Journal Entry: Water & Sky, Cradle of Life, Art and Expression
Looking at the World & Seeing Within
Water & sky, a cradle and a harbor – we are held in comfort and an iron-tight grip. Existence without either is impossible for life as we know it. The atmosphere abounds with possibilty, a harbor of life, a source of danger, and death. Tiny, we are cradled with ease within a vastness beyond our control and not of our making.
Sunset on Kaanapali Beach, Maui
Journal Entry: Water & Sky
The Hydrosphere in Culture & History
This Journal Entry: Water & Sky reveals, with some light and clarity, shadowed areas in my creative process. I start with this premise; it is impossible to know the ‘why’ without asking the question. Does it begin at the easel? Sometimes. But, I find written self-examinations also reveal the hidden. Words and language help define my trail.
I believe making art is a method of transcribing mental perceptions. Turning the seen and unseen into a visual image or object of some kind. From a world view, my work explores the many aspects of the ecosphere. The Earth’s hydrosphere and it’s atmosphere sit as two components within this encompassing system. Like the sun’s rays, language provides illuminating light.
I search, an eye always on the distant horizon. It is shrouded at times or beyond my ability to see clearly. This horizon exists in the real and in the fantastical. A place of mystery and myth as well as science. Laden like a raincloud, with metaphor and analogy, art acts as a symbol and cypher.
History reveals, art forms that represent everything from landscape to belief. Embued in coded messages, even the politically significant can be concealed in the splendor of the land itself. A power art has that is, perhaps, greater than that, of science.
I am not just writing about some far off, somewhere. It is a place within the ecosystem and held in dream-state. It is both within and without. However, it is the ecosystem that binds me to life. It provides the sustenance that makes art possible. I am an enraptured puppet, desiring to look deeper, to find the strings.
The Waters of …
The Ancient & Classical Worlds
Civilization has always flourished around rivers and waterways. Many theorists believe that the Tigris and Euphrates, are the actual cradles of all human life. The great rivers of antiquity are rooted deeply in mankind’s cultural myths. Our thoughts about them are anchored by the centuries. In changing shapes and stories, these great rivers are intrinsic to living. They have and continue to mark and shape us.
Our perceptions flow with these rivers of time. How we think and how we feel can be as mutable as the landscape beneath their waters. These rivers are our waters of life. It often seems forgotten, here we are not alone. But our actions and beliefs are anchored in the centuries, like the waterway to the shore.
“The Nile appeareth at thy utterance, making men live through the effluxes that come forth from thy members, making all cultivated lands to be green by thy coming, great source of things which bloom, sap of crops and herbs, lords of millions of years, sustainer of wild animals, lord of cattle; the support of whatsoever is in the heavens is thine, what is in the waters is thine.”– Egyptian Book of the Dead
Along with earth and fire, the ancient Greeks considered both water and air to be classical elements. An intricate system, difference exists at the molecular. Each, are vast oceans of elements locked in constant interchange.
Gently drifting clouds, thunderstorms, warm beach waves and crashing surf mesmerize me. The power and forms these unique forces assume are many, and memorable. We flail at the power of a tsunami, hurricane, tornado or powerful lightning storm. I find it hard not to be aware of my diminutive size when contemplating the forces moving about the Earth.
“……perceiving that the world is dense, sensing to what degree a stone is foreign and irreducible to us, with what intensity nature or landscape can negate us. At the heart of all being lies something inhuman…The primitive hostility of the world rises to face us across millennia…that denseness and strangeness of the world is the absurd.– Albert Camus
Notebook Post: Hydrosphere & Atmosphere
The Air That We Breathe
The Earth’s atmosphere weighs over 5,000 trillion tons. It is bound by the laws of thermodynamics. As great art can be, the atmosphere is complex and multilayered. It is life’s protective shielding and in its embrace, we prosper.
Art functions for me much like the atmosphere does for life on this planet. In art’s embrace I prosper. I’ve realized over time it is nearly impossible for me walk away from artmaking. Having said that, art obviously does do this in a manner completely different than that of the atmosphere. Art provides context and a richness to living.
Photons scattering through the Earth’s atmosphere paint the sky blue. The sky boils and seethes with energy fueling creative inspiration. In current and cascade, the atmosphere circulates as sun warmed pockets of water vapors rise, cool, condense and fall.
I drift freely as an artist to a place I sometimes touch upon when meditating. The world around me shapes my artwork. I can see it, even when I fail to unravel the reasons.
Caldera Sky, Volcano National Park
Cauldron of Creativity
Searching for Metaphor
“The arts are innately focused, toward certain forms and themes but are otherwise freely constructed. The archetypes spawn legions of metaphors that compose not only a large part of the arts, but also ordinary communication. Metaphors, the consequence of spreading activation of the brain during learning, are the building blocks of creative thought. They connect and synergistically strengthen different spheres of memory.”– E.O. Wilson: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Vapor and ice particles form, in the clouds over our heads. Those changing cloud formations are fed through water evaporation. They gain nourishment from oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. The transpiration of plants and the breath we exhale acts in the same way.
“A storm is not a thing, it’s a collection of occurrences. A cloud above a mountain is not a thing, it is the condensation of humidity in the air that wind blows over a mountain. A wave is not a thing, it is a movement of water, and the water that forms it is always different.”– Carlo Rovelli: The Order of Time
Water returns to us as raindrops formed around dust and pollutants. At any given moment, there are an estimated 1,800 thunderstorms happening. A single, typical thunderstorm can draw a half-million tons of water into the air. And it can release enough energy to power a city of 100, 000, for a month.
