We in our lifetime create A hierarchy of images. We catalogue and characterize That which we see And what we make, A pencil drawing, A scrambled egg, And digital flickering lights. Having travelled only in the states And not so much the wide world. On the one hand I’ve passed through, Lived in, seen The Rocky Mountains, The Appalachians, and the southern swamps, But Venetian waterways and Catholic meccas Like the Sistine chapel, I have seen and feel I somehow know, The Florentine baptistry doors, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Master works, Staring back in silence Through a veil of light, Or from some dog eared And decaying Folio, Like crumbling edifices of stone, And this, not mentioning the Greeks, The Alhambra, The Goetheanum, The Hagia Sophia, Nor the Russian saints, Post-Byzantine. I’ve, visited the habitations Of the Southern Cult, But not the Mesoamerican Pre-Columbians I taught. We, somehow make things all the same, Tear down, build up Our past and present lights, Replace the sacred with profane And general sights, And yet, the power in these May be the same, May be the reason for our present history, Post history, post-modernist, Post-colonial, post Kant, Neo spiritual in which We merge with everything and nothing- Nothing, Not a thing at all, This self-negating paradox, Can separate us now from God, Not even when we cannot say: “God is!”
In February 2023 I ran into a colleage at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art durring my exhibition there. While explaining some of the ideas behind the work, he mentioned that he had a family friend that was both a potter and an Anthroposophist. I asked her name, Jenny Floch, and later researched her work on the internet. After emailing her, I was eventually able to call her and have a conversation. I collected some images of her work from the internet but also asked her to send me images, which she did. I have been meaning to post these and write an article about our conversation but have had trouble accessing my account. Here are those images. I enjoyed our conversation. If I can decipher my notes, I will write more later.
This Exhipit is comprised of Paintings, Drawings, Ceramic sculptures, pottery, and installation.
Description of Instalation:
Elegy for An American Dream, Installation 2021-2023:
American Dream Totem, Ceramic
Chalk Drawing on Black Paper
Jacob and Boaz Candle Holders, Ceramic
Chalk on Black Paper
Worn Braided Rug by Catherine Hawks (artist’s mother), Hand and machine sewn, braided cloth
The installation is somewhat based on a dream I had at least 2 decades ago. It is an altar and a hearth with a totemic work incorporating the 4 seraphic beings as well as a coyote, an American trickster being, standing in for Anubis, a spirit guide. This is flanked by 2 candle holders with candles, referencing the 2 candles in Masonic Temples, Jacob and Boaz, They are entwined by 2 monsters as described in Revelation rising up from the land and water, representing the temptations of mind and body, the physical and the sensual, Lucifer and Ahriman (The Persian name for Satan). Written on the altar are the words “That Good May Become”, a quote from Rudolf Steiner’s Foundation Stone Meditation. There is a braided rug made by my mother in front of the altar, that personalizes the piece and reiterates the idea of hearth and home. Behind the piece is a large chalk drawing on black paper of a minimalist representation of an American gothic country church floating in the stars with the tunnel of light from near death experiences above and to the right. Beside this are 4 ceramic platters, 2 on either side, with images of the seraphic beings again, also historically referred to as the 4 evangels representing Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.
It is, as all altars, indicative of a gateway to the spirit world. It is called an Elegy because it is meant to evoke an experience of great loss (but also potential) in the face of great temptations placed before America at the threshold of consciousness, in the wake of any unifying spirituality or culture, whether Indigenous, European, or otherwise. There is also intended, an echo of the Great Awakening of the late 19th century within the work.
As a teenager, one Christmas, I was given by my parents, a Dover copy of Ernst Haekel’s biological Illustrations. These had a profound effect on me. I have looked for the book in more resent years but could not find it and must have given it away or misplaced it at some point.. Steiner wrote and spoke on several occasions about Haekle. (see link below for more info on this). He said that reading Hakels scientific writings was good preparation for investigations into spiritual science.
“The phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866 and for many decades was accepted as natural law. Haeckel meant it in the strict sense: that an organism, in the course of its development, goes through all the stages of those forms of life from which it has evolved.”
Some of of Haekles ideas including his Biogenetic Law and especially his theories on race, have since been refuted but his Biogenetic Law was still being taught when I was in grade school. I remember that I liked the way it sounded and I never forgot it.
