Beware the Serpent

I don't know how to start exactly. I've been gone a long time. When I left my desk job the time I had to sit and write long posts with links and research was gone, I focused on my art, switched to the format of instagram and minimal chatter from me. In a way I was tired of talking anyway, turned inwards, kept my thoughts and motivations to myself and let my output be a little more mysterious. I feel that generally there are more important, informed and interesting voices than mine out there, and got tired of this push to join the din of constant posting, hot takes and "content".  Lately though I've reconsidered and I want to go back to making people aware of the context behind what I'm doing or making at any given time. You can do what you wish with the information, the art is still yours to find whatever you want in it.

Recently Tamara SantibaƱez, an artist and person I admire, asked me to create artwork for a prayer candle available through Discipline Press (please read their interviews and articles and really look at the work they're doing!) the proceeds of which would be donated to a organization of my choosing.  The proceeds from my candle go to United We Dream and the proceeds from the other candle, made by Marilyn Rondon go to the Standing Rock Legal Defense Fund

Here's my original artwork for my candle:

As usual, I thought long and hard about what I was making to the point of driving myself insane, because I see prayer candles as being a hopeful wish for the future and all I could think of was a warning. But warnings give strength same as hope.  The quote is a paraphrasing (for the sake of space) of a warning by the Pythia at Delphi (which I previously hid in encrypted form in another painting).  The full quote is "Beware the serpent, earthborn in craftiness, coming behind thee" and it was a warning given to Lysander who was supposedly killed from behind by a warrior with a serpent painted on his shield. It's a typical twist of fate that shows the danger in misinterpreting a warning, or not seeing it in it's complexity, of not being able to see all the forms your destruction might take.

I started thinking about oracles and warnings post election when my friend Katie made that connection and posted this quote from Aeschylus' Agamemnon which is also used in the opening of Watership Down:

CHORUS: Why do you cry out thus, unless at some vision of horror?
CASSANDRA: The house reeks of death and dripping blood.
CHORUS: How so? ‘Tis but the odor of the altar sacrifice.
CASSANDRA: The stench is like a breath from the tomb.
Cassandra was a woman cursed with the ability to know the future but never be believed, to see doom ahead and all around her but be powerless to stop it, to be cast as insane when she was the only one who knew the truth.  I think of all the signs we have ignored throughout history, all the people who screamed and begged for someone to see that they were suffering, that our society was sick, that the earth was being destroyed without being believed.  People who articulated in every way possible what we really were and also what we could be instead, who showed us new ways to think about labor, community, gender, race, sexuality, bodies, art, religion, justice, history and culture.  I thought about the importance of listening for warnings and truths even when our privilege insulates us from having to. I think about how where we are now is fully the end result of ignoring the warnings of poc, lgbtqi people, indigenous people, women, the poor, people with disabilities, people who do all the hard work and heavy lifting, who see our society for what it really is and know the full extent of the harm it can do, who were able to look backwards and forwards, see who we really are and not only warn us but show us a better way to live which we have rejected in favor of even the mildest of comforts and soothing falsehoods.  
A couple years ago I read "The Ancient Oracles: Making the Gods Speak" and it set off a chain of thought I can't quite connect fully but it's been simmering in my head for a while. Thinking about what it's like to live in a world where you believe your fate is predetermined but to go on anyway, to fight against it or be lulled into a false sense of security because you're not able to interpret it. Or of getting caught up in the cycle that plays out in tragedies like MacBeth or Oedopus, where being told that your fate is determined sets you on a path that can only result in it coming to pass. How limited has our imagination become because of some belief that this world that has been shaped by the worst and least kind motivations is "natural" and inevitable?
Beware and fight back. Support everyone who has been doing the hard work and speaking the truth for so long who you haven't heard.  Support movements led by marginalized people who know the way forward and know a better world is possible. Follow their lead, divest from your own future and invest in theirs.  Look around you where you live and offer your support and resources without being motivated by praise or status. Learn not to be sensitive in places where you have privilege and step to the back, you don't deserve the trust of anyone who feels let down. It's not enough to not actively hate someone, you have to really care about them. You have to see that their survival is as important as your own if we want to turn away from a doomed fate.  

This is the "contact" section of my website. I realize a lot of people have never/will never stumble across it so I thought I'd post it here. If you are raising funds to help your struggling community survive please know my art is yours, my time is yours, whether you need something for a project or fundraiser or money I can provide just by selling my art and sending it your way let me know. I have a day job so sometimes it might take a while but I'll always try my hardest. This is what money I make from my art has primarily gone to for years and it's what I hope to always be able to use my art for. I know not everyone is in a position to do this. Making art is labor and creators deserve compensation and credit and I will always be vocal about that as well.