It Isn’t Everyday You Get To Interview Your Own Offspring

But today I’m interviewing Isabel Winson-Sagan about our video installation What We Wrote On The Water:

1. The piece WHAT WE WROTE is collaborative, but it seems to derive from your vision. Can you say something about suminagashi, your relationship to the ink?

I definitely consider myself an “ink artist”- ink has always been more meaningful for me than paint. As a teenager I would hang out in tattoo parlors just because I was so attracted to the smell of the ink. There is of course a stronger relationship in the arts to the medium of ink in East Asian countries, which is where suminagashi comes from, but artists like Rembrandt and Matisse used ink as well. I find ink to be much more alive than paint- it has a mind of its own, and perfection is always out of reach. It’s easier for me to enter a dialogue with whatever I’m creating.

2. Usually the ink is then printed on paper. But that never happens in this piece. Where does the ink “go” or imprint itself?

That is a huge element in this piece! Like a Tibetan sand painting, the work itself is not “kept,” instead of being frozen in one moment in time it keeps moving. This is also highlighted by the fact that the video is on a loop- although the water and the ink go through stages of stillness, there is no end to the movement. Of course, in a practical sense the ink eventually dissolves into the water. Time is an important element here.

3. Music and text change/add to the meaning. How do you work with others? Who is in charge?

I recently heard a theory that collaboration is a hallmark of feminist art. Instead of elevating the individual, feminist art is more likely to focus on connection and community. Of course, that doesn’t mean that collaboration is easy! The video was made first, so the poet (Miriam Sagan) and the drummer (Tim Brown) had to work together to align the beats to the organic and random movements in the video. They also had to create work that had a non-traditional narrative structure, no easy feat! I love creating with both of these people, but the nature of collaboration with each of them is very different. It can help if there is a leader- one person with the primary vision. But there still needs to be a lot of communication throughout the process.

Check it out:

https://www.vitalspaces.org/exhibitions/2020/12/29/what-we-wrote-on-the-water

Video on youtube- https://youtu.be/i4YKpXgEp-I

Parallel Lines by Miriam Sagan

tracks
in the snowy parking lot

rinsing black ink
off the too stiff brush

at sunset, Jemez mountains
disappear

dark glowing clouds
bring something else

the child begs for salt
then licks it off the oilcloth

only in my dreams
do I touch

deer’s velvety antlers
their nibbling mouths

if I knew this was beauty
could I relax once and for all?

or is it my fate
to keep moving…

Was This Always There?

Two giant cowboys seem to be arguing and finger pointing across the highway in southern New Mexico, near Vaughn. Wow! I said. Are these new? It’s been a while since I passed this way.

Artist John Cerney was commissioned to put up two brothers quarreling. I find it pleasantly reassuring that they aren’t pointing guns.

But they ARE giants!
https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/54980

Image from Roadside America.

New in the Hood

I passed this in process at the intersection of Second Street and Lena. Part of a city arts initiative to promote Covid-safe habits.
And who makes wearing a mask look romantic if not Zorro?

It is also cheering to see some art on the neglected wall of what once was Cloud Cliff.

Photos by Matthew Chase-Daniel of Axle Contemporary.

Call Me

I love the 19th century novel-in English, French, Russian. I love how big and physical these novels are, and admire how the novelist can move people around, from lovers to armies.
Often the plot hinges on a lost letter, the vagaries of travel, sudden appearances and disappearances. And no one has the capacity to send a text and just work out the misunderstanding.

I don’t have a cell phone in real life, and I’m having trouble with them in fiction. If you can just call ahead, why hit the road on the hero’s quest?

I’m so happy my new novel, Shadow on the Minotaur, is launched. But I can’t help noticing that even though it takes place in the 1990s there are no personal computers. I don’t think it jars, because my characters are just a bit behind the times and it isn’t relevant.

But starting a new novel, I can see the problems ahead. During a time of chaos (roughly now) a commune in central New Mexico shuts its doors and withdraws from the world, banning most communications technology. A generation is raised not knowing there is an outside world. Of course this is the start of the plot–what happens when a half dozen teenagers decide to leave. And find a world healed after a civil war, back to business as usual–freeways, cell phones, the internet.

As a writer, I think I can handle the emotions, the characters, the conflict. But if I want my characters to trek from Mountainair to Albuquerque, what keeps them from figuring out how to call Uber?

What do you think?

Little Miracles: Poem by Donna Snyder

Little miracles

Hoping for succor, promises pinned to purple velvet. Arms, hands,
legs, and backs dangle from ribbon, unblinking eyes tied to statues,
a show and tell for saints and God.

Candles smoulder. Candles turned upside down until what was lost
is found, wagers made with the Paduan, pleas to restore tranquility,
if not possessions mislaid or love stolen.

Faithless wander through shadows as tourists, but see these flagels
studded with cactus spine. Believers crawl here to kiss sainted feet,
leave bits of knees and hands behind.

Blood sacrifice. Prismatic eyes. Body of terra cotta, breath of dust.
Iniquitous night inhabits the sky. Demon mouths filled by succulence
of pearls. An owl signifies either wisdom or death.

A blue glass eye shields from evil intent. They bathe in blessed mud
said to heal the feeble and lame. Crutches at the door, proof of miracles.
Piñon smoke. Scent of juniper, palo santo, copal.

