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Entries in Jim Shirey (10)


Pimp My Artwork 069: Death

Thirteen is a magic number.  The moon has thirteen lunar cycles, it also travels thirteen degrees across the sky every day.  As human beings we have thirteen major joints, it's a fibonacci number, there are 13 archimedeansolids.  Thirteen is also the number of the Death card in tarot, the card of rebirth, old cycles dying, layers of skin shedding, and closure.

I waited to write this card mostly because the subject matter is something I still talk about in a hushed tone and partially because it's one of those stories you don't know how to begin. So let me sit you down and tell you a story about a girl and a boy and how sometimes when people get together they make a baby.

I didn't know I was pregnant when I miscarried, all I knew was something was very wrong and I needed to get to a doctor. Instead I sat in the bathroom until it was over. I won't go into what it feels like or how your mind goes into all sorts of places. Mostly, I was trying to figure out how I couldn't have known. I thought I was aware of my body. Eventually, I did see a doctor and got the news I half expected. I was pregnant and I had miscarried. Again the thoughts came rushing in "Am I so unfit that you don't want me as your mother?" These are thoughts that come from a former drug addict. My mind went places, I came to to the hard realization that I had been knocked up by someone who didn't love me, who left in pursuit of someone else. It wasn't that we were in a relationship, we weren't; it was my own naivete that made me believe or want to believe that if you made a child there had to be some sort of love connection. That's not how biology works, kids, and this is how I ended my Saturn return.

Years later, I find myself standing outside of a club with the man that got me pregnant. We're friends now and able to communicate in a way we weren't able to before. He asks me about it, said we've never addressed it. I told him it wasn't the time and I'd be able to talk about it soon. I choked up, got cold, and made him go inside. We talked about careers the rest of the evening because that's my comfort zone. I sent him an email a few days later.  I wasn't able to talk about it face to face without breaking down so I explained it the best way I could. He understood.

The Death card isn't only about endings, it's also about beginnings, letting go of a painful past to make way for something else. In order for both of us to move forward we had to give this aspect of our lives closure. I painted this card as a way to let out what I was feeling and couldn't put into words. The day I painted it I walked around Roosevelt Island. I knew I had a painting in me. "Don't Come Back" by O'Death shuffled into my music mix and the painting started to form. I stepped out into the grass and the stormy air. A storm was brewing in real life and in my daydream. I listened as the image of me formed, wrapped in bandages, stomach exposed, pulling the flesh up with one hand while the other held something.  Parts were still cloudy and the first drops of rain fell from the sky and onto my head.  I had to get home. I had to paint. The crosses and monotropa uniflora were emerging now and the trickles of blood ran down my leg as the storm now was in full motion. (Monotropa Uniflora starts to rot after it is fertilized.) I ran over the bridge as the wind picked up and pushed me hard into the side. It's a good thing these bridges have tall walls, I would have blown right over the edge. I walked as fast as I could itching to get the brush into my hand and the paint swirled. I cried. I didn't know why, but I cried. The crows had appeared now and the ram skull positioned itself in the corner as one pink rose budded from the earth. With this song the card had created itself.

 I came home and feverishly started to put it together. Later that evening the father messaged me. I told him about the painting and he asked to see it. "I get what you're doing." He said. "You make a painting and hopefully that gets it out a bit." I nod even though he can't see me. With that painting we closed off a chapter. It doesn't mean it won't still linger from time to time but it felt good to let it out, sometimes people enter back into your life so you can heal each other, no matter how painful the past. Sometimes it's the only way to move forward.

Don\'t Come Back by O'Death on Grooveshark

Monotropa Uniflora by Jim Shirey


Killin' It 067: A Bottle of Whiskey & a Handful of Bees

I'm very please to announce that I will be doing the art for Sxip Shirey's new album A Bottle of WHISKEY and a Handful of BEES. Below is Sxip's announcement and an amazing photo from his father Jim Shirey.

Update #10: Art Work

Today I had a discussion with Katelan Foisy about doing the artwork for my album. 

Everytime I think about the cover of the album I see her art work. 

She drew me as the magician in her Tarot deck.

It will also have this ending image by my father, photographer James Shirey. 

And it will have this image...actually, I shouldn't give the whole design away should I?

Lost of exciting musical things are happening. I am working hard. 



Pimp My Artwork 064: Justice

Strange things happened when painting Justice.  I was supposed to be working on Strength and yet something strange was in the air. There was another card that needed to be made.

 I had become completely obsessed with pictures of Kate Black. This is something I do when I'm about to paint someone, but the odd thing was I was supposed to be painting another card.  But still, I was obsessed.  I liked her profile picture on that odd little social network we all seem to be obsessed with.  I also became obsessed with skittles commercials which was not like me at all.  I don't watch commercials or eat candy. 

The next day I was modeling and thinking and meditating and all of a sudden I was hit with thoughts and feelings about Trayvon Martin.  I knew this because they were not my own, fear, anger, sadness.  Saying things that I wouldn't normally say. Then I got hit with images of James Byrd who was dragged to death years ago in Texas by white supremacists.  While the two cases were not related, there was a common theme. The emotions came flooding in.  For me it's a portal, a message telling me what I'm supposed to be doing.

