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Celtic Dragons, Druids, and the Ley of the Land

 

Celtic inspired dragon with tail worked into a trinity knotCeltic inspired dragon with infinity knot

Wiseton Brutus has done it again. His Celtic-inspired designs of crosses and claddaughs are wonderful. (And have, incidentally, been selling like hotcakes!) They are his Haitian homage to familiar and ancient symbols of of Ireland; their classic forms embellished with intricate knot designs typical of the Celtic tradition.

And now:  Enter the dragon! A powerful image, fearsome yet charismatic. It is difficult not to be drawn to its aura of mystery and magic. Wiseton has made two, both unmistakably Celtic, with distinctive interlocking knots front and center.

In medieval Ireland, the dragon was thought to have been the First Being, a seed born of the Earth and fertilized by the Sea and Sky. From this union, the dragon sprung forth, a supernatural creature that held the secrets of the universe. Where it walked, a pathway of cosmic energy remained. Druids were Celtic “seers,” capable of finding these pathways, which were known as leys. In fact, the modern phrase, “getting the lay of the land,” is derived from the ancient practice of Druids looking for the “ley of the land.” With their ability to see the ley left in the wake of a dragon’s footsteps, they could reveal those places which had been cosmically “energized,” and designate them for temples, monuments, and festivals.

Later, when Celtic Ireland became Christianized, the dragon assumed the persona of Satan. A serious reversal of roles, the dragon was thenceforward regarded as a formidable foe to be vanquished. Saints, kings, and knights alike threw their righteous might against the forces of that Evil so that Peace, Justice, and Holiness would prevail.

Maybe you thought a Celtic dragon was merely cool…

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


The Work of Art

IMG_2067 (480x640) on my tableIf your coffee table book stack is puny, if your resource library isn’t quite up to snuff, or if you’ve got just a little bit more shelf space, I have a suggestion for you.  A new book that just came out in July from IFAA Media and Museum of New Mexico Press: “The Work of Art,” by Carmella Padilla.

Now, I will tell you that between the covers of this book I’m recommending is a fair bit of self-promotion.  You only have to skim down to the second paragraph of the book jacket to read: “At the heart of this story is the work of the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe…” but that to me is okay.  I like the Market.  Beyond Borders was a vendor there for a number of years and I personally support it by attending whenever I can. As Patricia West-Barker put it in a July 8th article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, “The International Folk Art Market’s origins, past, and future are well covered in the opening and closing chapters — but Carmella Padilla’s ‘The Work of Art’ focusses on the personal lives and community accomplishments of many of the artists who helped define the market’s first decade.” In other words, it strikes a decent balance between promoting the Market and providing useful information about premier artists and their extraordinary work.

The author has plenty of accolades, and she tells the stories of the artists with lovely literary flourishes.  The section on Haitian artists Georges Valris and Serge Jolimeau is illuminating, as are many others, though I will hereby confess that at this writing, I have not yet read them all.  Those that I have read,         however, certainly ring true.                                                                                                                                                   IMG_2071 (640x480)

All well and good.  But what really makes the $29 you spend for a paperback version, or $60 for the hardcover (Which you can order online with a click  http://ifamonline.mybigcommerce.com/the-work-of-art-folk-artists-in-the-21st-century/) is the photography by John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler. If you like what you see in the first 165 pages, you’ll eat up the final 65. That section features stunning gallery-style photographs of folk art masterpieces and “was purposefully designed to be a meditation on the artwork,” said Kelly Waller, who served as the photo editor for the book. Obvious care went into the selection of works to be featured and the details captured therein are quite simply astonishing.  In the photos are revealed intricacies that defy description, from the tiniest of stitches in a Bhutanese textile to the faintest of brushstrokes on a Mexican ceramic piece.  Whoever coined the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words” wasn’t kidding. And whoever decided that folk art is “primitive” should have his head examined.

