Sunday, July 18, 2010


Dear PILGRIMS! Where are you on your JOURNEY? Would you like to join Hallelujah as she SOJOURNS into the Cretaceous of northeastern Australia in search of ART? Her Chiboogamoo gallantly invited her to join him on Australia’s “Dinosaur Trail” to visit the paleo-past. In this part of Queensland, which is now “bush,” there was a GREAT INLAND SEA. Can you believe that where there are now rolling grass plains, crackling clay soils and eucalyptus trees, marine reptiles such as the ichthyosaur, plesiosaur, and kronosaurus swam in vast oceans and left behind their remains along with terrestrial dinosaurs. And much smaller forms of life also left evidence of their existence. Hallelujah found it FASCINATING to traverse time by seeing their ARTISTIC OUTCOMES.

 Our first stop along the dinosaur trail was Hughenden, an inland town with a population of 1,500 located 381 kilometers west of the coastal city of Townsville, which hugs the Great Barrier Reef. Mutt, or Muttaburrasaurus, was the first display of creativity we saw as we approached Hughenden’s main street. Dear dino-art, lovingly conveying an ornithopod in careful tones of brown! REALLY, what skin color were those herbivores?

Inside the Flinders Discovery Center one block away, curious visitors can see a replica of the fossil bones of Muttaburrasaurus, standing seven meters tall! Look at his horizontally slanted body and erect tail! Oh! BEAUTIFUL! Hallelujah was thrilled to see older ARTISTIC depictions of dinosaurs in this exhibit. They reminded her of the dinosaur images of her childhood—heavy bodied beasts with tails dragging. ART is informed by SCIENCE (Hallelujah LOVES science)! As scientists learned that dinosaurs moved more like mammals and birds and not reptiles, their tails went airborne! Hence, the ARTISTIC depictions reflect those SCIENTIFIC discoveries.

One of the first fossils that greets the careful viewer is a modest block of limestone with embedded treasures! A carefully written note below this fossil rock, which encases “hash,” a conglomeration of bits and pieces from sea life more than 90 million years ago, enthusiastically exclaims: “It is a great example of how we stumble upon fossil strewn rocks which could be classified as art.” This particular conglomerate contains bivalves, gastropods, sharks teeth, clamshells and belemnites (squid like creatures). The exuberance of the educational note continues, “Everywhere you look, there is something wondrous to see and is representative of the rich environment that existed here in north west Queensland.” Hallelujah believes she has found a kindred spirit in the one who wrote this exuberant and informative note! Yes! Everywhere we look, there is something WONDROUS to SEE!

The Flinders Discovery Center presents an artistically dynamic film that explains the formation of the earth, the continents, the seas, and land formations. The flashing lights and booming sounds in this documentary bring us to the specific formation of Porcupine Gorge, a national park about 50 kilometers from Hughenden. A tourist brochure writes about its geological formation in this way, “ Porcupine Gorge National Park has over 500 million years of history, with stories of glaciers GOUGING the land and rivers ERODING soils to create CHASMS in the earth.” Hallelujah has capitalized the exciting words “gouging, eroding, and chasms” for emphasis! OH HALLELUJAH for CREATION! The great waters, land emerging, life forming—here we are PILGRIMS in the VAST UNIVERSE! The ART of FILM conveys this multi-million year process!

In this small town comprising several blocks, ART has been consciously constructed to honor this Queensland’s town’s role in paleontology. FOSSIL ART grace two walls of the public library! View “Darby the Dinosaur,” also known as “Junkasaurus,” which artists Sam Brown and Terry Lindsay made from found objects to depict Muttaburrasaurus in 1998 for Biennial Dinosaur Festival. Then there is the fantastic ammonite on the entrance side of the library. Hallelujah apologizes for the absence of the artist’s name. Beside the library is a metal sculpture of the pterosaur, “Leannosaur,” which was modeled on a specimen found in Hughenden in 1980.

Hallelujah found art everywhere in this western Queensland town! The local café had nurmerous images of Elvis and the owner longs to visit Graceland. The only hotel in town is closed because of safety violations but the local art remains vibrant on its courtyard side. Hallelujah also wanted to show evidence of artistic leanings in the most humble of motels located next to a pub and bottle shop (euphemism for liquor store). Here she poses in front of the GLORIOUSLY magenta painted wall with a box of Weet-Bix, the tasty Australian breakfast biscuit that fed her and Chiboogamoo throughout their western Queensland journey into the Cretaceous!

