An ideal blog post should be a nutritious snack like a granola bar: a little filling but not too heavy, containing a few sweet nuggets, and hopefully good for you. Well, you know how there’s usually a little spilled flour, a sticky spot of honey, and a few escaped raisins lying around after a cooking stint? And possibly a few items from earlier efforts? Welcome to my clean-up post.
One stray ingredient is one I deliberately left out of last week’s post on some modern Chinese abstract artists, for reasons of space and time. But Che Chuang’s painting of a head, shown above, struck a real chord with me. It reminded me strongly of two heads of my own that have appeared in these pages. The level of abstraction, original color, and even shape are not so very different.
Furthermore, that finding or fusing or confusing of the figure with a natural object (sheet metal qualifies if far enough returned to nature as to no longer serve its manufactured purpose) was very much the subject of Stone Soup, musings on Yellowstone rocks informed by Mark Stone’s essay series on figuration and abstraction, for which he’s preparing a new installment.
Continuing to add the miscellaneous ingredients at hand: on that same Yellowstone trip I photographed a pattern of lichens on a chunk of basalt that reminded me of a rider on a horse. That rock formation is known as Sheepeater Cliff, after the tribe that lived in the area. Just today at lunch, I came across an article about the Sheepeaters (by David Lewis in the Montana Pioneer) with the following quotation from the book Mountain Spirit, the Sheepeater Indians of Yellowstone (by L.L. Loendorf and N.M. Stone):
Like many other hunters and gatherers, the Sheep Eaters did not make a distinction between the natural and supernatural worlds. … As it was believed that spirits from the tree domains left their likenesses on rock surfaces in the form of petroglyphs, Sheep Eaters—especially men—often went to rock art sites to connect with their powers.
Which happens to dovetail ever so nicely with my current reading about Australian aboriginal art, fascinating for many reasons. I’m particularly interested in the relation of people (including the “artist”) to place, a question I’ve been pondering in my own fashion over at Along Sourdough Trail. I’m bound to have more on that topic later, but if you’re intrigued, my favorite place for it on the web is Deborah Barlow at Slow Muse (great writing in a slew of categories).
That about clears the counter; I’m leaving the kitchen sink as it is. Perhaps finding that all these disparate ingredients fortuituously fit together is not so surprising. Perhaps there’s greater unity in my flailings than previously suspected. Perhaps even something edible will come along eventually.