I couldn't understand why all this was coming to me, the skittles and obsessively looking at my friends images, the visions, and emotions and then it occurred to me.  I was supposed to paint the Justice card.  Sometimes the cards come at you like that.  The energy is right and it needs to be delivered.  I started to feel feverish.   I was getting images for the card, how it was supposed to look, Kate Black, black hoodie, I kept getting the message to check Kate's pictures again.  That the one I needed was there.  I started to walk fast, almost running to the subway.  It's something that happens from time to time when i know I have to do something.  My body gets feverish, my face gets flushed and I have walk, run, just to get my heart to stop pounding and my stomach to stop swirling. I got on the subway, waiting for the train I saw an empty bench.  I sat down.  A black hoodie was hanging off of it.  I said, "Okay I get it." I couldn't figure out why I kept getting the message about the picture. When I got home I found out.  Kate's was wearing a black hoodie in her profile picture.  The next day would mark "Wear your hoodie to work day".

Sometimes the cards smack you in the head and beat you down until you paint them. Justice calls on us to bring balance to our lives, physically, spiritually, and mentally.  She is objective about her decisions and treats each case fairly balancing them on her scale.  Justice is ruled by Libra her sword is double-edged signifying impartiality.  The blade is in the ground signifying the logical thinking used to dispense justice. Her hands are bandaged showing that justice sometimes gives a good fight. She balances the scales in her hand showing the balance of logic and intuition. 

The crow indicates law and truth.  For years crows have been the secret law keepers.  Where there is question you will find crow.  In order to find Justice you must find truth. I always believed Kate would make a great Justice card.  She has been right in the front lines of Occupy Wall Street as well at the Million Hoodie March, Sex Workers Rights, Human Rights, and on and on and on. Justice couldn't have found a better

As usual this beautiful specimen was taken by Jim Shirey. Who has a new website by the way.  Take a look, you'll spend hours in the magic.



Pimp My Artwork 058: The Hanged Man

At the time I was plotting The Tower an idea was formulating, a little spark was tapping me on the head and whispering into my ear.  "How about Neil for the Hanged Man?" Sxip, my Magician of course heard the call of the tarot and sent me a message. 

When I told him I was thinking of Neil as The Hanged Man he said, "You always make such interesting choices. They all make absolute sense but they are not typical." We discussed The Hanged Man and it's many meanings.  For him it is about "Letting yourself absolutely accept the wisdom to come, even it hard information. It's about giving yourself to the reality of a situation to learn from it. It's about humbling oneself for the sake of knowledge."

I remember the first time I read American God's and feeling like Neil really got Odin, Loki, and the rest of the God's he wrote about.  He may not be spiritually connected to them but he understood them by tapping into a part of his brain that was or at least the archetypes. Part of The Hanged Man's meaning is Odin's sacrifice of himself for knowledge on the World Tree.  For nine days he hung, no food or water, wounded by a spear.  On the ninth day he looked down, saw runes that had fallen from the tree and understood them.  He came down from the tree and picked them up for his own.  Any knowledge needed can be found in these runes.

A few days ago I started another 40 days.  This time instead of going mad, I decided to focus solely on the tarot, it's insights, and paint the cards of the major arcana. Sxip once noticed that I lived each card as I painted them.  This one was no different.  I started the sketch on Sunday and began to work on the card, struggling a bit in the midst of thoughts and procrastination.  For the past few weeks I had gone inward and was seeing the most beautiful aspects of love, life, work, and the muses.  Day 4, the day I finished the card would be my eye opener. When you are in the midst of spiritual bliss nothing seems important, you're open, the past doesn't matter, you're here, it's now, money is just metal and the heart wants to be full.  And then you come down, back into the mundane world, back into reality. 

The night before someone I once cared about very deeply turned their back on me. It was someone that inspired a lot of the deck and it saddened me to see it end this way.  I carried it with me the next morning when once again I awoke to more news about another person, not news that I was necessarily shocked by, but news I wasn't quite ready to hear.  And so began my spiral into reality and delusion. They are quite connected you know.

I cried.  I pushed people away.  I didn't want to connect.  I buried myself in work so I didn't have to think.  I thought about other aspects of this card. "The Traitor." Was this man a traitor? Years ago they would hang them upside down by one foot as punishment. I instantaneously pushed that thought aside looking at Neil's face.  The card I painted was not a traitor and I wasn't sure that my former lover was either.  Only that he had to protect himself and that he thought of me as a temptation.  I was in limbo. I had forgotten The Hanged Man was not about life or death but suspension until the time is right, sacrificing of old ways to let new ones in, and uncovering the reality so that acceptance can happen. Something had just ended but what was to take it's place had not begun yet.  It was in the works and for now I must wait.

I took this photo of what it felt like, kind of like being in a fairytale and not quite knowing who to trust even though you know the ending.

Neptune is the ruler of this card. Neptune is spirituality, dreams and psychic abilities.  The Hanged Man has allowed himself to be taken over by all of these things, in order to receive his insight. He waits with open arms to be born into consciousness and receive the information that is to come.  He knows the knowledge will take him to where he needs to be and by sacrificing himself he will gain much more than ever expected, but sacrifice hurts and in order to receive we must let go.