Thank you Hughenden for your jewels in paleontology. Thank you for your ART,  and for feeding my PILGRIM’S SOUL! You have given me EVIDENCE of EXISTENCE from the 100 million years ago! Both in FOSSILS and FOSSIL ART!

What will Hallelujah give as EVIDENCE of HER EXISTENCE? HER ART? HER BEING upon this EARTH? Dear PILGRIM, what will you leave as EVIDENCE of YOUR EXISTENCE? Write Hallelujah and soul blog your ideas for LEAVING TRACES of WHO YOU ARE BEHIND! Hallelujah LOVES YOU!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

ART as a POLITICAL and SOCIAL ACT (Sydney Part II)

Dear Fellow Pilgrims, the Australian Museum is not free, but as it is dedicated to many aspects of life both natural and cultural, both Hallelujah and her Chiboogamoo decided to pay the fee to enter its worthy exhibits. Although Hallelujah rejoices in megafauna, dinosaurs, and all things geological that she can share with her Chiboogamoo, she chose to study in depth the museum’s Aboriginal cultural exhibit. Specifically, I looked at the work of a contemporary artist—Kevin Butler—who grew up in Sydney. His work demonstrates how ART can serve political and social needs.

 When Kevin Butler was 2 weeks old, he was stolen from his biological parents and given to a new set of parents. The year was 1962; the country was Australia. He was Aboriginal. His adoptive parents were not. Their job was to assimilate him into mainstream white Australian culture so he could be a “useful” citizen. This was the ideology of the “Aboriginal Protection Board.” Butler is one of 100,000 people who are now called the “Stolen Generation.”

(At the opening to Butler's 3D maze, a video using a painting of the maze explains the labyrinth of social horrors that many children from the Stolen Generation have encountered all of their lives.)

His 3-dimensional work there in the Australian Museum in Sydney is a physical maze with paintings that has the viewer walk through a visual representation of the tribulations that the Aboriginal child encountered during his upbringing in a non-Aboriginal household.

 This work, ironically called “Assimilation,” combines both a modern sense of story telling with an Aboriginal style of painting with dots that began in the central desert of Australia. Butler’s execution of imagery is startling bare, and his emotion is raw. The assimilation, the viewer discovers, is domestic violence, alcoholism, racism, suicide, depression, and poor health.

His work serves the invaluable function of articulating to two social groups (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) the horrible reality that members of the stolen generation have experienced. His ART evokes understanding and ultimately empathy from its viewers. As a United States citizen, Hallelujah thinks of the indigenous people who were living in North America when the Europeans landed on its shores and the similar problems they are experiencing in their communities today.

Currently, Butler is a recognized and productive artist, who is also involved with public artworks, having completed 27 murals for various libraries and public schools. It is interesting to note that he began painting in 1988, when Australia “protested/celebrated” its bicentennial. From the aboriginal perspective, a 30,000 to 40,000 year old one, it was a protest. Their country was much older than the 200 years of rule that the white colonizers from Britain were celebrating. Butler started to paint in order to “express his spiritual connection” with his Aboriginal land and culture. To assist other Aboriginals in connecting with their heritage, Butler is involved with the organization, Link Up, which not only helps adult aboriginals from the stolen generation find their biological parents but also provides them with counseling and support.

Hallelujah is in awe of Kevin Butler’s difficult and artful journey. The work she shows here are snippets photographed from his MAZE in the Australian Museum. MAZE… is part of the word—AMAZED. Thank you Kevin Butler for your strength, your spirit, and perseverance, and productive survival. Thank you for your dedication to help others find themselves in the JOURNEY.

Hallelujah asks all of her FELLOW PILGRIMS--Is YOUR JOURNEY a MAZE? Are you AMAZED on your JOURNEY? Please SOUL BLOG Hallelujah your thoughts about this journey. Bless you one and all!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Hallelujah for the exuberant shiny cities of the world! Hallelujah for Sydney, Australia! My PILGRIMAGE took me to New South Wales to see what I might learn from being in the same landscape as Sydney’s iconic opera house and bridge.

Along the city harbor—at the opposite end of the opera house—is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) which has dedicated its entire exhibition space from May 12th to August 1st to Sydney’s 17th Biennale (Australians say it like “bee-in-al-ee”).

(Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art with American Roxy Pane’s 2010 sculpture “Neuron” positioned at its entrance. Photo by my dear dear Chiboogamoo! )

Although this celebration of contemporary art is housed in many venues around the city, its main venue other than MCA is Cockatoo Island, which is a free short ferry ride away from harbor quay. I spent some significant time at these two biennale sites and was discomfited.

(The handy ferry picked Pilgrims up right out in front of the MCA! The foreboding Cockatoo Island was a dreary but novel place to view contemporary art. Its dilapidated buildings that once housed prisoners as well as industry and shipbuilding are haunting. Photos by Chiboogamoo)

Dear FELLOW PILGRIMS, please understand and accept that Hallelujah does not happily involve herself with contemporary art. I find that consuming this kind of conceptual art is akin to taking strong bitter medicine with uncertain beneficial results. Yet on my JOURNEY, I am dedicated to broadening myself—and Sydney was offering me 285 works of contemporary art done by 92 international and Australian artists—and it was made accessible to the public like Hallelujah because it cost nothing! Imagine a country using its tax money to make its museums available to all of its citizenry—definitely a palpable statement that ART is important. ART does provide EDUCATION. Hallelujah would like to explore the kind of education the biennale provided her.

“The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age,” is the biennale’s theme this year (You see British artist Jonathan Barnbrook’s graphic design done for the logo on the museum and ferry.) Hmmm…what does this 11-word title mean? I acknowledge David Elliott, the artistic director of this particular biennale, for a somewhat satisfying but too long explanation. Here is Hallelujah’s summary of what he said:

v ART is simultaneously unique (made by an individual) and universal (its meaning is relevant to us all).

v ART elevates human experience and separates us from its immediacy.

v ART being made now is diverse and represents CHANGE.

Hallelujah is arching one eyebrow skeptically. Was the theme of the biennale made broad enough to include ANY work the curators might like to show?

Okay, what did Hallelujah GATHER from this large emotionally-loud exhibit of contemporary art? Like posies in a basket I will list my responses:

Posey 1: AWE—Sydney executed a sophisticated and far-reaching exhibit of contemporary art.

Posey 2: APPRECIATION—There was a breadth of different media (sculpture, paintings, video, and photography) presented in spectacular settings.

Posey 3: SURPRISING INTRIGUE—Some works took hold of me. For instance, Bill Viola’s black and white video of a naked man and woman, “Incarnation,” touched Hallelujah like a religious experience. The moving image was projected on a screen the size of a doorway, which was in a large dark room. As the viewer is approached by the man and woman, who are walking very closely to one another, a point of light slowly evolves from the woman’s hand and grows into a waterfall. Moments pass as she and the man are separated by the cleansing water and then reunited. The video repeats endlessly—emerging, separating, and reuniting.

Posey 4: HUMOR—Miss Chief Eagle Testikle, a flamboyant androgynous character, was introduced to Hallelujah. Canadian artist Kent Monkman set Miss Testikle skillfully in the mythic landscapes of 19th century American west paintings. His/her presence there, wearing pink boots makes the viewer look more closely at the action in the painting. Chuckles abound.

Using video, Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook interviews rural farmers about as they sit in front of famous artworks like Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Midday Sleep.” Their interpretations based on their knowledge and experience truly demonstrate that we understand new things based on what we already know! Why did they keep talking about elephants while looking at Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Gleaners”?

Posey 5: CONNECTION—Hallelujah found a soul mate in young Chinese media artist Cao Fei (born in 1978). Her 2009 animated video, “People’s Limbo,” was a humorous yet intellectual and multi-cultural presentation of the hodgepodge of current economic theories. Hallelujah laughed joyfully at Cao Fei’s colorful and beautiful depictions of Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, Lao Tzu, and Lehman Brothers, especially when they are playing some kind of game similar to hacky sack with a Chinese toy!

Posey 5: BOREDOM—too many videos of silent people moving slowly like living sculptures…gimmicky and tiring.

