A new word is born

On a 21 day trip down the Colorado river of Grand Canyon last October 2018 I was musing with some friends about the need for new words to describe Nature. It was largely born out of a sense of frustration and linguistic impotence. I felt there were simply not enough words in the English language to describe the web of such an incalculably rich phenomenon like Nature.

In that particular case I wanted to use a word that described the intelligent qualities of Nature and its unique ability to send messages to all of us, ones that are important for us to understand.

So I created the word mysten, and loosely defined it as an important or even vital message sent by Nature for us to consider. The message could be in the form of a dream, or an animal, or a sound, or a conspiracy of events, and so on. From there I began a series of paintings, and these imaginary creatures arrived.

mysten creation, acrylic on canvas, 4’ x 3’, 2018 by Nicholas Emery

mysten creation, acrylic on canvas, 4’ x 3’, 2018 by Nicholas Emery

I see these creatures as benevolent, sent to us to act as messengers and intermediaries between ourselves and other animals who we have lost a direct connection with.

From there I began creating imaginary new works on the possibility of human transfiguration - what a complete change of form or appearance into a more animal and spiritual state would look like. This was partly inspired by a moment a few years ago when I was deep in the forest and came upon a bull elk, and this majestic creature stared at me in such a way, unwavering, that I felt I was being spoken to.

transfiguration #1, acrylic on canvas, 35.5” x 25”, 2019

transfiguration #1, acrylic on canvas, 35.5” x 25”, 2019

More next month
Nicholas Emery
June 22nd, 2019

A long time coming

It’s been three years since my last post, give or take. I’m not going to try to revisit personal events over the last three years. Rather, I’d like to continue with a once-a-month post, as I used to do, that discusses what’s taking place for me now - that is, some combination of an idea, a place, a vision, a piece of artwork, and so on.

Lately I’ve been on road trips exploring the North American west, the region I live in - and particularly Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico’s high desert, also known as the Colorado Plateau. It’s a rugged place with a rich and varied cultural history that predates the Euro-ethnic expansion beginning in 1492 on the shores of the Bahamas that eventually resulted in the genocide of North American tribal culture.

One such place is Capital Reef National Park, a surreal desert sandstone landscape with rich and fertile soil from the river and creek-water sources there. It was settled thousands of years ago by southwestern tribes, incorrectly named Fremont Indians after the Euro-ethnic explorer John C Fremont, but they were more likely related to the Pueblo, Ute, and Navajo peoples. Mormons settled the area in the early 1900’s and found ancient Indian irrigation ditches for crops there that they reused to plant fruit orchards with that still exist today. I was recently there and ate some delicious pies made from fruit that came directly from some of the nearly 3,000 fruit trees that are maintained by the park service.

One of the great ancestral legacies of the North American west, like the caves of Lascaux and Chauvet in southern France, are the rock art petroglyphs and pictographs left by early people. This work interests me for various reasons, but primarily because it exposes a deep and rooted relationship to Nature not easily defined by rational, scientific thought. At its essence, this is what drives my own work.

Capital Reef National Park petroglyph rock art by southwest American ancient peoples, photo by Nicholas Emery, 2019

Capital Reef National Park petroglyph rock art by southwest American ancient peoples, photo by Nicholas Emery, 2019

The paintings I have done in the Mysten series, the creatures of the Mysten (you can learn more about that series on my main page) clearly draw some inspiration from ancient rock art petroglyphs of the southwestern United States.

Acrylic on canvas, 4’ x 3’, 2018 by Nicholas Emery

Acrylic on canvas, 4’ x 3’, 2018 by Nicholas Emery

More next month
Nicholas Emery
April 16, 2019