Monday, October 13, 2014
This week's guest Researcher is Caleb, age 5, of Pomona. He first became interested in the Idyll-Beast during a visit to our community last year, and since then his home has been of a hot bed of theoretical speculation. He contributed this image of a bi-colored Beast this weekend, shortly before he had an encounter and conversation with a similar animal. I am not sure if this sighting did anything to quench Caleb's insatiable curiosity, but in my experience, the more you learn, the more questions you have.
Caleb was especially interested in the Animal's paws. The photograph he had seen seemed to highlight the man-like quality of its "hands." This lead to a discussion of the virtues of opposable thumbs, and the many other animals that use (and abuse) them.
The other Old World Apes of course have them. But some New World Monkeys eschew the "Fancy Thumb" as an unnecessary and fadish modern inconvenience in favor of the good old-fashioned prehensile tail. The Panda has a sort of pseudo-thumb. If you ever shake hands with one check it out, but don't be too obvious about it. They are a little sensitive about this. Some African Rats have them.
My personal favorite is the Polydactyl House Cat. These innovative creatures often have opposable thumbs and pinkies among their six or more digits on each paw, doing the monkeys one better and allowing them to perform a number of complex tasks. Cats are generally quiet about this, knowing that if the secret gets out humans will find more high-tech ways to secure household foodstuffs, or even begin asking cats to help them with complex tasks like word-processing. Yawn.
There are a number of Marsupials including Possums that make use of the opposable thumb. And don't forget the Dinosaurs; both flying and earthbound members of this group were early adopters of the opposable thumb.
So the Idyll-Beast may be related to Man, or even a kind of Man, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. Many respectable animals are. The thumb, however, is no "great divide" between Humans and the other Beasts. In my experience, looking for such a divide is a bit of tail-chasing, and maybe just a wee bit vain, but not wholly without educational value. And as any cat will tell you, chasing your own tail can be a perfectible healthy and delightful pass-time
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Provenance: This came to me directly from the artist, 9 year old Stella. Being director of a cryptozoological museum, people just give me masterpieces like this. Thank you Stella. The medium is restaurant child’s menu and crayon.
Analytical Notes: I believe Stella had some help, that her mother drew the brisk black outlines of the three children, which Stella then deftly colored in. The other children are her friends Olivia (left) and Ethan. Olivia’s hair isn’t really longer, she just wants it to be longer. And what are friends for?
The crayon has picked up some of the texture of the placemat under it, and this gives the work a ringed under-pattern, like a tree’s growth, like an indian basket, like energy radiating out from the center right of the page.
The figure that occupies the right-most bottom corner you will all recognize. The stance, the fur, even perhaps a bit of Mona Lisa-like half smile, in profile. The Beast fortuitously occupies the space indicated by the eyes of the children, giving force and narrative to an otherwise casual, snapshot-like composition. A tree in the middle suggests the forest. It seems to be undecided as to wether it should be conical or round, pine or oak, but we do live in a mixed forest. The large red, energetically scrawled inverted v or dart shape could be Taquitz, a space craft of some type, or something unlikely, a leaping porpoise or seal. The two horizontal lines that touch its upper tip could be a horizon, or clouds.
The hair of the Beast and that of two girls is the same color, a rich golden brown. Ethan’s is black, or rather the artist has not added any hair to the outline, perhaps she finds Ethan’s hair unremarkable. I certainly observed it to be closely cropped. But clearly the girls are completely covered by luxurious golden fur. It suggests kinship.
Context: About two hours after I acquired this work, the Children (and the adults with them) had a sighting, an encounter with an Idyll-Beast on North Circle Drive, just south of the Research Center Museum and Gift Shoppe. So the encounter was imagined before it happened. The family saw Idy when they were driving. The animal cooperated in a photo op and even allowed the children to comb it.
Leaving aside arguments of causality vs Jungian synchronicity, to a primitive mind this might seem prophetic, and our minds are still in many ways primitive. If the “dart” shape is a space ship that could also be a symbol for transcendence, and the Beast one of our lost sense of wholeness, of connectedness, that shadow of individuation and the industrial world system, that seeks healing in the mountains, in nature. It isn’t of course necessary to choose an interpretation for the red dart, but its energy, its dynamism takes the place of the sun we would expect in this genre. So abstraction or Tahquitz? I vote Tahquitz.
I am a cryptozoologist, not an art critic, and a musician, not a semiologist or iconographer. But life imitates art, and imitation is certainly one sincere kind of compliment, if not always flattering. Keep up the good work, little animals.