Posey 6: DISENGAGEMENT—Too many works presented an idea—Okay! Hallelujah understands the idea and does not need to stay for the complete execution of the entire idea because it is neither fun nor interesting. For example, 100 photographs of Filipino domestics and their work spaces in Hong Kong with a hidden (fake) hand grenade positioned somewhere in their employers’ homes. OR—Hallelujah does not understand the idea, but the idea is not promising to be fruitful even if Hallelujah commits herself to understanding it. Yayoi Kusama’s collages are pretty. I like polka dots. I like her word conglomerations, but….“Let’s LEAVE soon,” I begin to utter under my breath.

Final Posey: HORROR and ANGER—Guatemalan Regina Jose Galindo’s political work is a bitter pill to swallow. In her 2007 video, “Confesion,” she has a strong man repeatedly submerge her head into a barrel of water. Its violence nauseated me. Before entering the building, I heard the gasping sounds as her head was forced into the water, and when I saw the image, I had to leave immediately, not only her work but the entire biennale and Cockatoo Island.

ART matters. ART is powerful. Contemporary ART is surprising, challenging, discomfiting, frustrating, and sometimes quite horrifying. Hallelujah prefers ART to hold her and rock her like a baby, to be a lover and to entwine body and soul with her. Yes, Hallelujah wants ART to be a GREAT SPIRIT and to infuse her. I don’t want to be angered or disgusted or alienated. I don’t want to feel so many negative emotions—for what and why? Why?

Sydney provided me with this amazing sophisticated experience. The poseys I collected at the 17th biennale filled me with wonderous agony! But I must ask this pressing question: To learn from ART is it necessary to cast oneself at the feet of contemporary ART? As Yayoi Kusama says, “Admist the agony of flowers, the present never ends. ”

Photo: Free and senior spirit Yayoi Kusama (Japan, born in 1929) presented “Song of Manhattan Suicide (2010). Dressed in polka dotted clothes, she frames herself portrait size, from chest up with colorful collages and recites words in an eery sing songy voice. Her ghostly song summoned Hallelujah into the dark theater. The lack of continuity of a meaningful sequence of words made it seem unnecessary to stay long.

Photo: Cai Guo Qiang (China, born in 157) “Inopportune: Stage One.” Nine identical white cars depicted exploding. The immensity and startling majesty of this project impressed upon Hallelujah how something awful can be so awesomely stunning.

Photo: Serge Spitzer (Romania, born in 1951) “Molecular” was staged in the roofless guardhouse on Cockatoo Island. He filled the architectural space with metal balls—Randomlessness? Transformation? Meaning?

Photo: Rohan Wealleans (New Zealand, born in 1979) An imaginative deer like animal. Ho-hum…really!

Friday, July 2, 2010

HALLELUJAH’S PILGRIMAGE: I Belong to this Earth!

Dear PILGRIMS what is a PILGRIMAGE? Hallelujah describes her own PILGRIMAGE as a willing JOURNEY into the unknown with the explicit purpose of learning more about ARTFUL LIVING. Often, there is some disquieting but reasonable apprehension involved, so courage must be employed.

Recently, during my visit to the coast of Victoria, Australia, to join my dear Chiboogamoo, I became entangled and enmeshed with the EARTH, SEA, and SKY in a unique way that caused me to learn more about myself and the enigmatic world surrounding me. I truly was a PILGRIM in alien territory.

(Top photo: Hallelujah peeks out from the vegetation. Left photo: The tower we hiked to on Milanesia Beach. Right photo: Geologists conferring about how to get to Rotten Point!)

Chiboogamoo’s paleontological research brought us to the cliffs hovering above the sea and jutting out into the cloudy coastal sky. Each day we had a destination with wonderful sounding names like Skene’s Creek, Milanesia Beach, Rotten Point, Dinosaur Cove, and Wreck Beach. For news of my husband’s engaging scientific work at these exciting sites along the Victorian coast, visit his blog--The Great Cretaceous Walk.

(Photo right: Greg Denney with my Chibogamoo at Dinosaur Cove. You can see where the geologists drilled for cores behind them.)

Hallelujah sighs! If our work had only been to go to the cliffs along the Great Ocean Road and stare out at the white fluffy clouds lingering in cobalt blue skies above a gray winter ocean, I would not have had the PROFOUND PILGRIM EXPERIENCE, nor the resulting story to tell. Our fieldwork crew had to descend to the rocky shore to search for fossil traces—evidence of living creatures burrowing and moving about on this earth 100 million years ago.

