Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Shaman: The anatomy of a montage

My Shaman
CC Jean Stimmell: 9/16/15
At my friend Carl’s house I photographed a talisman he had sitting on a stump by his driveway: the skull of a bull  – quite appropriate as he used to raise cattle. The skull drew me in, attracting me in a deep way. When I got home, I processed my digital skull images; then I copied the skull essence into Photoshop and polished it until it felt so luminous, I felt it might hold some otherworldly power.

Maybe I was tapping into my primal psyche, my collective unconscious.  After all, bulls were worshipped as sacred throughout the ancient world. Before that, the auroch was depicted in many Paleolithic cave paintings, pulsing with such sacred, luminous energy, they still give one goose bumps, even in today’s over-the-top world.

Still something was missing. I needed something vitally alive and earthy, yet unfathomable – all at the same time. On cue, an image of a bonsai tree popped into my mind. Trudging through countless Google images  I came across a particular tree that was the perfect compliment to my skull, an amazing bonsai tree photographed by Dr. Jonathan Singer[1] Yes, my primal psyche had been seduced again, this time by a tree.

And it appears there is a reason for that. According to Mircea Eliade[2], a leading interpreter of religious experience, a sacred, origin myth is an essential prerequisite for every society in order to join together the various planes of its existence. For traditional societies, this mythical nexus is often the imagery of a Cosmic Tree joining Heaven, Earth, and the underworld.

So, in my case, this bonsai  represents the Cosmic Tree.

Still, a lot of work lay ahead. I had to first stretch and distort the tree to fit the contours of the bull’s skull; then, painstakingly, I had to work to blend one to the other. Time flew by. I was getting there but the image needed a starker, more primal cast. After following several false leads, changing the image to black and white, while carefully adjusting all the gray tones, did the trick.

I am tentatively satisfied with my work. It speaks to my soul. I call it my shaman.

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