Even if there are flaws in Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law it seemed a usful and interesting concept, and along with illustrations I later saw of planetary evolution, paved the way for my exceptance and interest in reincarnation and Steiner’s lectures and writings on spiritual and cosmic evolution. I had to reconcile my own spiritual experiences and education in the humanities with my rational and scientific education.
I did not make the connection between Haekels wonderful illustrations and his scientific theories until much later. These illustrations alone would mark his place in history. His illustrations, popular in his lifetime, inspired Art Nouveau and , no doubt other contemporaries, artists of the 60’s and beyond:.
I resently finished this book, Schiller being of interest to me in relation to Goethe and to the phenominon of Weimar Classicism, and its historical importance in the present world. I serindipidously found this book at the Freinds of the Library store, in Brownsville Texas. Who else was reading Schiller here I couldn’t say. Even though the ideas embodied in Weimar Classicism were centered in and applied by specific artists and writers in Weimar durring Schiller’s and Goethe’s lives, the ideas stretch backwards and forwards in time and are, through interpolation and application, relevent today.
One of the main things I noticed and identified with is his deliniation between the sensual and the cognative experience of art, and a higher experience that assimilates both. This is perhap a gross simplification but it is remenisiant of Hegalian dialectic and Nietzsche’s aesthetics. For me these aesthetic perspectives resonate, as I also associate them both historically and in relation to Anthreoposophical aesthetics, specifically Steiner’s group sculpture and related sculptures and paintings.
Historically, the context may be interpreted in the dicotomy of the romantic and the classical movements in art. This can be deduced and applied forward and backwards in time ad infinitum. Some specific art historical examples might be, a comparison between Greek and Roman art of an earlier age, or the impressionist’s rebellion against accedemic art or even Courbet’s realism in contrast to the impressionists and impressionism v.s. post impressionism. Another past example would be Renaisance v.s. Manerist art. Michael Angelo encompassed both. These shifts between the sensual and the cognative or ideal can be seen even within art movements and practitioners. They are never simply a duality, for instance synthetic cubism v.s. analitic cubism. In post-modern art there is an argument that designates an end to the avant guard and this duality is less distinguishable between consecutive movements. However, the ideas can still be observed or applied, the sensual is always present in visual art. Even the most profoundly conceptual has visual componants. The most idealistic art relies heavily on sensual experience to convey concept. Conversly, often the most sensual art raises us to heights of contemplation. It is also inherrant in art that we deal atavistically, and towards fuller conciousness, with the sublime and with essential. and experiential spiritual realities.
I have digressed a little from the content of Schillers Letters. They are not an easy read, and if I do not do them justice here I appologize. For those interested, they are worth the effort.
“Versatile Russian-born painter, poet, writer, and mystic, and founder of the Agni Yoga Society. He was born in St. Petersburg on September 27, 1874, and educated at the University of St. Petersburg, becoming a graduate of the law school. He studied drawing and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and in Paris, France. In 1901, he married Helena Ivanov Shaposhnikov; they had two children. Both Nicholas and Helena Roerich were initially influenced by the theosophical writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the co-founder of Theosophy, and later by Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy, and Alice A. Bailey.“
I have decided to post a few of the works by Nicholas Konstantin Roerich. I came across his work while looking into a call for grant submissions for spiritual art. His work is less fantastical than artists like Futsch but encompass pan-theistic ideas and a use of color tin which he seems to have grasped much of Stiener’s ideas of color. The influence seems to be tangible.
I did these back in the 1990’s, some possibly in the early 2000’s. I was documenting my work this summer and moving much of it into storage for my daughter to renovate our house. I had to do it quickly so the quality of the images are not great and I only had time to photograph the works, not write down the dates. I think these are all oil on wooden panels.
I tried my hand at veil painting with ceramic underglazes. They can be used opaquely or like water color. This is a handbuilt dish, made from porcelain, fired at cone 6. I tried with a few others but was more heavy handed and reverted to former practice.
Second image is a collaged apppropriation with the virgin of Guadelupe, sourced from a placemat used at a resturaunt that Nancy and I frequented while I was attending FSU. I could get a huge burrittto for only $2. The lower right corner have images of forms concurrent with my 3D practice and above that, a diagram of Rudolf Steiner’s color theory.