(Photo left: Mike Hall, retired geologist from Monash University. Photo right: Greg and Mike have disappeared into the bush. I am to follow.)

Reaching Rotten Point stands out as the most memorable day of my fieldwork with the “boys.” From our 4-wheel drive vehicle, we walked along an overgrown road sprinkled with white quartz from the Tertiary, a period dating back from about 40 million years ago (This kind of insightful information is offered by my Chiboogamoo—thank you Honey!). The flat sloping road was fairly easy to navigate. Echidnas, creatures that resemble porcupines, had been digging for ants and had left the ground heavily turbated--uneven, which made us concentrate ever so slightly so as not to trip. I learned from Greg Denney, the owner of the property we were traversing and a member of our fieldwork crew, that the delicate red tube shaped flowers dotting the quartz road was heather, the state flower of Victoria. Oh HALLELUJAH! Life is GOOD—echidnas, quartz, Victorian heather, sky, sea, and excellent companionship.

Rather abruptly our 20-minute road walk ended at a wall of thickly grown bushes. We stared at the wildly powerful ocean pounding the rocks about 600 feet below. The force of the water hitting the earth created oodles and oodles of white froth, floating everywhere and seeming to fly across expanses of rolling waves.

Imagine Hallelujah’s surprise when Greg Denney found a way into the bushes. Like magic, the branches and leaves opened up and our guide vanished! Mike Hall, a retired geologist from Monash University followed. Then my dear Chiboogamoo dove in. Tom Rich, the paleontologist from the Museum of Victoria, told me to go next. Gulp…Me? I inhaled and ducked my head, crouching into the darkness created by the arbor of branches. The Australian boys call this “bush bashing.”

(Photo Right: Tom Rich from the Museum of Victoria, Mike Hall, and I pose for a picture by the rock tower that we hiked up to from the beach below at Milanesia Beach.)

As I moved down the vertical face of the cliff, I held onto the branches, asking them not to bite my ungloved hands, not to catch and hold my clothes, not to tear the flesh on my arms and legs. I was thankful when my feet wedged between the hardened wooden bases of the bushes. To my surprise, I discovered we were following a wallaby trail—the fresh scat alerting me to their most recent presence along this very small trail. I was moving through the shrub at wallaby height—about three and half feet high!

At spots without the wallaby trail and the wedging created by their small and well-used trail, I was much less secure. My feet were slipping on the rain soaked soil, and I felt myself falling down the incline, only to have a branch offer itself to me until I found sure footing once again. I held hands with these shrubs, I hugged them, I fell to their feet and became covered with mud on hands and backside. Hallelujah for MOTHER NATURE. Hallelujah!

(Photo left: Mike and Tom look down on Dinosaur Cove. We will walk around to this cove after getting down to Rotten Point first.)

During this descent to the shore, MOTHER EARTH embraced all of me. How intimate to be next to HER and SHE so generous, supportive, and alive! I was enclosed in HER scent, HER soil, and HER vegetation. SHE heaved me down to HER rocky shores with my heart beating strongly. I felt the pounding of HER waves in my bones. I felt PRESENT.

Meanwhile, the geologists conferred. Standing on the gray shale platform extending out into the sea, they decided we could not get to Rotten Point from here. We would have to ascend the 600 feet we had just travelled down and take a different route back to the shore.

Once again we submerged ourselves in the miniature forest of shrubs along the coast. My day proceeded in continued intimacy with the GREAT MOTHER. SHE did not disappoint me once as I walked along HER surfaces, climbed beneath HER branches, slid down HER hillsides, and balanced on the rocks that had eroded from HER cliffs.

(Photo left: Crashing waves showing the energy of this Southern Sea! Photo right: My Chiboogamoo working on exciting fossil traces at Milanesia Beach. Notice Hallelujah's boots on the bottom right half of the photo.)

This PILGRIMAGE stopped time for Hallelujah. The knowledge I gained was EMOTIONAL—VISCERAL: I BELONG TO THIS EARTH. I am part of INFINITE TIME. Where there appeared to be no path, there was one. It was not a human path but a trail made by a much smaller animal living right there. We are part of a HUGE LIVING WEB in the VASTNESS of TIME.

Hallelujah loves all of you. We are all connected, and each one of us is precious. Tell Hallelujah about your BELONGING, your EARTH EXPERIENCES, and what you have learned on your pilgrimage today.