The Lakota Spirits

Prior to going into the field of fine art I spent over twenty years in my commercial art business as a photo retoucher, mostly to the entertainment and advertising industries. However, my dream was to do my own art and in 1990 dedicated myself to that endeavor.

That dream was helped along by the great graphic designer / fine artist, Larry Vigon. Larry had designed album covers for some of the most famous recording artists in the history of the music business including: Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago and many others. Having come over to my studio one day to view some work I was doing for him, Vigon glanced down at one of the palettes that resulted from my work process. He noticed a unique blending of colors and shapes, emerging from the palette, left over from mixed colors, and the cleaning of brushes and airbrushes. That inspired me to start saving the palettes (9” x 12” pieces of tracing paper on which was a mixture of paint, dyes, bleaches, glues, gels and masking fluid, all used in the process of photo retouching). These palettes became the materials that enabled me to begin building my own art. Through Larry’s serendipitous observation, I was finally on the path to finding my own voice.

By 1992 I began seriously working on my “fine art” images, exploring techniques utilizing his palettes. In short I was using my palettes in a collage technique. From my first piece, a surreal abstract landscape, Of Sleeping Warriors, Of Spirit Buffalo, Of Phantom Highways, I started seeing movement and feeling the energy literally jumping out of this image. The piece was populated with impressionistic figures of animals (real and mythic), faces, bodies, imagined creatures, suns, moons, stars, landscapes, planets, ghostly figures.

The spontaneity of the resulting pieces brought about a freedom of design, fluidity of technique and a subconscious quality. They seemed to evoke, as Alexandra Piacenza wrote, “the universal processes of memory, imagination and the dream state, raw experience pieced together into metaphors of inner life, expanded and transformed by the mysterious logic of the hidden, unconscious self.”

The Lakota Spirits Series was largely inspired by the description of the spirits in the book, Meditations with Native Americans – Lakota Spirituality, by Father Paul Steinmetz, S.J., and the world’s largest sculpture, the mountain carving of Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was begun by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, Boston born, of Polish descent, at the bequest of Native Americans. The subject, Crazy Horse, on horseback, is pointing with his left hand, in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man, “Where are your lands now?” He replied, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

With global warming, the number of wars going on at any one time and the lack of respect for the land being major issues in our lives I believe the Lakota, with their relationship and respect for the earth – their spirituality – help awaken our consciousness and hopefully make us more aware that life must come from a place of love and respect towards nature, not to dominate but to be part of nature.