Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Telling a story in clay, copper and words.
This month, one of my mixed media story pieces in on exhibit at the Multnomah Art Center in Portland. It's part of the 'Broadsides' exhibit, focusing on the blending of art and words. There are watercolors, photographs and drawings with stories, poems; hand-made books with solar printed pages.
My piece is the only 3 dimensional piece in the show, I'm honored to be included. Every part of the piece; the sheep screening mask, the copper repousse lion head, the clay/copper leaf covered face, the copper repousse illustration on the front relates to the story mounted under glass on the back of the piece.
Here is the text of the story I adapted from a Zen folktale.
The Lion and the Sheep
A Zen Story
In the shadow of a mountain, a herd of sheep lived and grazed on the cool, green grass. One day, close to a tall oak tree, there lay a small copper-colored lump of fur. The ewe bent down sniffing carefully but the lump did not move. Others began to gather around listening, curious, cautious because you never know what dangers may hurt you or the others in the herd. The ewe tried prodding the lump with her nose but it wouldn’t move. She could see its small chest rise with each breath, so she decided to lie down beside it to give it warmth and see if it would wake up. Tired of standing around waiting, the rest of the sheep moved to graze on the tender grass nearby. As night fell, the small furry bundle began to stir, the ewe licked its face and it nuzzled closer finding warm milk to drink.
Time went on and the ewe continued to take care of the foundling as part of the herd. All the sheep could see that this animal was different. The animal was taller than the biggest ram and her coat was the color of the warm, summer sunset rather than the clouds. Her copper-colored face was broader and her mouth was filled with big, sharp teeth. But she went along with the herd up the mountain paths, drank out of the streams and nibbled the grasses like all good sheep.
She was a lion. But living her life among sheep, she only knew sheep. The sheep never having seen a lion, did not know she was a lion. They all lived together in the same meadow eating, sleeping and moving as a herd. She became very good at spotting dangerous animals, so she guarded the herd at night and moved in front of the herd during the day.
Until one day, on the meadow, a sound rang out and the herd ran together for safety, except the copper-colored female. She stopped and turned toward the noise. Around the tree, came the largest beast they had ever seen. The herd bunched closer. Out in front, she moved toward the strange beast. The ewe bleated out to warn her but she kept going, stopping inches away. A quiver ran through the herd. The copper one looked at the beast unafraid. The beast saw itself in the other and nodding its head went to the stream. She followed. As the strange beast bent down to drink, she saw her own reflection and looking over saw the face of the beast in the still water. The images looked alike. Shocked, she drew back from the edge of the water and toward the herd. But the big beast stepped into her path blocking her way.
The beast roared and as the other sheep backed further away in fear, she nodded in understanding. She listed to the stranger’s message, where the others heard only terrifying noise.
The stranger said, “Don’t run away from who you are. You may have grown up here with a herd of sheep, but you have grown into a beautiful lion. Lions are strong, independent and brave. There are many more things that you can do, places you can go and other animals than the sheep and this safe, green meadow. Come with me.”
She had always known she was different from the sheep. But she had grown up living a sheep’s life. She liked the cozy security of the herd but not the grass. She liked moving about the mountain but she would like to see higher, go farther and sometimes the calls on the wind stirred restlessness inside her she did not understand. Now she could see her true self for the first time reflected in the eyes of the lion. For the first time in her life, she was not different but part of another family, one that she had yet to discover. She had a choice, stay with the safety of what she had been taught with the herd or honor her true self and strike out with a stranger into a new world.
The ewe stepped forward and said to her, “Many years ago, I found you dying under a bush and I could not let you starve to death. So, I nursed you and kept you warm in the safety of the herd. Now it is time for you to go your own way. Make your life your own; your own choices not those of the herd. You've always helped done your part here. Now you must do your part out there. I knew this time would come and now that it has, I can say that I’m proud of you and I know you have everything you’ll need right there inside of you. Use it well.”
The Lioness stepped up, gently nuzzled the ewe’s muzzle and bowed her head to the herd. Then she turned to the lion and they moved off toward the mountains sniffing the wind.