VANITAS was shown in Spokane at the Kolva Sullivan gallery displaying work produced over the course of 2021 and 2022 along with 4 poems written in 2020.
Vanitas (Latin for Vanity) is a genre of art originating from the 16th and 17th century among Dutch painters. Where the opulence of the church and noble patrons begat the opulence of the renaissance and the baroque through historical and religious painting, the burgeoning Dutch merchant class bought paintings for their homes and personal enjoyment.
The sumptuous still lifes reflected the wealth and luxury of the population. Within these demonstrations of material prosperity one would often find hints of decomposition.
Spots of blight on leaves. A bit of rot on overripe fruit. Bones, skulls and broken machinery. Dutch painters embedded these "Memento Mori" ("remember that you will die") among the comforts their patrons enjoyed.
The Vanitas is not only a cue to recall that the comforts of life are fleeting. It is also a reminder of a wholistic affirmation of life itself. Life inherits death. Beauty dances with decay. Rapture and pain. These pairs of opposites repelling each other on the surface yet united in and by creation itself.
"This makes me think of the gnostic aphorism in the Gospel according to Thomas in which Christ is asked when the Kingdom will come. And Christ says, "It will not come by expectation. It is here now. The kingdom of the Father is spread over the earth and men do not see it" ... In the Oriental tradition of Buddhism, it is the Buddha who releases you from the enchantment of maya...If you could break away from your ego limitations, you would behold the world of paradise right here and now. There is a Buddhist saying: "This world with all its ills, with all its horrors, with all its stupidities, with all its darkness, is the golden lotus world." This is the golden lotus world, right now as it is. And if you cannot see it as such, it is not the world's fault. What must be corrected is not the world but your own perspective. And so we find in the Grail legend that everything needed is all there, only it is not being seen. And what the hero is to do is to clarify the situation."
Joseph Campbell, "Romance of the Grail - The Magic and Mystery of the Arthurian Myth"
Sink softly into the seat behind my heart.
Abandon the amygdala throne,
a crown of conceit.
One need not rule a ravaged kingdom any longer.
Let drapery gilded in justification slide away,
forget those fear lined gloves,
All those temporal shards left by the bedside
Rubies, sapphires, desires and indignations
once worn like cheap garnets upon the lobe.
Sink softly into the seat behind my heart
A hermit's cave warmed by a pulsing hearth.
Dancing flames feel at each palpitation of casting shadows
dappling memories onto rough hewn walls
while filaments of silver coalesce into the shapes of smoke;
Pantomimes of people,
of a soft caress;
Flimsy as fumes in memory.
My throat catches as the chimney fills.
Acrid exhaust draws a tear upon my eye.
Smoke signals rising cue the mind's machinery;
costumed by the automatons of consciousness
caught in a tangled web of thoughts-
Situations imagined or remembered.
All conjured across electric light flashing over clouded lenses.
Further and further they drift
Bureaucratic brain buzzing a benediction of Ego
"This is me..."
"This belongs to me"
"How could this ever happen to me"
Release the grip with clarity
that all these things and none are me.
Debris Floating -
Floating Dreams -
Flotsam foaming along the threshold of basalt memories
stubborn stone severing the lapping tides
of time, of emotion, of experience,
of light fingertips tracing -
Gallstones of magma condensed by salty hallucinations
only echoing the passion that frothed these seas
Scattered among the pockmarks of brine
Calcified imprints and impressions
traumas and whimsies
A sepulcher of insignificant shells
dreaming of their huddled congregation amongst the limestone cliff's slow decay.
The hardened digestive juice of experience.
There is some warmth together. Even amongst the shades.
Dissolve this macabre monument to my pain and shame.
Free this ragged coast of overcast skies
that the scattered ribs of failed journeys may
taste again the kiss of the sun.
Allow the current of my consciousness
to flow freely through jagged fjords;
through jetties formed of tumbled ambition
past riptides of doubt.
Fracture dams forged from the cooling molten core
of impetuous emotion and the eruption of selfish soliloquy.
Shatter these stone idols frozen
by the gorgon mask of remembrance.
Erosion acts too slowly upon the shore where consciousness and dreams meet.
Let me melt into the rippling mirror of shifting potentiality.
Remain calm and exhale
the flutter of this heart.
A maple seed whirling upon anxious gusts
yet the branch barely bends softly
in such a breeze.
Fall into frantic dreaming of grasping tendrils
extending into soft sod.
Clutch stone buoys to
cast filaments further.
Water is there if one digs deep enough.
Your sustenance is not of
fleeting wind's fickle kiss
or yet of the parching caress
of a shining sun
burning the backs of hoarded vapor.
Growth incubates initially by immersion in the seeping source.
Churning deep within darkened earth
decay recycled fragments of former vitality.
Flecks of emotion
of flesh and bone,
Reformed into terracotta potential
by Pluto's writhing fingers.
A reservoir is there somewhere.
An ancient aquifer untouched
by the whistling resistance of the wind.
A cowl of mist,
Icy droplets condense in the slavering
breath of the presence bearing down upon me.
The siren awaits a clarion call
for the fear wells up
overflowing my pint sized heart
There is no turning away.
Choices coagulate into responsibilities.
I roll my shoulders
beneath the burden.
My thoughts, my feelings, lost loves and love unexpressed;
Visions violent; flashing flicker of blood and bile,
wine and memories,
broken mirrors and faux gold goals studded in conceit,
pearls hanging limply by silver threads.
Chorded regret settles across my back
biting into flesh.
Stigmata was meant for martyrs.
With each step, pages of the journal fall from
the hole in my heart.
Leaves of paper. Autumn leaves and the finality of leaving.
I pay them no mind.
Tattered memories litter the path, the chlorophyll gone, meat for worms restless for the sun.
The space between the sky and the stone screams the silent shudder of flapping prayers.
I feel the mansion there. The presence looms
yet I cannot sense the summit. I can only focus on the ground
while my feet stumble for direction.
Step by step through jagged avarice and the self-adulation
of weather beaten stones.
Lichen shivering in a orchestral lament:
"It is so unfair"
"How could they do this to us?"
"How could they do this...to me?"
I shed the pangs of my heart
Like copper coins splashing into a fountain
I kiss the wind; scalding cracked lips and burning lungs and pray
Oh Lord please give me the mountain
scour away this limestone flesh
that I may feel the path through blazing neurons laid bare to the light of the sun
"The fundamental human experience is that of compassion. All life stinks and you must embrace that with compassion. The purpose of the journey is compassion. When you have come past the pairs of opposites, you have reached compassion."
"The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. "Live," Nietzsche says, "as though the day were here." It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal -carries the cross of the redeemer- not in the bright moments of his tribe's great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair."
Joseph Campbell - Hero with a Thousand Faces