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus


The Menu: Reserved Collection

ht1396[2]Though we firmly feel that each and every piece of Haitian metal sculpture we carry at Beyond Borders is a wonderful piece of folk art, we have to admit a solid truth:  Some pieces are wonderful, and some are remarkable. Those listed in our “Reserved Collection” section are those we consider to be the latter.  Many of our sculptures are purchased as decorative pieces; that is they are works of handmade folk art that are destined to be used to embellish a space. They are fun, attractive, and have popular appeal – all well and good.  Those sculptures in our “Reserved Collection” are works of higher ambition.  They represent what we believe to be the finest of the art form.  These are the pieces that serious collectors seek.

So what makes them special?  True folk art, according to the venerable Art Institute of Chicago, “is that which represents a unique mixture of vernacular aesthetics, personal expression, popular demand, historical fascination, memory, sentiment and patriotism.” The pieces in the “Reserved Collection” meet those criteria quite succinctly.  They capture in metal sculpture the spirit of Haiti; its voodoo, its slave heritage, its island geography, its freedom, raw edges, weirdness, elegance and pride. The conveyance of these characteristics is what anchors Haitian metal folk art to value and staying power, long after the currents of decorative fashion have shifted their course.

Take for example this sculpture by Michee Ramil Remy.  (HT1396) Its rough-cut execution mirrors the farmer and his rough-cut life.  Scratching a living out of the soil, wresting his subsistence from the land as do nearly half of his countrymen today. The scene also harkens back to the history of Haiti as French colony, the sugar plantations being hewn under the tropical sun by the backbreaking labors of its slave population. The faces of the farmer and his daughter are enigmatic.  Perhaps in them is the reflected the values of a working family and the satisfaction of a verdant, bountiful harvest, along with the sad acknowledgement that life is still very physical, and very hard. In his distinctive primitive style, Michee hammers out the essence of that existence.

You will very quickly notice, when viewing the Reserved Collection, that none of the pieces are priced.   In fact, items within that category are not currently available for sale.  Of course, you can always inquire as to whether the status of a particular piece could change, and perhaps you should, if you really, REALLY love it and want to know.  If nobody asks the question, there isn’t anybody to say yes to….


Decorating with your collection

How do collections get started?  Maybe we’re drawn to certain images because they remind us of something special – a favorite time or place or experience.  I was with my good friend, Jennifer at the San Diego Zoo one day, having an absolute ball.  We were in our 40’s mind you, but I started playing with the masks at the gift shop.  Holding up first the giraffe mask and then the panda mask to my face, I asked her, “Which do you like better?” To which she thoughtfully replied, “Well, the giraffe is more your color.”  Immediately, I started laughing so hard I could scarcely stand up, and I bought the giraffe mask right then and there.  Since then, I have bought a few other giraffe items and find myself always tempted by more.

By the way, I have played this all pretty close to the chest.  No one really knows about my great affection for giraffes but Jennifer and me. Thus, my collection has heretofore remained modest and very manageable.

Sometimes, however, friends and relatives get wind of our affinity and suddenly, in their generosity, we find ourselves in possession of gaggles and flocks and herds and swarms. So what is one to do with a great collection gone wild? Just about every interior designer out there says that collections should be displayed as a whole, or at least in groupings within a defined area.  This, they say, gives a cohesive look that defines and personalizes the space and provides the greatest visual impact. For added interest, we should try varying color, size, texture, and medium within the assembly. For example, on a shelf I could arrange my framed photo of a giraffe, my carved wooden giraffe face, and the folk art pottery giraffe, and hang my Haitian metal giraffe sculpture above them.

We must go carefully, though.  Anna, author of the interior decorating DIY blog, “Take the Side Street” cautions against clutter. Ideally, she says, your display should add interest and character your home without overwhelming it. She advises, “If your collection  is enormous, store and rotate the items you display as a means of keeping the whole thing fun and fresh looking.”  Indeed.  If a giraffe collection isn’t fresh and fun, what’s the point? I’m just so glad I don’t have to rotate things in….yet!

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