redhanded: a songe forre the loste

 selected text 

 

redhanded: a songe forre the loste

forewords ~ excerpts

 

       An irreverent devotion, drawing is what is left to me of religion.

Essentially self-taught, I have been influenced by everything and everyone at hand.  I learn through curiosity, patience, and constant practice, honing simple tools and skills.  I rely on the inherent disciplines of drawing to slow the world to a tolerable pace

       …I learned printmaking because of my love of drawing.  Etching and stone lithography allow time to draw in deliberate layered detail, building the intricate dark tones as implied colour.  Etching is for me a sinister medium.  Attracted by the black and white of line and space, I can seek and draw out the grey areas, both literal and figurative.  I use drawing and printmaking to blur the lines, alleviating a tangible sense of being either inside or out of culture and time…The entire process is very tactile.  It lends itself eloquently to a grrl’s-eye view of the brutal, yet unremarkable, worlds I knew as a grrl and live in as a womyn.

       …Traditional methods of printmaking seem most capable of involving the senses, and I find that slowing down the humyns, including myself, is always worth the trouble…

 

*******

       These line etchings are dark-humoured mirrors of the microcosm into which I was born and the alien macrocosm I encountered afterward.  In the venerable words of Edward Gorey, “A lot of my work has to do with reality.  I’m a firm believer in cause and effect.  Fantasy and macabre are words I don’t much care for. What I’m really doing is something else entirely.  I’m scouring a deep reality of everyday life.  There’s another world, but it’s in this one.  The world is not what it seems---but it isn’t anything else either.

       …I draw to try to understand, to search for alternate ways of seeing.  I learn from the inside out, redrawing accepted reality.  To stay engaged in the difficult world, it is a way to make sense out of chaos. 

       The poems for this series were made tangible, letter by letter, building the words in my hands.  The weight and sound of lead type, the smell of metal and ink, the first sight of the words in the form, the taste of the poem as I read how it moves on the page of this beautiful paper keep all senses in motion together to make meaning of words.

       The poems are printed on and backed by translucent handmade papers, so the line etching will first be revealed through the poem…In engaging all the senses, nothing can be entirely hidden anymore…

 

*******

       Thisse spellinge ande lacke of uppre case inne the titles came fromme mye informalle studye of middle englishe ande frenche.  At the age of fifteen, I began this language to demystify and reclaim the early Anabaptist social context which formed me.  Double consonants and extra e’s served to soften unfamiliar North American harshness of speech to my mind’s ear.  It was one of many attempts to slow modern culture to my own deliberate antiquated frame of reference.  In the society I came from, fashioned on old European sensibility and pace, nearly everything was handmade.  I still prefer to move slowly and align better with others when they slow down.  This way with language helps bring the world to eye level, as I seek common experience and inclusion of the unfamiliar…

       I have found a measure of corroboration for my sardonic vantage point in the drawing printmakers of Central and Eastern Europe.  Their sense of the ridiculous and attention to detail is welcome relief from the oblique glamours of post-modernity and pop culture…

 

*******

       I made this work as an enduring testimony to the vulnerability and resilience of children.  It is meant as a satirical indictment of people who bear and train children to violence.  A place of mourning and remembrance, it is a war memorial and witness for children lost in the rituals of violence.  These children come from a variety of systems where god, man, and the fathers are venerated as all-powerful and not accountable to the world outside the system.  It is a misuse of power.

       Everyone has the capacity to sympathize with the terror and rage of children.  We have all been children, but we too quickly forget that their bodies are smaller and senses more impressionable and vulnerable than our own.  All children live in the presence of habitual violence.  Much in everyday life causes them to fear for their safety.  The senses of a small person subjected to extremes of violence become crossed and tangled.  The consequence is loss of intuitive connection with the abundant natural external and internal realms.

       So many children live in unremitting dread that affects how they come to perceive the world around them.  They lose the ability to pay attention.  Culture is permeated with threat.  Children's and womyn’s lives are plagued with violence in loss of safety of the body and home, abandonment of kinship, dissipation of community, and destruction of the sustaining natural world.  We are losing the solace and reflected wonder abiding in wild nature’s realms.  No aspect of the humyn world’s control and methodical will to destruction can replace the diverse sanctity of wilderness.