This is a time when emotions run high, when insights are deep, and you dangle in the realm of fairytale.  It is  also card that suggest at this time being a little daring, trying new things, and letting go a little.  These are moments that won't last forever but they are moments worth listening to.

And of course a huge thank you as always to Jim Shirey who has allowed me to use his gorgeous photos.  The background on these two is straight from Jim himself.

The partridge berry blossoms come two to an ovary. thus, the two small ones are connected to a single berry and leave a double seed scar. They ripen in the winter into a small red berry the size of a small pea. The rattlesnake plantain is named after the appearance of its leaves, which resemble a snake skin. The flower spike produces a profusion to tiny flowers about 1/8 inch across. when i took this shot I was competing with a bumble bee who had her next under one of the leaves. She was very patient at first, but became quite cross when I wanted to do a re-shoot. She zapped me on the arm. Just a bit to let me know my time was up.



Pimp My Artwork 056: The Tower

The Tower remains one of my favorite cards in the tarot. Often when I'm doing a reading the Tower will come up and their eyes widen.  The Tower you see isn't a bad card, it's an eye opening one.  Many times in our lives we hold onto a situation that isn't healthy for us because we've created or been fed a lie.  In those moments everything comes crashing down when we realize this has happened.  It can be extremely painful BUT on the other hand we are left with truth on which to rebuild on.  

When the card started to tap at my forehead, I thought, the only person that could relay the real message of this card is Amanda Palmer.  Sxip called me later that day and asked if I had thought about putting Neil and Amanda into the deck.  "I have." I replied, "But I need an introduction, I've only spoken to them briefly at parties." And so the Magician raised his wand and an introduction was made. 

I chose Amanda because of her ability to see through bullshit and tear down her own personal towers.  I thought about her struggle with the record company and from that rising above and into a better path. I thought about Neil's piece on Amanda and the Dresden Dolls show, how an amazing musical and sometimes physical relationship must crack, must fall in order for something else to emerge.  I knew other people would identify with her story and finally understand the actual meaning of the card.  The Tower brings immense clarity. 

On the Fool's journey he  tore down his resistance to change and sacrifice (Hanged man), then came to terms with Death (Death); he learned about moderation and synthesis (Temperance) and about power (The Devil). But here and now, he has done what was hardest: he destroyed the lies of his life. What's left are the foundations of truth. On this he can rebuild himself.

I started the Tower during my 40 days of madness, where I channeled the muses no matter how they came or who they came as.  This was all part of a bigger Project 40. I started off creating elaborate images and long stories, as the days became longer I began struggle.  Day 20, the halfway point I broke.  You see, I had gotten on a high horse.  Everyone was writing to tell me how brilliant this project was going.  I started to think I could do no wrong with imagery.  Days 17-20 were rough.  I had created images that were sub par to the ones before.  I was, am, and will always be a perfectionist.  I looked at these terrible images ruining my beautiful blog and cried.  I mean cried, deeply with sobs and filled with anger.  I thought about quitting the entire project. 

In my hissy fit I opened one eye to a kitten rubbing against me.  "Was I really crying over an image? Had I built everything up so much that I thought one wrong picture was going to bring my entire project down? Was I really that vain?"

This was not my Tower moment but it lead to the Tower card.  I needed to paint.  I had been dealing with only words and photographic curves. I started to brush strokes and lost time.  It was around day 36 or 37.  I don't remember it at all which means I must have been painting.  Day 39 brough last minute rubble and by the time day forty had reared it's head, the Tower was covered in glaze and ready to be presented.  I finished it exactly as day forty hit noon.

Forty days symbolizes the death with oneself and the spiritual rebirth.  It corresponds to the Arcane 13 of the Tarot and  the thirteenth Hebraic letter, mem.  Jesus's fast in the desert lasted 40 days as did the time from which he died to the time he was resurrected.  Forty may not always mean "40" but rather a period of time.  The Hebrews wandered forty days in the desert, the flood of Noah lasted forty days as well.  According to R. Allendy "It is the achievement of a cycle in the world, or rather the rhythm of the cyclic repetitions in the Universe".  I could go on and on.

The Tower breaks down what is no longer of use, what holds us back, even if it's something that meant the goddamn world to us.  Let it in, let it break, and build on that truth.

As always flower photos by the wonderful and talented Jim Shirey who has the best stories to tell.

Impatiens capensis. A forest of them have grown up in the spot where we had our old strawberry bed. This one was low and I had to crouch for it and not move. Something took advantage of that and fed off my foot. while shooting, I heard seed pods popping, the last bumblebees making their rounds, and a few hummingbirds. This one is gentle and reminds me of an adult about to help a child cross through a place that holds danger. - Jim Shirey

Hypericum.  This is a St.john's wort, but it is the deciduous variety. St Johns Wort is a symbol of invincibility, courage, power and fertility. Welsh called this plant the "leaf of the blessed" It was considered to be an ideal combination of water and fire, the ultimate healing essence.