Remove these stones from my breast, someone prays. Illuminate
the obsidian dagger within my chest. Remove my fear of orbits,
this terror of the swing of pendulums,

the moon’s unceasing tides. Deliver me of the particularities of suns,
the peculiar pull of a pellucid moon clotted inside my throat. Receive
little miracles I have left in your painted hands.

Desert Illuminations Tarot by Lindsay Williams

My daughter Isabel gave me a copy of this tarot deck, created and made in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico!

I was very excited, loving its psychedelic Southwestern appeal.

Here is an interview with Lindsay Williams about her deck.

Miriam’s Well: It seems like making an entire Tarot deck is a huge undertaking. What inspired you? I love the Southwestern themes.

Lindsay Williams: Making a tarot deck is a huge undertaking for sure! The Desert Illuminations Tarot took about half of a year to create. This is an artistic and spiritual endeavor that I have been wanting to take on for many years but never really had the proper time to execute it. I decided that the year 2020 was the time to do so since I had so much downtime during the pandemic. It certainly helped with my sanity during such an isolating and uncertain time.

Living out in New Mexico and my love of the desert landscape and its themes are what inspired me to create this deck. The vibrant colors of the sunsets, the unusual architecture, animals, plants and ancient culture are something I wanted to make sure came across in the cards. I wanted to create a deck that invoked all the visual aspects together to create this unique theme for tarot. I knew that other desert fans and dwellers would love the idea of Southwest Tarot as much as I do. I personally have never seen a deck out there with this particular theme. I thought why not create something that I wanted to see exist in the world?

MW: What was the hardest part?

LW: The hardest part of the project was trying to consistently stay on theme with colors, motifs and translating the cards to be easily read by all levels of tarot readers.

MW: Are there other decks that were part of the basis of your understanding?

LW: I am well versed in reading the Rider-Waite-Smith system of Tarot so I used that system to re-invent the Desert Illuminations Tarot in my own way. I now use this deck all the time because I put my own spirit into it. While creating it, I really was channeling and hoping that folks who purchase it have a transfer of my spirit to them when reading the cards that invokes a sense of creativity, individuality, acceptance and positivity.

MW: How did you produce the deck? Is the technology getting more accessible?

LW: These days it is certainly easier to DIY your own tarot as there are plenty of resources available on the internet to help. I made sure before I tackled this project that I did enough research so the process went seamlessly. I encourage any artist to explore this idea in their own unique creative voice. It not only helped to give me a tremendous body of artwork but it helped to stretch my creative muscles, make me a better problem solver, make me more organized and of course build a community of like-minded individuals who celebrate visual art and reading and collecting tarot cards!

Reader–you know YOU want one of these decks. I loved it all, from aliens to cowgirls. I felt a connection to “home” with these cards–I’m in New Mexico’s magical landscape.
To order: https://www.lindsaydwilliamsart.com/tarot-deck

Enlightenment: A Poem by Dale Harris

ENLIGHTENMENT

My husband is a serious meditator.
His aim is not to be reborn into a next lifetime.
My goal is to get through this one.

My husband reads
from the journal of a great woman teacher
who spent twelve years living in a cave in Tibet,
to reach enlightenment.

I tell him, clean your room.
It is a cave.
It will take you twelve years.
If you can find your socks,
maybe you can find your Buddha nature.

Later he says
maybe I can do it in three.
Your room or enlightenment, I ask?

I kiss him when he sleeps.
I whisper,
if you’re not coming back,
neither am I.

What We Wrote On The Water

Maternal Mitochondria (Miriam Sagan & Isabel Winson-Sagan) actually has a poetry video installation up on the former College of Santa Fe campus. Thanks to Vital Spaces and their innovative vision about using empty spaces around town.
Due to the pandemic, it is by appointment only but we love opening it up for you. (contact me at msagan1035@aol.com). Someone will meet you outside, direct you in, and close up when you are gone.
Full info here:
https://www.vitalspaces.org/exhibitions/2020/12/29/what-we-wrote-on-the-water

Suminagashi ink swirls on water. A drum line by Tim Brown runs along, sometimes counterpoint. My spoken word contribution:

raindrops marred the page
as I pulled
black ink on to cheap paper
marks caught
like remnant fossils
and isn’t that
memory

you didn’t know
where you were going
when you started—
but could that
possibly be true
considering
who you are
what you knew about fate

who kept close?
who went to the pow-wow?
who ate bitter greens?
who died at the border?
who went to Paris?
who went to Carrizozo?
who turned an empty lot into a garden?
who beat the devil in a fiddling contest?

Babel, your ziggurat
yields silence

glass fish in the plastic vial of the sea
what lay in the endless caverns if not desire
stop, you are scaring me
by talking
as if God
wanted something
in particular

I kept close
I went to the pow-wow
I ate bitter greens
I died at the border
I went to Paris
I went to Carrizozo
I turned an empty lot into a garden
I beat the devil in a fiddling contest

Here are the newest images from this installation itself:

It runs about five minutes. You’ll be in the private but large dark space. Water can represent the unconscious mind. Come enter ours.

For those unable to visit in person:

Video on youtube- https://youtu.be/i4YKpXgEp-I