Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Great Little Bear

©2008 Turtle Heart

Wherever I have traveled, I make bears. Mhuk-wa. Mhuk-wa helps me find the medicine, helps me to remember that I know my way. Italians are not so interested in American Indian art. Not like, say, Germany, where it is almost a national passion. They actually have Eagle Feather stores in Germany. In Italy not so much. In general Italians do not have a habit for acquiring art as they do in say, everywhere else. Especially the Southwest. In Taos you will find an actual collection of commendable art of several cultures in nearly every home, at every station of life from the near homeless to the rich. Italians are famous for their sense of design. They are not big collectors of art. As an artist I have taken this news in a sort of mixed media way. I try to make things, first, using native materials. We have several unique stones found only here two, I have tried to feel the emotion and history of the island and let my intuition work through what I feel. The result has been some new work for me as an artist. It was perhaps import for me to see that such a thing is possible. Is an artist only the style in which he or she works?

People reviewing my portfolio often tell me they are looking at the works of several artists. I usually take this as a compliment, but it is more often posed as a question. I like to experiment as an artist and explore new ideas. My art transports me to a state of mind, at the very least, in which I can think about the sacred, the mystery life. I have learned many things about sacred pipe by paintings I have made of pipes, and carving pipes.

Here in Italy I have been carving, painting and learning about Tanit. And Italian tourists want to buy something from Pantelleria, they could mostly care less about my Indian art. As an artist this has been good for me. I am trying new things, trying to express what I am learning from and about Tanit and about this land where I now live, Pantelleria.

Everybody, it turns out, likes my little bears. I have sold every bear I have ever carved, big or small. Even here on Pantelleria, the tourists will buy my bears, at least the little ones. They see that it is a bear. I tell them almost every Indian I have ever known, if not all of them, have a bear somewhere in the house. Indians like bears, from all tribes. I have sold my bears to every kind of American Indian. Maybe I will put some of my bears up on the web site and try to sell them. It is hard to make money here in the Winter. No tourists. It is the time I try to make two things every day. This winter work gets me ready for the arrival of the “season”, so the more I make the better chances of some good earnings in the season.

This little bear that is in the photo with the article. He is made of Pantellerite, a subtype of volcanic rock that is found only on this island in the world. It is a very hard and fine-grained stone. It has a lot of character. On the island it is used for doorways, cornerstones and as pavers, work for which it is well suited as well. The fine carvings you make from this stone are very resistant to weather, rain, hot and cold. It comes in a thousand shades of green only. I carve it with hard diamond tools.

Bear knows how to find medicine. He teaches us that. He teaches us that what you most need is nearby, close. He understands the plants of the forest and has great powers of protection, silence and strength. He has long been a teacher to tribal cultures, even those that do not have bears. His reputation is that good.

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