|The calligraphy of longing
In the north, most easily found in Algonquin Park, there are beech trees heavily marked by the claws of bears that have been climbing them to reach one of their favorite foods, the beech nut. The trees carry the marks of many climbings of full-grown bears as well as cubs. The beech is a shapely, sinuous-limbed tree with smooth, gray bark, sensuous and tactile. The scars are permanent and black, four-claw patterns of striving to fill a hunger. I feel, when seeing these trees, the same sense of delight and awe as when looking at great art. An object has been marked by longing.
In the caves of southern France and Spain, on the overhung escarpments in Australia, southern Africa and the Canadian Shield are the earliest known calligraphies of human longing. Great art was made as a reaching out in desire and hunger. The exquisitely realized depictions of the great beasts are joined to the little stick-figure portraits of the hunters by arcs of little dots. These dots represent the spears and arrows that, in flight, carried the dreams and aspirations of our distant ancestors. Through flight, man and beast were joined in body and spirit and, briefly, we could become one with what we so ardently desired.
Art, throughout human history, has reached for the dream of its time; sated hunger, power over enemies, transcendence of the ordinary and the oppressive, connection to the gods and the longing for subtlety, purity and simplicity.
I began carving dancers in 1984. I see in the effort, brevity, pain and exhilaration that is the spirit of dance the most poignant expression of the dream of flying; of becoming the arrow of our longing. The arrow on the rock wall is in eternal flight. My dancers reach with their bodies and hands into a moment of transformation.
I endeavor to invest my work with the same directness, honesty and simplicity as the scribble of bear claws on a gorgeous tree and as the images left for us in the ancient places.
The shaping of wood into objects of longing and projection is one of the oldest of human activities. The fire hardened stick took flight many thousands of years ago and I strive to continue that flight with my work today.