Monthly Archives: October 2007

Red Crow Sourbeer

Image: Terry Red Crow Sourbeer, Adanvdo (pr. Ah-dah-na-to)Cherokee word for ‘great spirit or great mystery,” 24” x 36,” acrylic on canvas*The underlying philosophical and spiritual similarities between proto-European German mysticism and Native American belief structures are not immediately apparent. We have become so accustomed to hyper-politicized historical analyses decrying the colonization of the “new world” and the concurrent persecution of its original inhabitants that to draw comparisons between the European and Native American world view appears insubstantial.Nevertheless, the visionary artist Terry Red Crow Sourbeer embodies the essential unity of these seemingly disparate traditions. Sourbeer’s life and work are testaments to the deep connections running through his ancestral heritage. The tribal name, Red Crow, represents the artist’s maternal connection to the Keetowa (Cherokee) Nation while the artist’s paternal lineage reaches back to the Black Forest Region of southwestern Germany. In 1682, his father’s ancestors immigrated to Pennsylvania.*The following statement on “Powwow” from the artist’s web site presents his background in his own words: Powwow is the very root of all indigenous folk healing (also know as witchcraft) in America. It is built upon personal and familial integrity. The Native American term Powwow refers to a shaman or teacher, a dream or vision. Powwow in the United States originated in the early 1700s when German witches fled Europe to escape persecution and gruesome death. Serendipitously, they found themselves in Penn’s Great Experiment where they shared their wisdom with Native American shaman. Powwow sprang forth as a result of the powerful combination of the mystical practices of these two diverse cultures. Terry Sourbeer, an elder of the Kiowa (Cherokee) people, is the product of that very same Native American/German lineage. His mother’s family fled the forced relocation— known as the Trail of Tears—carrying the ancient ways of the Cherokee. His father’s family fled witch-burning 17fh century Germany with the secrets of that culture.*The mysticism and pre-Christian spirituality of the Germanic tradition shares much with the Native American experience of Nature as a powerful spiritual force filled with life energy that man can use for good or for evil. Red Crow Sourbeer’s work is informed and animated by both the sunlit clarity of Nature’s nurturing qualities and its dark and mysterious nocturnal aspect.Terry Red Crow Sourbeer’s functions as teacher, healer, and artist exist simultaneously. As totemic symbolism of both Germanic and Native American cultures are combined in his contemporary artworks, he achieves the ancient alchemical goal of the conjunctio oppositorum (conjunction of opposites), in which all things are resolved into one thing – the mysterious eternal cycle of living and dying.*Paintings byTerry Red Crow SourbeerCherokee Spirit-Keeper and ShamanArtist Reception: Sun, Oct. 28, 1-5 pmCrazy Horse Gallery217 N. Miller, Street, Shillington, PA 19607 Light Refreshments ~ Native American MusicArtist Talk: Healing Symbols in PaintingExhibit to run from Oct 28 – Nov 29, 2007Gallery Hours: Tues and Thurs, 6 – 8 pmor by appointment: 610-698-8850Artist also on site: Sat, Nov. 10, 1-8 pm2 – 3 pm ~ The Susquehannocks: Workshop by Terry Red Crow Sourbeer, $10 admission5 – 6 pm ~ Screening of Haunted Highways (Terry’s TV Pilot) Free Admission

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“Paint the block.” – the Art of Ron Schira.

