STUDIO LOG August 22, 2017 / by Jennifer Davey

Eclipse Trip 2017: I had no idea a 4 day road trip to South Dakota and Wyoming, to see the tourist sights, with the end goal of viewing the Great American Eclipse, would impact me so profoundly. The first night began with a visit to Devil's Tower, with a trip during the day, as well as a return visit at night. As I sat at the base of the tower that night with silence and stars above, I was struck by how grounded and small, or actually, right-sized, I felt. My place in the universe felt both brief and miraculous. Earlier, in the visitor center, I read a passage about the different perspectives of Western religions and Native American religions. Western religions tend to be time based, viewing the world through the lense of important events in a linear history, while Native American religions tend to be place based, viewing the world through the lense of sacred places. Sitting at the foot of Devil's Tower, I could feel this profound sense of place and groundedness. It has made me curious as to how my relationship to the land would change if I viewed things through the lense of sacred place. It also has made me question how I paint, and how else I might paint. My process is steeped in the thought and tradition of the West, using time to build up layers of paint, creating a linear history, that in relation to my experience sitting at the foot of this ancient rock, felt very cerebral and disconnected to the land. 

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The next day, we visited Jewel Cave, just outside of Custer, South Dakota. Now, I was entering into the earth, exploring a small fraction of the massive under ground cave structure that has built up over millions of years. Rather than looking up into the vast galaxies and universes of the stars, I was going inward, into a structure that literally looked like the bowels of the earth. Again, this place felt grounded and strong, with its history standing in sharp contrast to my very brief human life. Each turn revealed a new rock formation along with tunnels leading to unknown parts of this ever-unfolding underground labyrinth. The tour guide revealed that mapping of the caves was still done by hand. Explorers use laser pointers to determine the depth of rock formations and then draw their findings using paper and pencil. This made me think about mapping in general. Especially because the cave did often look like the interior of a human, I wondered about the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Is there a way to map the interior psychology of the human, which can sometimes seem as complex, mysterious and hidden as this under ground cave?

 

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Finally, the trip ended with the viewing of the eclipse. What an unexpectedly profound and exciting experience! We were stationed just between Lusk and Jay Em, Wyoming with a clear view of the sun and a wide open prairie and 4 distinctive buttes to frame our viewing experience. As the moon slowly crept in front of the sun, the light turned a metallic dim grey and the temperature dropped at least 20 degrees. About ten minutes before the total eclipse the sound of cicadas filled the air as they were fooled into thinking dusk was near. Then, as if someone flipped a switch, it turned dark. A ring of soft dusky pink rimmed the earth at the horizon line and the sun now appeared as a black ball surrounded by a bright ring of white. It was so shocking and inspiring I could hardly take it all in. And before I knew it, it was over. I so wanted to hit replay and make it last. But this stunning moment of awe was brief and profound. Again, I felt very small and that whatever concerns I had last week about...well, pretty much about anything...were irrelevant. Somehow I was a tiny human on this spinning planet earth, mysteriously and profoundly lucky to be alive. What an amazing experience. This whole trip has expanded my lense of life and made me more curious and inspired. It is a very short time that we are alive and there is so much to see, explore and learn. There is also so much I miss due to my daily micro-concerns. I hope to integrate what I experienced into the studio and to life, remembering to be more adventurous, curious, and grateful. 

 

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