       Children are good observers.  This culture teaches them to harm others before they are themselves harmed.  Politicians, the media, military, and others whose morality has been compromised, teach this by industrious public example.  With repetition, these lessons form who we are.  Yet children are told, especially on Sundays, they must do to others as they would be done unto.  These contradictions are not lost on the innocent…

       Some people are visually oriented, some more verbal, and there is great variety in the use of words.  For me, poetry is drawing with words.  Because they were deliberately usurped and distorted in my experience, I long for true words.  These etchings, poems, and rant, fore and aft, are alternative doorways into understanding this work.

 

*******

       The working title of this series of thirteen line etchings was: the undreside of familye values ande othre anaerobicke socialle systemmes.  I spent my formative years in a fabricated closed fourteenth century European society in the jungle islands of Paraguay. In an attempt to replicate the early Christians, this group associated itself with sects of the Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterians.  The impenetrable Christian facade of The Brotherhood in Paraguay concealed severe ritual violence. My father was a radical Christian pacifist whose clandestine violence, with my mother’s complicity, also compromised my early sense of family.  An isolated childhood caused me to study the cultures I later encountered with anthropological interest.  The life stories of countless others and my own have rendered suspect any social structure.  This work is informed by what I have learned from people of many religious, psychological, and mercenary systems.  Research has confirmed what I learned.

       The title of the completed series of etchings and poems is redhanded: a songe forre the loste.  Many perpetrators of violence, without conscience or remorse, expunge the evidence of their crimes.  These etchings and poems are an indictment of torturers at every level.  Like Lady Macbeth, they cannot remove the stigmata of guilt.  Much time and effort are wasted in trying to wash away the stains of profound and commonplace tragedy.

 

*******

       It is disturbing to me that the memorials and texts children have to look upon and learn from predominantly concern the supposed heroic loud male endeavors, from which historically come so much long-term harm and suffering.  In contrast, statistics reveal that one in two children is neglected or abused. One in three womyn is raped.  Woodlands, the Earth’s lungs, are leveled to build second homes and the gazillionth shopping center for people who already have too much.  The quiet habitat of the wild, without which no one can survive, is being stolen away.  Cultural indoctrination in movies, television, and video games are filled with examples of what happens if one is not the biggest, loudest, most well-lit, heavily armed, or wealthiest boy in the school yard, or the girl most worthy of being next to him.

       The everyday incidences of violence experienced by children are both mundane, in family, church, and community, and somewhat rarified, as in the public sacrifice of children in the Waco, Texas conflagration.  It is my belief that cultures capable of child sacrifice are capable of anything, even redemption.

       Womyn and men who do the quiet work of everyday care set good example and warrant respect.  They keep showing up, no matter what, with inestimable courage and perseverance.  Continuing to disregard the resourceful generosity of the shero warriors undermines the very kind of justice and sheroism the world most needs.  The bodhisattva who counts herself only among the chosen of the entire world is a messiah worth waiting for.  She who seeks not her own transcendence without that of all creation is the teacher worth taking to heart.  First among these womyn is the Earth herself.

 

*******

       redhanded: a songe forre the loste concerns a subject far reaching as humyn time and old as social herstory.  Its witness is a wailing wall for the endless, undeclared global war on childhood and for the quiet sanctity of wilderness that makes true growth possible.  Humyn beings need the abiding knowledge that the mysteries are alive and well in the wild places where even they do not go.  The humyn realm is often treacherous for children, who need the sacred power inherent in every living thing in order to comprehend their world.

       This seemingly Byzantine series speaks for children silenced in the pornography of violence hidden in plain sight, wherever the left hand does not attend to what the right hand is doing…These images are not metaphoric…Humyn history’s shameful legacy causes the world’s children to become grimly habituated to the ingrained rituals of violence that shape the adults they become.  War relentlessly violates the daily lives of untold children.

       redhanded: a songe forre the loste is an attempt to literally draw out what it feels like to live inside a small body and developing mind subjected to the purposeful and expedient savagery of torture, and the terror and rage left in its wake.  This is what it is like for a child trapped inside habitual and unpredictable terror.

