Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Flight -conclusion

Hang in there, my two papal pals, I’m crossing the finish line on Flight with this post.

The next two drawings, 16-17, have the cat entering a darkened house and following a ghostly form up the stairs. Originally, the figure on the stairs had defined features. Though I was happy with her appearance, I erased the details to create the more ghostly form.

I’m not sure when the idea of transforming the leaping cat into a crow or the ghost into a white owl-like form occurred to me, however the story of Noah releasing first a raven, then a dove helped shaped this idea. The raven didn’t come back. Smart bird. Note that the crow is always drawn against a light background and the owl against dark.

The next two large drawings are flights through the present -also back through time. The first is a field ready for harvest, which is at the core of Halloween’s history. Initially, Halloween was a harvest celebration in which bonfires played a ritualistic role. Hence the large fires in the distance. The next drawing, hopefully, brings home the point that this flight isn’t a straight shot from town A to town B (credit me for not saying “as the crow flies”). In this image, the owl is returning to its ghostly form. Whether or not stone circles were sacred places, I have used this circle to convey the other key aspect of Halloween’s past, remembrance of the dead.

By eliminating the background, I wanted the last four drawings to be separated from the previous three expansive landscapes. They continue the story, but are clearly a different chapter. The cat is again a cat, has returned to earth and found a home. I added the drawing of the girl (Emilie!) carving a pumpkin to indicate that a year has passed. Having brought the cat home the previous Halloween, I wanted to convey that she now senses a change in the air and, correspondingly, in the cat. She is gazing, not at the pumpkin, but forward towards the cat in the facing page. Here, on the final page, we are finally looking directly into the cat’s face at a very close distance. Though it doesn’t meet our gaze, I wanted its eyes to look fully alert. And, of course, the series loops –ending as it began.

For all who have toughed it out through these first posts, Kudos. Kudos. Unfortunately, like a bad penny, I will inevitably return to talk about this series. There’s Nietzsche here. Joseph Campbell? Of course. Even aspects of the Buddha’s journey to spiritual awakening. Hmmm.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Flight 2

ah, mid July. Let the sun shine. Let the birds sing. Let’s talk Halloween.

The next eight drawings (5-12) alternate between images with the cat walking down sidewalks and images of trick or treaters isolated without a background image. Originally, I planned to have the cat in all drawings, but it began to feel repetitive. The backgrounds images are from photographs I have taken about Davenport. Davenport, Iowa. Though the symbolism is not as overt as in the first four drawings, the skater and jester on stilts are symbols of folly. The seated dummy alludes to the Lord of Misrule. The following sentences from the Hunchback of Notre Dame refer to this medieval custom:

“Meanwhile, all of the beggars, all of the lackeys, all of the cutpurses, together with the students, had gone in procession to fetch from the wardrobe of the clerks that pasteboard tiara and the mock robe appropriated to the Fool’s Pope or Lord of Misrule. Quasimodo allowed himself to be arrayed in them without a frown, and with a sort of docility. They then seated him upon a parti-coloured litter."

One element of the story I considered, but failed to develop, was a jackal-like predator shadowing the cat. I intended to have this predator continue to close the gap until it was unexpectedly grabbed by tree limbs. Also, the two large figures dressed in rabbit costumes in the fifth drawings meet a horned man in a separate drawing that I decided not to keep in the series. I eliminated both secondary stories because they were confusing without a narrative.

In reading about Halloween, I was surprised to learn that the word is a corruption of the evening before All Saint’s Day -All Hallow’s Eve (hallow is another word for saint). All Saint’s Day, followed by All Soul’s Day, are Catholic holidays for remembrance of the dead. For this reason, I decided to have the cat walk through a beautifully lit cemetery –not one that is frightening. The lighted graves come from several traditions, Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos and Poland’s Wszystkich Świętych, when cemeteries are lit with candles and lamps. The entrance to the cemetery is another moon lit entrance. The vast majority of the graves in the fourteenth drawing are from photos of the German-American cemetery at Division and Rockingham Road, Davenport. And now, of course, a poem, Entrance to the City of the Dead:

Up on the two stone columns
that define the entrance
Are stood two winged angels.
Through their great lungs
Though their upturned faces
Through their tapered horns aimed towards the heavens
Comes forth a great music.

One plays the song of birth.
The other the song of death.

The brilliance of one is swallowed whole
By the dark beauty of the other
And we hear nothing
But the beating of our heart
-like great wings-
With the twin songs.