Saturday, July 31, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
For many years, I worked as a figure model for artists. The painting, on the right, entitled Half of Everything is Ours, is by the artist and anthropologist Judith Hoch who uses the name JuJu. It was created in the 1990s and is shown, today, in Judith's studio in Wainui Bay, New Zealand next to a double self-portrait and the New York Times pronouncement we've all been waiting for.
Friday, July 16, 2010
FROM SEEDS to BEADS…
....and BUTTONS and BOWS
We are born from seed and so is beauty. From the time the first seeds were saved, not for planting, but to be strung together for adornment and protection, their dormant life brought forth the art of jewelry. From seeds came beads, and from beads followed the stones and shards and fossils, the teeth and bone and shells and feathers that, sewn together, were recognizable in pattern and form as signifiers of power.
Humans donned jewelry long before clothing. Necklaces, bracelets, finger and toe rings, earrings, medals, tiaras, and crowns served, first, to attract the opposite sex and, later, as symbolic shields for the wearers. Emblems of mystical, political, and medicinal authority, early jewelry was imbued with the power of blessings, beauty, and the safeguarding of life.
In the baskets of beads are the seeds of the peony vine, which, in the Lukumi religion, are used in ceremonies invoking the god Shango for help in decision making. The story (or one of several) relates that a terrific argument between seeds as to which color they should be, red or black, became so noisy that Shango had to come forth to mediate. “Enough,” he said, and imprisoned the seeds inside a gourd and shook them all together. “Now you are both colors,” he declared. The maracas are shaken and necklaces of these seeds are worn to bring forth Shango’s wisdom and assistance.
Peony vine seeds likes these in the photo grew wild around the house I grew up in Miami. I remember being told never to put them in my mouth, that they were poisonous, which, actually, they’re not. Seeing them causes me to remember the rattling of their vines within the still-wild landscape of my youth.
The Goddess Fulfaggotra, the second image, has taken her seeds and beads to the limit. She surveys Miracle Mile, the grand boulevard of Coral Gables, which I also grew up exploring. Her hauteur and immodesty are of one who has no doubt of the power of her jewelry.
For a glimpse of the most beautiful of nature’s adornments, take a look at Hans Silvester’s photos/video of the people of Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley. It will take your breath away: