a better eye. Or that grain pattern in just the right spot that looks sort of like a mane, and makes them a bit deeper to make it really look like a mane. Now you show it to your tribe/family- and they see it too. Perhaps the men with you on the hunt had similar dreams last night, and here you are with a physical object plucked from their visions. Imagine the feedback loop that begins happening in the mind. And this is completely outside the box of making and manipulating materials for sheer function. No, these have no function but are held in esteem far greater (at least in that moment) than what your daily survival depends upon. 

 

I think this is the root of many things that made us different and began physically changing our brains and neural pathways. Things like concepts of spirits or souls in ourselves, and the belief in other animals and things having those as well. Concepts of abstract spirits or gods, and the idea we can interact with them, appeal to them, or that they can or would intercede in the real world may have come from this. The hidden attitude of the expert anthropologist seems to be that art was somehow a byproduct of consciousness. I believe it may have been causal and driver of higher awareness, intellect, and greater abstract thought. It's not a byproduct of what we consider "humanity", but its main impetus. Slightly aside- some technical physical notes about the work: Another "What if" comes from my bias as a metal caster- What if some tribe or long gone ancient peoples discovered metal casting? Once one examines the ancient Great Lakes Copper Cultures of a couple of thousand years ago- this doesn't seem so implausible. In this spirit- I have deliberately gone back to very basic, primitive, rudimentary casting techniques. I have spent a lifetime learning the craft and science of the attempts to make near-perfect castings. They would not have had such knowledge and experience, and nothing like the science behind it I know from metallurgy, chemistry, physics, material sciences, fluid dynamics, etc. So now I have to intentionally unlearn a lifetime of this, and attempt to do things in an intentional state of ignorance. Everything I would normally do as good sound foundry practice I now question and say to myself, "Would they have known to do this?" And rather than "perfecting" or fine honing my techniques to get better castings, I am going through a process of stripping away more and more application of knowledge to see exactly how bare bones I can get and still end up with a recognizable casting. The brutish but awesome powerful nature of the casting process and it's associated random (seemingly) defects are now a coauthor with me in the actual aesthetics. 

 

I now strip away detail and textures, leaving bare plain wax as a canvas upon which the process may paint, play, and have its way. I then see the results and modify my art for the next attempt so that it may continue to have equal say and decision alongside me. And for my art part- My hundreds of dollars of modeling tools are collecting dust. I use only sharpened sticks from the trees and bushes in my yard as tools for the wax. There is no welding upon the metal, except for the museum mounts. Whenever possible, I simply beat metal excess off with a rock. My only use for power tools is to replicate more quickly what would be done by hand, and as soon as I am close to the surface I use only hand tools of the most primitive kind. (I'm even working on a method of a very rudimentary rock tumbler which I hope will replace much of these tools.) My current "refractory" for my investment is plaster. I did need to start from some sort of known working baseline. But my hope is the "dumb this down" to the point where I can use clays, which would have been available and used by our ancestors. All the mountings are designed so that the bronze may be removed easily and held, touched, caressed; then placed easily back on the mount in a similar fashion as the old-style corded telephone handsets going back onto the base unit. I hope these resonate with you, with your dreams.

Copper Swirl Mare

SKU: 113227
$1,250.00Price
  • Medium

    Bronze on Stone

  • Dimensions

    6" W x 9" H x 4" D

  • Edition

    1 of 1

  • Tags

    Horses, Surrealism

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