Posted in:   From the Tale
Thirty minutes later I stood, my whole body rigid and alert, before a riveting, modernist canvas entitled “Big Raven” in which the artist, Emily Carr, depicted a larger-than-life raven gracefully awaiting its death and return to Mother Earth. In that moment an alternative reality, one where ravens talk, direct your dreams, and show up in breathtaking paintings, truly kicked in. This stuff was not a fantasy game I’d cooked up for my entertainment; it was real, scary real.
Image: Emily Carr
I stared at this oil-painted masterpiece of the West Coast mythos, absorbing the vibrant, bold strokes of the down-flowing radiance of sky, and the swirling, momentary embrace of flesh and forest, with the raven, earth-anchored and heaven-reaching, suspended between the two. My own flesh hummed with these big, untamed, primal forces that danced my heart to an erratic, cacophonic beat. My hands clenched and unclenched at my sides. Terror and delight, equally present, equally powerful, coursed through me, leaving me paralyzed in doubt and confusion. One part of me fumed and sputtered that this was utter nonsense, spiritual pap for the weak minded, and that I should squeeze my eyes shut until it all went away. The other, breathing heavy, legs spread wide, and fingers reaching out hungrily, knew good food when she saw it — soul food that she had been waiting for her whole life.
Emily Carr was a passionate, free-spirited woman who refused to be domesticated by the Victorian strictures of her early years, or to let her spirit and magnificent originality be broken by the backwater isolation of her Canadian West Coast home and the misogynist ethos of her times. All around me her masterworks spoke of her feral, ardent communion with the forest and the earth-rooted, aboriginal culture in a language that I have always, innately understood: the capturing of energy, color and beauty in art form.
“Fuck your tidy ways,” I heard her whisper through the palpable, wild otherness reaching out from her canvases, “Fuck your fears. Be bold. Be brave. Be free.”