 

*******

        …An obvious sign of our complicity in harming the world is shown in the willful ignorance and stupefaction some can afford while others cannot.  In making more and less of ourselves than we are, in owning more than we are entitled to, we lose a healthy sense of shame, modesty, moderation, and the native kindness that preserves the world we all live in.

       The hope for children trapped in the ongoing rituals of violence, I must believe, thrives in our defiance of all that undermines our senses of kinship.  Respect for humyn life and the wilderness within and around us relies upon our power to turn toward a resilient empathy that cannot be distracted, narrowed, shamed, turned ironic, or brought down.

       In constant struggle to understand those who willfully and purposefully harmed me, I come to see my own reflection in them.  They were once children.  But I am “...made of sterner curiosity” (James Thurber).  I cannot settle for the simplistic notion of good versus evil.  Perhaps instead, there is “between grief and indifference: sadness” (Charles Baxter), a search for mourning without the dissemblances of self-pity and entitlement.

       To symbolize or move beyond the lost is exactly what allows us to overlook them.  These indulgences prevent our learning what we can, to make a world safer for children and nature…

 

*******

       The number thirteen is significant in the series as a whole.  General knowledge was forbidden in The Brotherhood in Paraguay, and I began to read everything I could lay my hands on when I came out into the world.  Humyns having proved themselves unsafe, books joined the family where I had found kinship only with plants and animals.  To learn the documented practices of others, I read voraciously in all the world religions.  I found the mystical forms, which predate institutional religious traditions, to be very similar and, one might say, pagan-based.  Modern religious lore often considers thirteen an evil number, but in older traditions it held a kind of natural magic.  I like the relative stability of prime numbers, particularly the number thirteen.  Once one gets to it, there is almost too much for the brain to manage all at once.  There is an implied safety, in that thirteen can neither be counted efficiently nor be wholly divided against itself…

       As in my own experience of it, the belief that grrls, womyn, and nature harbour willful destructive power over the machinations of man distorts the developments of every grrl and boy.  It is also an effective distraction from the real destructive practices of men.  God the father remains an idea to which one must be convinced.  The Earth, mother of all, is everywhere to be seen.  Present-day permutations of belief in the God-father contribute to the mass male psychosis of violence.

       The men in each print tend to look the same.  For example, the wire-rimmed glasses and beards were patterned after the charismatic leader.  This direct reference from my upbringing is also a commentary on the imitative behaviors I see in broader society today, where people in the general population willingly give up their capacity to think and act with the long view in mind…

 

*******

       The terrors are both shown and hidden in each print and title.  With underhanded humour, some of the drawings reveal the hidden and some obscure the obvious…

       I had trouble drawing the mothers as humyn beings because of the capitulation of their much-lauded maternal instinct.  I drew them as cats, in unwholye trinitye/intimate predatorre and lighte ande the resurrectionne, to make more bearable the transfer of their devotion and protection from children to men.  Knowing the children best, and forced by men to choose among them, mothers and womyn teachers become procurers of the sacrifice children.  These children are designated as demon children to minimize the loss, in that they are not worth saving.  The same selection process christens the savior/hero children.  A form of this tracking and selection practice is well known in families, schools, and communities.

       …Womyn collude with men in these rituals of violence by mindlessly continuing to bear their children.  In choosing children for sacrifice, they must keep themselves willfully blind.  While working on the etching plate for this print, I drew what it feels like for the child.  All the time drawing or not drawing, my body was in a great deal of pain because it remembers that feeling very tangibly.  Pain, fear, fury, and deep hilarity are all ways of carrying the lost.  Forgetting is complicity, enabling the most intimate form of the eternal war to continue unheeded.

 

*******

       …The small disembodied hands in the prints are the lingering presence of the broken and lost children.  The letterpressed poems’ translucent papers conjure the disregarded caul of children born and lost in bondage.  Their unquiet shades, asleep or waking, follow us all.