Gorilla House LIVE ART: October 16, 2013

Rosa Lone Woman Heavy Breast, daughter of Calf Robe and First Strike, wife of Owen Heavy Breast of the Pikuni Blackfeet collides with the words from the Bee Meeting by Sylvia Plath.

I was late, as is usual these days.  I couldn’t find a sheet of 1/4″ plywood…a disappointment…but purchased the 1/2″ thickness instead.  I wanted to paint a female this evening. I chose Rosa Lone Woman Heavy Breast. Her name described my present state of mind.  I liked her posture…her ease…the enjoyment of sitting ‘in this photograph’ having a smoke.

I worked from a photograph that exists in a collection of eight negatives.

Title Mrs. Heavy Breast
Subject Photography Negatives
Blackfeet (USA)
Blackfeet (USA) – Personalities
Blackfeet (USA) – Women
Blackfeet (USA) – Clothing
Siksika
Description A Blackfeet woman wearing an elk teeth dress and earrings, sitting down and smoking. Note: Photograph of a photograph.
Creator Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966
Contributors University of Lethbridge
Date c. 1910-1945

The story of her husband, Owen Heavy Breast is located on the Blackfeet Digital Library.

Father: Heavy Breast
Mother: Tall Nose
Wife: Rosie Heavy Breast (Lone Woman) No children.

Owen and his wife Rosie were successful farmers and ranchers. Owen and his wife had two Medicine pipe bundles, a Horned Weasel Headdress & a Weasel Shirt. Owen was also a member of the Shriners of Montana and the Masons of which he was very proud. Owen was very well known not only within the tribe but also with many outside officials. He often traveled with delegations around the United States.

Last evening, at the Gorilla House, I incorporated RED and this is of huge significance to me, given that I’ve been painting in very muted and neutral palettes since we lost my Mom.  Interesting though, I had squeezed out some red on my palette last week during one of my prayer times at the feast table.  I was praying a new layer of my prayer mandala at the time.  I hadn’t thought about any of this until this morning.  In fact, Rosa is painted in a very similar palette to the mandala.  The act of painting is contributing to my healing…I know it.

P1130464If my readers will bear with me, I am posting the Bee Meeting in its entirety, but the truly impacting words offered up as a Battle concept last evening, came from page 51 of Plath’s Selected Poems…the final stanza.  While I will not go into the details of how I relate with the words of this poem, suffice it to say that I experience ‘recognition’ as I read the complete poem.  The following text, in blue, is written on the panel.

I am exhausted, I am exhausted –
Pillar of white in a blackout of knives.
I am the magician’s girl who does not flinch.
The villagers are untying their disguises, they are shaking hands.
Whose is that long white box in the grove, what have they accomplished,
why am I cold.

The Bee Meeting

Who are these people at the bridge to meet me? They are the
villagers—–
The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees.
In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection,
And they are all gloved and covered, why did nobody tell me?
They are smiling and taking out veils tacked to ancient hats.

I am nude as a chicken neck, does nobody love me?
Yes, here is the secretary of bees with her white shop smock,
Buttoning the cuffs at my wrists and the slit from my neck to my knees.
Now I am milkweed silk, the bees will not notice.
Thev will not smell my fear, my fear, my fear.

Which is the rector now, is it that man in black?
Which is the midwife, is that her blue coat?
Everybody is nodding a square black head, they are knights in visors,
Breastplates of cheesecloth knotted under the armpits.
Their smiles and their voices are changing. I am led through a beanfield.

Strips of tinfoil winking like people,
Feather dusters fanning their hands in a sea of bean flowers,
Creamy bean flowers with black eyes and leaves like bored hearts.
Is it blood clots the tendrils are dragging up that string?
No, no, it is scarlet flowers that will one day be edible.

Now they are giving me a fashionable white straw Italian hat
And a black veil that molds to my face, they are making me one of them.
They are leading me to the shorn grove, the circle of hives.
Is it the hawthorn that smells so sick?
The barren body of hawthorn, etherizing its children.

Is it some operation that is taking place?
It is the surgeon my neighbors are waiting for,
This apparition in a green helmet,
Shining gloves and white suit.
Is it the butcher, the grocer, the postman, someone I know?

I cannot run, I am rooted, and the gorse hurts me
With its yellow purses, its spiky armory.
I could not run without having to run forever.
The white hive is snug as a virgin,
Sealing off her brood cells, her honey, and quietly humming.

Smoke rolls and scarves in the grove.
The mind of the hive thinks this is the end of everything.
Here they come, the outriders, on their hysterical elastics.
If I stand very still, they will think I am cow-parsley,
A gullible head untouched by their animosity,

Not even nodding, a personage in a hedgerow.
The villagers open the chambers, they are hunting the queen.
Is she hiding, is she eating honey? She is very clever.
She is old, old, old, she must live another year, and she knows it.
While in their fingerjoint cells the new virgins

Dream of a duel they will win inevitably,
A curtain of wax dividing them from the bride flight,
The upflight of the murderess into a heaven that loves her.
The villagers are moving the virgins, there will be no killing.
The old queen does not show herself, is she so ungrateful?

I am exhausted, I am exhausted –
Pillar of white in a blackout of knives.
I am the magician’s girl who does not flinch.
The villagers are untying their disguises, they are shaking hands.
Whose is that long white box in the grove, what have they accomplished,
why am I cold.

3 October 1962

Thanks to Cheryl Todd Shergold who generously purchased last week’s, Chief Eagle Calf and last night’s Rosa at auction!  Thanks also to Tyler who has recommended for us the reading of Black Elk Speaks by John G. Niehardt  While this section of my personal library is swollen and moving beyond the shelf, this is one that I’ve intended to read for years.

P1130455 P1130459

Photo Credit: Cheryl Todd Shergold  Two treasures find their way into an inspiring artist's studio.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Todd Shergold Two treasures find their way into an inspiring artist’s studio.

“You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see.”
Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

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