Pow Wow Comes to Taos

A three-day local event, the annual Pow Wow is held on the beautiful lands of the Taos Pueblo. I let this event slip past me last summer and so was determined to attend this time round. I went on the middle day, Saturday. Since I planned to take photos I went in the afternoon, not sure if I would have the light needed in the cooler, evening session. This photo above is one of the first I took and you can see that the usual clear blue skies of Taos are still a little smoky from the surrounding forest fires. And it was a warm day, at least in the high 80s.

My first focus was naturally on the dancing. This photo shows a young girl doing traditional style dancing. Note the arrangements for spectators around the dance circle, with its ramada for shade filled with leafy branches of Siberian Elms. Behind that people have set up their own canopied shelters. The size of the dancing area seemed huge and the sheer number of spectators impressive. I realized that without a telephoto lens my photos of dancers were not going to be that special so I immediately began to look elsewhere for subjects to capture the story of the event.

For instance, this photo shot at close range could stand for all the beautiful regalia offered up to the gods of the Pow Wow and anyone else there lucky to be at this feasting table. I can say today as I write that the best gift I received was seeing the eyes in the faces of the many Native American children there. I found many beautiful souls peering through and understood that their futures would attract more respect and wider possibilities than their people have seen for many generations. And I saw that this change is emerging from a foundation of knowing and embracing their family and tribal heritage, which, by the way, was always aligned with treating the earth and all its life forms as sacred and interrelated.

These enthusiastic men were drumming together to accompany the dancers. I saw that along the sides of the circle were similar groups like this. They would take turns so no one group became tired. As you see in this photo they put their heart and strength into it and at times fiercely so.

This group of men are not drumming but were sitting in a circle like the ones in the previous photo. I assumed they were drummers awaiting their turn. Looking closer I see a couple have numbers attached to their clothing so they must also be participating in the dances.

Eventually I left the arena of the dancing and strolled along the crafts booths lined up in second circle set back from the central one. I discovered the booth for Lynn Wozniak’s local drum company, Sweet Medicine Drums. By now it was probably the hottest part of the day and Lynn was sitting alone having a bite of lunch. I asked if I could sit down with her and she was very welcoming. I had been on my feet for a bit too long in the hot sun and really needed a shady spot. It was that or head for home.

As fortune would have it Lynn and I seemed to really connect and we parted hours later like old friends. I promised to meet her in her drum-making studio soon to talk about applying my artistic talents to drum painting. As it turns out I once worked for a drum maker as a painter and have the photo resume to back up that claim. The longer I stayed around the goings-on in the booth the more respect I came to have for this vibrant and loving elder woman.

As I was leaving Ketchum 14 months ago there was one person in Taos I was advised to keep my eyes and ears open to meet, Grandmother Jean. It tuns out that Lynn is one of her best friends.

I’ll close with a detail from one of two “recycled art” collages I’ve been creating this week for an upcoming Taos show, “Arte De Descartes XI.”

Divine Feminine Yantra

Tibetan Monks & July 4th

The monks making music and chantingSaturday found me driving to the Mable Dodge Luhan house for the first time–something definitely on my “list.” The enticement was the opening ceremony for the creation of a sacred sand mandala by a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks. This would take them a week. I returned yesterday, the 4th of July, to see how things had progressed on day 2.

The first time I ever learned there was such a thing, and actually saw it done, was back in the 60s in San Francisco at an art museum. I was in my mid-20s and this was just another footnote in my Okie-moves-to-Bay Area education. Still, when I recall this memory it seems clear and vivid. I see now that it was a mirror, showing me something deep in myself.

This past week I started working on a painting that is, in form, similar. It’s called a yantra, and the source is Tibetan Buddhism of the Tantric persuasion. This will be my third painting in this series, and significantly my first begun since I moved to Taos two months ago.

These Yantra paintings of mine, of course, take liberties with the basic form, but my intentions are loosely comparable–to mirror the sacred aspect of nature, of earthly life. Of course I had no idea the monks were coming when I started the painting but I see it as synchronous.

So both days I’ve been to the ceremonial space I’ve pondered the contrast between the youth I once was and the elder I am now. I can see I respond to the sacred art and the energetic field of the monks in the same way, and yet now I just want to sit and be one with it. As opposed to “looking,” I see that I “am it,” as each of us is. Instead of seeing the monks as interesting and exotic (they are that!). I feel especially “at home” in that room. I will be going back as many times as I can.

This pair of ravens showed up while I was photographing the Mable Dodge Luhan house and grounds (future blog?). Just so happens I’m also working on another painting series, called “Two Ravens.” Maybe they were reminding me to get back to those landscapes I love so much or just welcoming me to my new Taos life. Either way you gotta love it!