Harbor & Cradle
Source of All Life
Water covers seventy percent of the Earth’s surface. Over the course of evolutionary history, increasingly complex lifeforms crawled their way out of the oceans. But, life brought the sea with it. The human body contains anywhere between 55-78% water. We are oceans within.
Water is not a finite resource. Precipitation recirculates drinkable water. And this recirculation happens at a rate much higher than human consumption. Water’s distribution in land held reserves is what is, in fact, non-renewable.
The United Nations has reported that there is enough water for all of us. It is mismanagement, corruption and the corporate lust for power and profit that has hampered equal access to this vital resource. A dark cloud with little of a silver lining, and a sad note to think about in this Journal Entry: Water & Sky.
Each year people die in the thousands and millions due to draught and waterborne disease. The quality of drinking water is expected to decrease. As a result, it is predicted the total number of people dying of thirst and disease will increase. Pollution and waste-water dumping will be huge cause in this decrease in quality.
Flotsam & Jetsam
Adrift in the Hydrosphere
The total amount of water on Earth is equal to roughly 330 million cubic miles. Every cubic mile of water is equal to more than 1 trillion gallons and it never sits still. Water coexists with itself in all forms. It does so simultaneously across the planet as a solid, a liquid and in a gaseous state. It can be all at once – ice, steam, vapor, snow, fog, dew, rain or cloud. The planet’s hydrosphere borders the cryosphere. It lies over and around the lithosphere. In constant changing patterns, in complex chemical interchanges, they form the ecosphere and the ecosystem that sustains us.
The friction between wind and water generates wave trains that span entire oceans. Vast transports of energy, a one-meter wave can carry over 1,300 horsepower as it strikes the coastline. I am, we are all flotsam and jetsam. As I begin to near the shores of my final destiny, I have become increasingly aware of an undertow. Art gives me the strength to dance with these waves instead of drown. I search for the words to place these marvels in context with my work, in this Journal Entry: Water & Sky.
Spanning the Cosmos
Scientists think that, for nearly its entire existence, water has been prevalent in the universe. A vital solvent in our metabolic processes, star formation produces much of the water in the universe as a by-product. Do you wonder, was complex life certain? Or is it more probable, that life as we know developed as a by-product?
The birth of a star is accompanied by the outward pouring of wind, dust and gas. These shockwaves of force impact surrounding gases. They compress, heat and form water. I also explore aspects of this in the Journal Entry: Universal Truth.
Starlight is Elemental
Researchers have detected 140 trillion times more water than is held in Earth’s oceans, in a single vast vapor cloud. Incredibly, this cloud was found swirling around a quasar 12 billion-million miles from Earth. Water has been detected in interstellar clouds. In our galaxy, it is found in various states in the rings and moons of the planet Saturn. Water is found as well on the moons of Jupiter, Mars, and Pluto. And it is found in comets. Each year, we locate more water in space. In fact, it may be plentiful. Our ability to get to it, however, is limited.
Our Global Systems
We’ve all heard the warnings. Scientists predict warm, hot weather to increase. This hot weather is expected to increase in total number of days each year. In conjunction, these stretches of intense heat are also predicted to last in longer duration.
Planetary warming or Dance Macabre? The Artic permafrost is melting and this increased heat and melting is contributing to fire-friendly draught conditions. In turn, fires combust plants and, as a result, the carbon contained in plants is released back into the atmosphere. A positive feedback loop develops as wildfires burn and plants die. These conditions are worsened by warming, which in turn worsen the warming of the entire planet.
“Furthermore, the destruction of humanity’s home by humanity’s own actions is not something that can be coped with adequately – and that means, confronted – by our current belief system. This creed, which has held sway since the second world war, has a single, honorable aim: to advance human welfare. It wants people everywhere to be free from hunger and fear and disease, and in so far as possible, to be happy and to live fulfilled lives...it is principled…upright…it is admirable. But there is a gap at its core: the failure to acknowledge that humans are not necessarily good. Still less does it admit that more, there may be something more intrinsically troubling about humans as a species: that homo sapiens may be the Earth’s problem child.”– Michael J. McCarthy: The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy
Thought & Expression
Water and Sky are life’s cradle, and harbor. They are sources of creative inspiration. As subject and object, they take shape in the art I make. The many wonders of the world are a passion of mine. I think it natural to want to explore them through representation in my artwork. But, I am also looking for those ways the world’s wonders impact my artmaking psychologically. How do they drive me and how aware of those driving factors am I?
I am well aware of humanities’ many failures on this Earth. Knowing these, I still choose to explore and celebrate the wonders I see. I find them to be elemental. I know that art can be a form of political action. How it manifests is up to the artist. I can’t help but think, our survival may depend on all of us being fully engaged in dealing wiith these challenges.
Art can drive awareness, through its inherent and various qualities. It assumes many forms in how it can accomplish this aim. Visual images, words, music, language are all powerful artmaking tools. I admit, there are days that I despair. But, I try and stay focused on hope and possibility. Artmaking for me, is all about possibilty. Particularly, I think, when sitting quietly and looking deeply at the world right in front of me.
If sages both ancient and modern are correct, change comes from within. This I imagine to be a necessary precursor to any change that happens without. Writing this Journal Entry: Water & Sky, like other essays on this site, is one of the ways I search for context while creating my work. It is a recording of many ideas and a tool for developing them further. Larger still perhaps, is the fact that making art is the way I find context to living.
“Surrounded by despair, there is a new and unheard-of-theme that artists can offer the world, (philosopher) Ger Groot says. This is how we can be reconciled. Artists have the unique chance to confirm, ‘that life is good to live, despite all that it appears’.”– Joost Smiers: Arts Under Pressure: Protecting Cultural Diversity in the Age of Globalisation
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