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Totem on my mind

“The Importance of Getting the Name Right, no.8″: 36″ x 36”; oil & collage on canvas

Recently I have been thinking a lot about totems. Some of the images I gravitate to creating in my paintings become towers of marks built upon each other, like figures in a totem. When I mentioned this to Phil at the Secord Gallery, he said the expression “low man on the totem pole” actually does not refer to someone low in the hierarchy. That sent me to the internet for researching totems. Some sources say “low on the totem pole” actually is a good thing because the lowest figure is reserved for the most honored. Over the years, “low man on the totem pole” has been a figure of speech we use to say we are low in the hierarchy of where we work, live, play or worship. From what I could garner from the internet, a totem pole has no real hierarchy from top to bottom. The truth of the matter is the stacking order is often the reverse, where the energy of the community represented on the pole comes from the bottom, the so called “low man.” A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people. Belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to indigenous peoples of the Americas but common to a number of cultures worldwide. It makes sense that totems came to mind when I was working. Not just for the stacking poles I am sometimes creating, but for the sense of embodying the spirit and reverence I seek, the power coming from within. I want to take the ordinary experience of color and form and transform it. So then, listening to jazz or choral music and dancing around my studio with a stick of paint in my hand is a truly transcendent experience. It is my experience of my dream eventually shared with you.


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