Friday, June 25, 2010

SENSE OF PLACE: My Country is Unknown to Me

My dear pilgrim, do you have a “sense of place” where you BELONG in this vast wide world? A place that calls you home both physically and spiritually? My country, my home, my physical place is unknown to me. I do not have one. Born a wanderer, a child to a military man, I have a craving for HOME, but I believe I will never have a material one.

My country, my mother’s country, my father’s country—these phrases are repeated over and over again by Australian Aboriginal artists in the explanations of their paintings. I have repeated these phrases to myself as I work on my paintings, attempting to draw out something from myself, an internal scape—some spiritual place I could call my own.

Currently, I am writing from Australia. This is the third time I have visited this immense and varied continent. Each time I have come here has been the result of my dear Chiboogamoo’s research interests. As a paleontologist, he studies physical spaces. Along the coast of Victoria, he has been specifically looking for fossil traces. For example, he searches for evidence of dinosaur tracks or burrows made more than a million years ago in sandstone, siltstone, and shale.

Before my sweet husband and I went out in the field to look for these fossil traces, we ventured to the heart of Victoria—Melbourne, a city which was celebrating the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, with a Festival of Lights at Federation Square. Chiboogamoo and I were delighted by the street theater, live music, and cool temperatures. We were amused that back in Atlanta, Georgia, our friends were getting ready to acknowledge the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, in sweltering heat.

After enjoying the energetic heckling of improv actors in the square and a seagull suddenly landing on my shoulder and shoving its beak into my vegetable pie, Chiboogamoo and I dove into the National Gallery of Victoria to once again study the excellent collection of Aboriginal artists.

“Painting is very important,” begins a 1987 quote by Wandjuk Marika displayed on the gallery’s wall. “It’s the design or symbol, power of the land. The land is not empty: the land is full of knowledge, full of story, full of goodness, full of energy, full of power.” And along the walls are the paintings expressing these artists’ stories of their land—their country! Their artwork is their country!

Here in this blog, I am presenting portions of different artists’ paintings. Observe how their conceptual portrayals of “country” are abstract and devoid of horizons. The sky and land are collapsed into one plane of existence (This is the language of the art critc). The viewer experiences a kind of powerlessness because these paintings cannot be logically understood. Instead, one must surrender to the intuition and “feel” the way in. And, even then, without “secret” knowledge, it is impossible to enter.

I return to the familiar paintings of Clifford Possum and Emily Kam Kngwarray (shown at the bottom of this blog entry). This time, I am pulled more into Emily’s painting than I have been on previous trips. This painting fills the length of an entire museum wall and exists of one long continuous black line moving in and out of itself on the canvas. The image is mesmerizing. It is her country. It is her stories. It is her ceremony. A critic describes her work as exhibiting “spontaneous assurance.”

I am left with mouth agape. SPONTANEOUS ASSURANCE! What knowledge does she possess? What HOME is hers? Yes, the Aboriginals are acknowledged as the longest continuous living culture, about 40,000 years old. But weren’t the Aboriginals robbed of their homeland and culture? She knows. She paints. Is this possible for all of us? For Hallelujah?

Hallelujah continues to find spiritual affinity with these Aboriginal artists. I adore the spontaneity, the exuberant color, and images. Most of all, I am fed by the deeper knowing expressed in the abstract dancing dots and lines. Although I do not have a SPIRITUAL or PHYSICAL HOME, I do have significant reliable “heart and gut” connection to these artists!

Dear Fellow SOJOURNERS and ARTISTS, Hallelujah wants to connect with you too. What is your deep knowing about YOUR HOME. How is it you have made a connection with a PHYSICAL space? What is your SPIRITUAL space? Soul blog with Hallelujah and share your SOUL.


  1. My God...these paintings are stupendous! Even if I did not know the backstory about land and home
    I would find myself falling into their landscape of lines and dots and tangled webs. How wonderful of the artist to display her spontaneous assurance...perhaps the route to take to be "comfortable with uncertainty" and when confronted with the great mysteries.

  2. Vision! Cecelia, I know you have the special vision to SEE. Yes, let's hold hands and jump feet first into the GREAT MYSTERY dear Cecelia--I would like to go there with YOU! Oh let me embrace uncertainty!