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Exchange of Values

Exchange of Values
acrylic on board 48'X96'

"Structure of Color Perception"

"Structure of Color Perception"
48'X96' acrylic on board

Monday, December 24, 2012

This painting is an older one (48” X 30”).  The medium I used is mostly crushed rock, soils, flowers and plants that I collected at Pine Ridge Indian reservation when me and my wife used to visit and work with the elderly there every year.  We’d do simple things, like driving grandma to bingo at the Catholic church on wednesday nights and maybe fix up the trailer a bit, nothing much really as these things are reckoned.  It was there that I first saw what the Sioux and other plains tribes called a “Winter Count.”  It was a history of the years events painted on animal skins (see Colin G. Calloway, “One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark.”).  About 100 of these old winter counts still survive, but many native artists are reviving the tradition and the work they do is incredible, and they inspired me to do the painting above.  It is interesting to place events recorded in these surviving winter counts, ‘the battle of Little Big Horn,’ for example, in contrast to newspaper reports and the ‘official’ history of the same events.

Then an article by John Crossan got me to thinking about my family’s visit in 1996 to the ‘Altar of Augustan Peace‘ in Rome, another kind of winter count.  Tapestries, paintings, bas reliefs, depicting the victories of Caesar Augustus over the enemies of the empire (the Hollywood of it’s time really).  It’s how a guy could work himself up to becoming a god back in the day, ‘war, victory, peace; war, victory, peace; repeat as often as needed, a proven recipe for success.  Still, among the vanquished, the victims, there are always counter-histories, subversive songs, poems, parables, subtle aposiopesis for those with an ear to hear, spread about by folks labeled rebels or even terrorists.  What actually happened, the official story, the Truth, gets all mixed in with the blood and muck and money so sometimes even now we have a hard time getting our stories straight.  

Blessed holy days y’all and here’s a little ditty I wrote for Christmas:

Xmas Year Zero

If were just figuring statues and portraits
Jesus is the victor
If it’s the body count that matters
Then It all depends....

Two kinds of coins
Two kinds of kings
Two kinds of gods
It’s a toss up really

We have yet to decide
Between the hand and the heart
There is waiting
And there’s just killing time

Our sympathies are with the straw child of course
The mystic, the martyr, the Jew
The humble one with the unconsolable eyes

But Caesar was a kid once too
‘Novus homo,’ destined for greatness by all accounts
His devout mother was favored by the gods
Guiding his first baby-steps towards divinity
Tested by a serpent in the temple of Apollo
She was marked with a rainbow that never faded
Her womb was assumed into heaven
Signs in the stars confirmed the miracle
Great victories on the battlefields of Thurium 
Slaves, peasants, and the enemies of the law crushed
All the testimony is there in the records
The word conceived on parchment and calf-skins
Scripture in the making

But If we’re just adding up kapital
Shopping days and time off from work
The seasonal consumer index
Then the ‘son of god‘ has triumphed
I mean the one from Palestine
If we're just voting with our lips
Not accounting for feet or dollars
Believers and not actual followers
Then the Nazarene wins by a mile
But if it comes down to swords into ploughshares
What is actually rendered unto
Then it all depends...

There’s what we hail as peace, pax, pacem,
And then there’s order, obedience, pacification
Our hearts lie with the lamb
But we bank among the lions

Blessed Holy days all, much obliged.

( the link to the article: ).


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  2. Thanks anonymous. But really, a ‘famous blogger?’ what does that even mean? Near as I can tell your’e the third person in three years to ever even visit and leave a comment here! At this rate what do you figure about another 1500 years till I can ‘monetize’ this puppy and quit my day job? In any event from now on I will picture you, Peleg, and DanO every time I write something (and since your anonymous I going to picture you as a powerful and intelligent 60 year old German women who is the head curator of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin who even now is discussing with the board of directors about having me show my artwork in your museum (really, when I dream about being a successful artist this is what I imagine, a December show in Berlin and then Moscow in January--was it Berea who said “dreams are the only perfect crimes?”). And if I can track down some of my Jewish heritage a bit better I’d literally own the city of Berlin, all things Jewish are the rage there these days (I mean “rage” in the passionate sense). But who knows how long that might last so if you are in fact that curator maybe let’s get this scheduled sooner rather than later, I read that they are filming an entire new TV series of Wagner’s Ring Cycle and every time a new production is released those krauts get a hankering to attack Poland. Blessings and obliged.

  3. Oh and let me add, all the small pictographs in the central figure of the painting are copies of actual pictographs on indigenous peoples of North america found on cave walls etc.. The pictographs on the perimeter are from Europe. The process I used was to lay down many coats of one pigment mixture then paint over it with several contrasting coats and then before the pigment dries scratch the figures into the fresh paint to reveal the under color. The ground rock and dirt and plant material was mixed with acrylic medium and sometimes pigment powders to get the desired colors. much obliged.