The gallery walls at Reading Area Community College are replete with art as reticent and muted as it is assertive and declarative. Conjunctions of opposites simultaneously coming into existence and being destroyed, the painted self-contained objects are manifestations and metaphors of both the imminence and impossibility of being – works of silence in which all things can be heard.*Upon entering the gallery space, an object enters our field of vision and stands as a sentinel silently proclaiming a message of paint and pain. One of the artist’s series of “Scrolls,” the piece hugs the wall yet invades our space. Rolled and bound, as are its series companions, “Scroll #17” bleeds paint with both sense and senselessness.Similarly, Shira’s “Remnants” series consists of enamel paintings on paper folded and bound. The artist’s apparent obsession with canceling the illusionist aspect of the act of painting and concretizing its result emerges as a metaphor for the combination of creation and destructive urges. Other methods of the artist’s processes include crumpling paintings and placing them under glass, inside of test tubes, and covering the painted surface with documentary media such as photographic film. * Schira is also a gifted writer. He was gracious to provide ARTology with an exclusive artist’s statement: “The works have more to do with the transmission of visual information and the varied ways that the info is cycled or relayed than what they appear to be, the scrolls and use of film and recording tape to me relates an art form in which the mode of communication has been deemed obsolete, realistic painting was replaced, more or less, by photography, and photography by the computer. The portraits are type fonts distorted into patterns that reduce a person into digital information which I then colorize with pencils to individualize and save from disappearing into the computer. The wraps are paintings that are folded and tied to give a different version of the scrolls, using the string, etc, as an element of the work. What the painting is, unfolded, is unimportant, how it is presented is. I consider the remnants to be sketches. The pipes are self contained art mechanisms that act as a conduit, but only to itself; colors, gestures, shape and form are only the tools we use to deceive ourselves and our audiences that what we are doing has significance, and of course art does has significance but in an abstruse sequence of incidental influences. I use history as a material. I want to keep the art object in the physical world of art and I do like to look at things, but the thing must to me have relevance and presence and be able to exist on its own. Once, a long time ago when my father was still alive, I told him I had an artistic block and was unable to paint, he told me to paint the block. I then painted a cement block with gold spray paint and gave it value.”*The notion of “painting the block” is perhaps the most telling clue available for true insight into Schira’s occasionally inscrutable concept-based art making. In the presence of his work one experiences palpable sensations of contradiction: expression/frustration, movement/blockage, affirmation/negation, being and nothingness.In an art context, this kind of truthfulness can be uncomfortable. Rather than using his work to present an idealized version of the artist’s oeuvre and ego, Schira creates an intentionally flawed aesthetic of imperfection. Through his work we confront not just our strength but also our fragility. The experience of being human is seen not as we’d prefer but as it is – both living and dying through each moment. This terrible contradiction is the block within us. By appropriating it into his art Schira reminds us of the work we must do to give it value.*Ron Schira’s “Pipe Dreams” is on view in the gallery of Reading Area Community College through October 26* Image: Ron Schira,”Scroll #17,” paper, acrylic, cord

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"The War" is not the war

In reviewing Ken Burns’ PBS series The War in the September 25 issue of Newsweek, David Gates quotes Ken Burns as saying he was appalled by American high school students’ lack of knowledge of World War II. The War is Burns’ attempt to rectify that situation. But while Burns succeeds in delivering much of the soldiers’ and civilians’ experience and some significant information about the war, he filters and distorts in ways that do a disservice to future generations of students and do not illuminate the crucial context within which human action and experience occurred.As a result, this version of the Second World War is less a historical document than it is an agenda-driven political statement. The director/producer’s self-admittedly revisionist point of view permeates the series in a seamless, inflexible manner throughout its 14-plus hours. Instead of providing a thoroughly comprehensive view of the epoch, its leaders, and the historical imperatives that drove the world to such extremities, The War is essentially a one-dimensional presentation. Burns presumes to show the human face of war. He accomplishes this. But his narrow focus never rises to the level of historical significance. His agenda promotes pacifist truisms that war is hell, soldiers suffer, leaders blunder, and old men send young men to their fate with questionable strategies and faulty planning. It prevents him from using available footage that would present a comprehensible overview of the underlying causes, political motivations, societal pressures, and cultural imperatives that made the conflict inevitable.The War presents none of Adolph Hitler’s mesmerizing tirades before hundreds of thousands of German citizens. Emperor Hirohito goes virtually unseen. The words of Franklin Roosevelt are heard for a few seconds while the camera is focused on the radio consoles from which his voice emanates. The leader of the free world is shown as a crippled old man at the end of his days. Interestingly, the fact that The War is a biased and lopsided documentary is made clearly evident by the aforementioned Newsweek story that praises it. After interviewing Burns and reviewing the series, Gates declares “The War” to have an implicit subtext – the war in Iraq. He includes “progressive” views of the uselessness, horror, and folly of war and sees them inherent in Burns’ series. Judiciously placed quotes from Burns buttress Gates’ views. It is clear that both men stand solidly on the same side of the political spectrum.By far the most disappointing thing about The War is that for generations of citizens educated by electronic media it will stand as the defining documentary of World War II. It is clearly not that. The series is a purposeful oversimplification created to promote an anti-patriotic and anti-nationalist pacifist agenda. Rather than give the world’s citizens the objective historical account they deserve, Burns proffers a thinly-veiled anti-war polemic. Instead of strengthening and inspiring viewers toward the more cohesive ethic of national purpose and social solidarity – the hallmark of the Allied involvement in World War II – the series weakens and further divides our resolve. And sadly but predictably, this is occurring during a time of war. Image from The War: http://www.pbs.org/thewar/

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