People With The Heads of Giant Cats

People With The Heads of Giant Cats 1

A loud horn blares and angry voices echo around in the alley that runs along the north side of my studio. The street in front of the building and the surrounding streets resemble a kind of zombie apocalypse. There’s a mix of commuters heading back and forth to Port Authority, hard dudes standing around scheming, various drunks and addicts figuring out how to make the day work, along with garden-variety tourists who may have taken a wrong turn away from Times Square.

The building is and has been the home of many musicians over the years and has a reputation for encouraging those musicians to play 24/7 at whatever volume they want and not to worry about soundproofing.  In the elevator the smell of weed is wafting around, and there is the incessant sound of drummers practicing and bands rehearsing, all in different rooms, different meters, and different keys. The cacophony adds to the whole insane asylum ambiance. I like to join in too. I pull out my saxophone or guitar and crank it up, or I scream at the top of my lungs, or have friends over and invite them to scream at the top of their lungs.

There are times when I feel like the person in one of those movies – the one where the person seems perfectly normal with a regular life, and then one day, while a spouse or some friend is looking for a screwdriver, they accidentally come across a hidden panel in the basement or the garage, behind which there is one of those walls filled with clippings from newspapers and strings leading from one picture to another held together with thumb tacks and post-it notes and red magic marker; a panoply of paranoia. 

I find myself deliberately arranging items with or without so-called symbolic significance in a way that may or may not be affecting emotions and intellect.  If I sit and stare at a painting that I am working on in my studio long enough or from enough different angles, forms begin to emerge. I play with the brush and the paint, pushing it around on the canvas. With each stroke, thoughts emerge and find their place in the collective hallucination commonly referred to as reality. I’m engaged in the ritual of exploring the boundaries of my imagination and passing the hours dedicated to an activity that has no practical use in the world. Does it make sense to think that physical laws themselves might be malleable? Theoretical physicist Carlo Revelli was discussing an acid trip that he took in an article that I was reading, and he commented,“Well, it’s a chemical that is changing things in my brain. But how do I know that the usual perception is right, and this is wrong? If these two ways of perceiving are so different, what does it mean that one is the correct one?” 

Discoveries by archaeologists over the last century suggest that different forms of art have been practiced throughout the evolution of mankind. Cave art and sculpture were common among our ancestors, and perhaps they are the only art forms from prehistoric times that have been preserved because of the medium. Maybe people were painting on bark or animal hides, or drawing in the dirt. The question is, why did they paint and create art in the first place? Were they feeling the same things as artists today are feeling? Did they feel compelled to express themselves, or was it a magical connection with an unseen world, or was it a commercial venture? “Hey mister artist, I need you to go into that cave and draw a bunch of antelopes because we haven’t seen too many around lately and you drawing them on the cave may do the trick. I’ll pay you three shiny stones”. Who knows?

I figure that a couple of hundred thousand years ago our ancestors were running around spending most of their time avoiding being eaten. In those days, we were somewhere in the middle of the food chain and an attractive meal for the large cats that roamed the world, which might explain why somebody conceived of and created the Lion Man. The Lion Man of HohlensteinStadel is the oldest known anthropomorphic animal carving dating back 38,000 years. The eleven-inch carving is of a standing man with the head of a lion. Maybe that was a common figurine in those days and this is the only one that survived. Maybe they had a “who can create the coolest lion man” contest.

What was going through the mind of the artists who created this fine piece of art and the ancient rock and cave paintings from tens of thousands of years ago? I’ve got to imagine that if archaeologists have discovered so many petroglyphs and unique works of art there must be scores of works that haven’t survived or haven’t been discovered. Research shows that humans were producing rock art a long, long time ago, and not just in one geographic location, but all over the globe.

The rock art of the Algerian Sahara is dated at least 12,000 years old and consists of more than 15,000 paintings and engravings on exposed rock faces. They include pictures of wild and domestic animals, humans, geometric designs, ancient script, and mythical creatures, such as men with animal heads and gods or spirit beings. One of the oldest locations of sub-Saharan African art, the Blombos Cave rock art, contains two pieces of ochre rock engraved with geometric abstract signs and a series of beads made from shells. They were discovered in 2002 and have been dated to around 70,000 BC. Their discovery suggests that pre-humans of that time were capable of generating and understanding symbols and abstraction. The Sulawesi cave art consists of hand stenciling dating back to at least 37,900 BC. It was one of the oldest paintings of its type ever discovered in the world, and if you haven’t seen it, Google it and prepare to have your mind blown.

Art is one of the only things to survive for tens of thousands of centuries. It tells us stories, relates the moods and beliefs of an era, and allows us to relate to the people who came before us. People all over the world were producing art at the same time, which suggests that human creativity emerged independently at about the same time around the world and that when some humans migrated out of Africa, they already had the capacity and inclination for art. And the funny thing is, almost all of the ancient works fall into the same categories as our contemporary art. They are depictions of natural objects, people, animals, symbols, geometric patterns, grooved spirals, carved indentations, geometric shapes, and mysterious patterns of many kinds; the emanations of our imaginations.

The world is a mirror and a window, and while the acoustical vibrations of 8th Avenue and “The Music Building” encompass me, I push more paint on the canvas and howl at the moon, which is not visible from my studio, but I know it’s up there somewhere. 

The building is and has been the home of many musicians over the years and has a reputation for encouraging those musicians to play 24/7 at whatever volume they want and not to worry about soundproofing.  In the elevator the smell of weed is wafting around, and there is the incessant sound of drummers practicing and bands rehearsing, all in different rooms, different meters, and different keys. The cacophony adds to the whole insane asylum ambiance. I like to join in too. I pull out my saxophone or guitar and crank it up, or I scream at the top of my lungs, or have friends over and invite them to scream at the top of their lungs.

There are times when I feel like the person in one of those movies – the one where the person seems perfectly normal with a regular life, and then one day, while a spouse or some friend is looking for a screwdriver, they accidentally come across a hidden panel in the basement or the garage, behind which there is one of those walls filled with clippings from newspapers and strings leading from one picture to another held together with thumb tacks and post-it notes and red magic marker; a panoply of paranoia. 

I find myself deliberately arranging items with or without so-called symbolic significance in a way that may or may not be affecting emotions and intellect.  If I sit and stare at a painting that I am working on in my studio long enough or from enough different angles, forms begin to emerge. I play with the brush and the paint, pushing it around on the canvas. With each stroke, thoughts emerge and find their place in the collective hallucination commonly referred to as reality. I’m engaged in the ritual of exploring the boundaries of my imagination and passing the hours dedicated to an activity that has no practical use in the world. Does it make sense to think that physical laws themselves might be malleable? Theoretical physicist Carlo Revelli was discussing an acid trip that he took in an article that I was reading, and he commented,“Well, it’s a chemical that is changing things in my brain. But how do I know that the usual perception is right, and this is wrong? If these two ways of perceiving are so different, what does it mean that one is the correct one?” 

Discoveries by archaeologists over the last century suggest that different forms of art have been practiced throughout the evolution of mankind. Cave art and sculpture were common among