Thursday, August 12, 2010

Echoes of a Past Life - The Tower of Dreams

So far everything I have posted in my "Echoes of a Past Life" series has been something I wrote. Here's something different, a piece of art I created back in 1979. I have several copies of it; it strikes me as oddly prescient.

The year 1979 started out badly for me. I was a young man living in Chicago, and quite lost. I had just dropped out of college; I had been attending a very serious university when I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I was going through some stuff personally, among other things coming out. By the end of the year I had completely refound my footing. One of the things that helped was taking an art class. I should have gone to art school all along, one of my life's regrets, but this one class helped heal quite a bit of what ailed me.

This is a completely hand-done lithograph. As I recall you made a drawing in reverse with a kind of waxy crayon on a stone, and then apply an acid wash which etches the design into the stone. Then you roll ink onto the stone, press a piece of paper on the stone, and when you pull off the paper you have printed your image. You hand print what you want, and then sand the image off the stone and use it for a new design. It's an ancient technique, and even more anciently, of course, back in 1979 there was no Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. There was something therapeutic in its hand craft. I've never been much of a drawer, and I remember the teacher helping me make the lines of this art more definitive, more intentional. The art deco images were inspired by some Russian 1920s fantasy labels I had seen, but the composition is completely original, rearranging those motifs into something quite new. I don't remember where the idea for the words came from.

So many years later I'm struck by how spiritual this piece is: I was not a religious child or young adult. While reverent when necessary, I probably would have described myself as an atheist back then, and yet here I was making an image of someone apparently praying to some kind of altar, conjouring a mysterious being out of the flame. It would take me well over another decade before I started to get interested in the kind of spirituality that involved altars and smoke and mysterious beings, but there you have it. I like to think that my invisible spiritual guides were giving me a little push long before I had an interest in things spiritual. I guess I feel like I wound up building this tower of those dreams.

Click on the image to see it larger.


  1. "Mysterious" was the first word that popped into my head when I saw this image. Well done, sir.