Thursday, April 16, 2015

Crow Mother

Well, I went down a lot of rabbit holes pursuing this piece, and finally ended up where I started, lol!  Although I live now in northeastern US, where there are wonderful flowering bushes, trees, and bulbs this time of year, April nonetheless invokes for me a very different scene!  I was born and raised in the American Southwest, and the Native American artistic and spiritual traditions have had a strong influence on me.  

So this spread arises from that background.  The left attempts to represent the amazing rain storms that come through in the spring.  Because it is so dry (relative humidity of 20% or so), often the rain starts to fall but evaporates before reaching the earth, a phenomenon known as virga.  In the early morning it appear more blue, as I have made it. 

The sky was made by applying gesso with an old hotel card key, and tapping up and down to put a lot of texture into it:

 and then washing with watery Smalt Hue and Quinacridone Violet.

The brick pattern represents the pueblos of the Hopi Indians, who traditionally lived on top of three high mesas, now in the middle of the Navajo reservation.  A lot of politics there, which I will not get into!  But here are some pictures of First Mesa and its surrounding environment.  All of this is sandstone, uplifted from the primordial ocean floor many millennia past.  Pueblo people (including the Hopi) build their dwellings like apartment buildings....for warmth and also to conserve space in a very tight area as seen below.   Notice how high up from the desert floor the village is.

And here is a picture that perhaps explains the colors I used.

I used Texturez Sand paste to emulate the brilliant colors in the baked mud bricks known as adobe from which the pueblos are built. When the Spanish first came upon the pueblos of the Southwest, they thought they truly had found their City of Gold!

The Hopi have a strong spiritual connection to everything in nature, not unlike early European beliefs.  The major spiritual figures are called Kachinas, and they live in the sacred mountains surrounding the area where the Hopi make their home.  At certain times of year, it is thought that the Kachinas descend into the villages to celebrate the harvest, or the naming ceremony when young men are inducted into the spiritual practices, or the time to plant.  The painting below depicts this type of descent.  

In actual practice, the descent is performed by spiritual leaders of the clan, wearing elaborate costumes that depict particular kachinas.  My favorite is Crow Mother, who comes when the seeds placed in a basket sometime in November have started to sprout - that signals the time for planting will soon arrive.  Below is a headdress worn by the person depicting Crow Mother.  Once in the village, Crow Mother visits each home, sprinkling the sacred corn meal as a way of blessing the family and their efforts for the coming growing season.

My second panel attempts to represent Crow Mother, and the newly sprouted melon, squash and corn seeds in the ceremonial basket.

The feathers are made of kraft from the Tim Holtz Flying Wings die and accompanying embossing folder, and then distressed with Black Soot Distress Ink.  I made a lot, but I couldn't get it to stop looking like a feather duster, so I ended up using only a few on each side.

The bricks were made by stenciling Weendy Vecchi White Crackle paste through a brick stencil, and once dry painting with Golden's Transparent Red Iron Oxide and Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide, both mixed with a generous amount of Ranger's Snowcap acrylic paint and lots of water.

The basket is made of crumpled Kraft Glassine paper, which has been shaped something like a basket.  It was then stamped in Wendy Vecchi Watering Can Archival Ink with a new stamp from Finnibair which is fast becoming a favorite.

The leaves are from card stock colored with Cracked Pistachio, Peeled Paint and Crushed Olive Distress stains, spritzed with a lot of water.  I think most of the dies are from Tonic Studio.

The final touches were a strand of turquoise beads (also sacred to Hopi, and worn by Crow Mother) and a piece I found in the jewelry department of my big local craft store that I thought sort of resembled the "head" part of the head-dress.  Crow Mother's symbol is a black equilateral triangle pointing down (or sometimes two of these)....but putting these on made the piece look even more like an alien from space so I removed those bits.

Here is a picture of a Crow Mother statue from my collection that hopefully helps you make the connection between my page and what I was trying to achieve!  And I hope the information about how this page came about made sense!

Perhaps the items from my rabbit holes will appear in future works - an abstract soil to sky based loosely on the ideas Alison was exploring earlier this year, some brightly colored Tattered Florals,  a little paper basket with seed packets which got changed to flowers, and a piece trying to incorporate the themes of about six challenges -  no wonder I got lost, lol!  

In the meantime, I will be posting this, as always, on Brenda's Visual Journey #16, and entering into the current Frillie and Funkie challenge to use spring time die cuts, the CountryView challenge to use kraft paper, and the Mixed Media Monthly challenge using the theme "April Showers".

Thanks so much for stopping by, and please do leave a comment if you've time - I love hearing from you!


  1. Stunning!! Absolutely love everything about this! So clever what you did with the wings, but the whole spread is just amazing!

  2. Amazing work - both beautiful and fascinating. I love the history behind it, and you've tied up your techniques with the subject matter beautifully. I used to visit San Diego a lot when my sister lived over there, and I developed a love of Native American art from my visits there - I love their Turquoise jewellry, they use that stone such a lot and I love how you've added those beautiful beads to your work.

  3. This is a gorgeous journal spread. Love that stormy sky. Thanks so much for joining us this month at The Mixed Media Monthly Challenge.

  4. Wow what amazing pages - love the way you explained everything too

  5. Hello Lynn,
    What an interesting read, enjoyed your post very much and your work is just wonderful; how you can relate so effortlessly the scenes to your creations. Just so inspiring.

  6. Wow Lynn I really enjoyed looking at and reading your post. Your pages are wonderful and they mean so much more when you know the inspiration behind them Thank you so much for joining in with our challenge at Country View Crafts. Sue xx

  7. Wonderful pages! I love how each part of your page has meaning or is inspired by something from the southwest! Thank you for playing with us at The Mixed Media Monthly Challenge!!

  8. These are certainly fun pages to translate the arrival of spring in the southwest. Your story behind the pages helps us understand your inspiration and all the great techniques make it come to life. Thanks for joining us at Frilly and Funkie.

  9. Wow Lynn I just love all the representations you have made in your journal pages and can see and feel the beautiful colours, the drama of the skies and the wonderful American Indian influences you have cleverly included. Those traditions and your memories certainly do still have a strong hold on you and yet I resonate with them too.
    Thanks for linking to my Visual Journey and sharing your art in this way, I love seeing all your experiments and techniques you include in your work. Take care.
    hugs Brenda xx

  10. So not only do I get to see beautiful, creative, experimental art, you also teach me so much along the way!!! LOVE how you've put into art all these magical and distinctive aspects of Native and American tradition/life. Thank you for joining us at Frilly and Funkie. Jenny x

  11. I love the elements of nature and folklore you've brought together here, as well as the fab techniques and textures (love that crackle!) - so happy to have played a small part in inspiring these amazing pages.
    Alison xx

  12. Well, I just picked my jaw up off the floor. You totally blew me away with this amazing piece of artwork. Texture, symbolism and artistry all come together in it. So much thought and effort went into this. It is truly a work of the heart. Kudos, Lynn, and thanks so much for sharing it over at Frilly and Funkie!


  13. Beautiful! Enjoyed reading what inspired you. Thanks for joining us at The Mixed Media Monthly Challenge!