Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ancient-Future Artifacts #3: Sherry Bellamy's Beads

My original title for the post that started it all - "Explorations of An Ancient-Future" - was "In Search of...," and I might change it back, because the original title was probably more accurate. Certainly the ancient-future was not found by myself in the intellectual realm, but was, more or less, intimated by the artifacts I later found... Tom Beddard's Faberge Fractals, and then those awesome bismuth crystals. One statement in the post was certainly legitimate though: "Ultimately, the Ancient-Future - and/or the necessary bridge between the two - is forged In the creative imagination..."

And, so it goes; approaching the ancient-future directly is almost impossible, and discussing it as if were some physical conundrum is equally as futile.

Poetry, then, is the the only effective way to go. Presently, there are no mathematical equations. So, my mission remains to ferret out examples whenever and wherever they're found, and recently, I came upon another treasure trove. Love, sweet love... Sherry Bellamy's lampwork beads!

Although I've been unsuccessful in contacting the artist - her blog and website seem to have gone dormant earlier this year, and while her tutorials are featured in her Etsy Shop, I'm unsure about the availability of her work - I still felt compelled to feature some glowing examples of Bellamy's art glass. Click on the images and, with your mind's eye, follow the glints, globules and organic glass folds deep inside the globes... Wander accordingly. ;-)

And, as we stand upon the cusp of another year - a metaphor for the ancient-future - here's hoping the "future" part is at least as bright as a lampwork bead.

Happy trails to all of us in the coming year...!

Art glass - Sherry Bellamy, found here

For more luminous examples of Bellamy's work, try this page with a 2005 interview, this 2012 blog post, or her website, Orca Beads, where the piece directly above was found.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Sun Stands Still

Winter Solstice, 2013 - digital - 2013, DS 

Well, I'm a little late with this post; technically the sun "stood still" yesterday, the day of the winter solstice, but I spent the day working on the image above. This all came about when I rediscovered a little rock in the glove compartment of my car - one of my beach finds, probably picked up off a sandbar around the time of this year's summer solstice.

It's an enigmatic little rock... which looks as if its flat surface has lines carved into it. But, if that's actually the case, then it's only a small portion of something much larger. Who knows? But, in its own understated way, it kind of brings to mind the larger - and more celebrated - mysterious rocks that cover the globe, which are thought to be directly related to the winter solstice; Newgrange in Ireland, for instance.

Known to the druids as Alban Arthan, and the beginning of Yule, the winter solstice marks the time of the year when the sun returns, and the daylight hours slowly begin to grow longer... which is a good thing to know as we drag ourselves through the ice and snow!

Anyway, my little rock wanted to be a star... and so, I made it one... scanning it into this machine, and positioning it with an old scan of some ice I had on hand. (Yes, you can scan ice on a flatbed scanner... but, be quick about it!)

So, take heart... the winter has just begun, but, the "darkest hour" is already history!

(Additionally: 6 Ancient Tributes to the Winter Solstice.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Language of the Birds (& the Memory of Sound): Automatism

Wings of Light - oil on canvas - 1984, Roberto Matta

"Fulcanelli's main point, the key to unraveling the larger mystery of alchemy and the cathedrals, lies in an understanding of what he calls the "phonetic law" of the "spoken cabala," or the "Language of the Birds."

"What unsuspected marvels we should find, if we knew how to dissect words, to strip them of their barks and liberate the spirit, the divine light, which is within," Fulcanelli writes. He claims that in our day this is the natural language of the outsiders, the outlaws and heretics at the fringes of society.

It was also the "green language" of the Freemasons ("All the Initiates expressed themselves in cant," Fulcanelli reminds us) who built the art gothique of the cathedrals. Ultimately the "art cot," or the "art of light," is derived from the Language of the Birds, which seems to be a sort of Ur-language taught by both Jesus and the ancients. It is also mentioned in the Sufi text, entitled "The Conference of the Birds," by Attar the Chemist."

- excerpt from Reading the Green Language of Light  by Vincent Bridges

"Whilst some artists emphasised automatism’s role in discovering hidden aspects of the artist’s psyche, others, such as Roberto Matta, valued it as a means for uncovering hidden aspects of objects and for the exploration of what lies beyond the confines of the visible world. Its optical image is just one aspect of the existence of an object. Galaxies, crystals and living matter go through processes of creation, existence and destruction. They exist in time, change with the passage of time and can be observed from multiple perspectives. Conventionally, however, they are only depicted at a fixed point in their history, from a single point in space and, inevitably, with a palette limited to colours which reflect light of a visible wavelength.

To his attempts to use automatism to give form to those things which cannot be seen except as an inner vision, Matta gave the name ‘psychological morphology’, a phrase Colquhoun used to describe her paintings of the 1940s.  For the painters involved in this theorising – primarily Matta, Esteban Frances and Gordon Onslow-Ford – the possibilities were, literally, endless; ‘It is a Hell-Paradise where all is possible’ wrote Onslow-Ford. He continued; ‘The details of the farthest star can be as apparent as those of your hand.  Objects can be extended in time so that the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly can be observed at a glance."

- excerpt from Richard Shillitoe's excellent online article: Occult Surrealist: Ithell Colquhoun and automatism

"We are still living under the rule of logic, that, of course, is what I am driving at. But in our day, logical procedures are only applicable in solving problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism still in fashion only allows us to consider facts directly related to our own experience. The aims of logic, in contrast, escape us. Pointless to add that our very experience finds itself limited. It paces about in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to free it. It leans, it too, on immediate utility, and is guarded by common sense. Under the flag of civilisation, accompanied by the pretext of progress, we have managed to banish from the spirit everything that might rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, fancy, forbidding any kind of research into the truth which does not conform to accepted practice. It was by pure chance, it seems, that a part of our mental world, and to my mind the most important, with which we pretended to be no longer concerned, was recently brought back to light."


M'onde - oil on canvas - 1989, Roberto Matta

(Continuing where I left off), have you ever come across a particular scene (via a movie or some other form of entertainment)... which goes something like this: a man is walking down a city street shouting oaths to an invisible entity, and the passersby think he's mad... deranged,* but, in reality, the invisible entity actually exists - the man really is communicating with someone or something - and the passersby are merely missing the overall picture (?). If it isn't already, it ought to be the standard metaphor for all creatures "paranormal". Ghosts, aliens, fairies, Yeti, whatever. Some of us see them, some of us don't. The ones who do are immediately labeled delusional... while the ones who don't - for the most part - file their nails and sit complacently on their sofas, in the safety of a bedroom or living room or media room, watching bogus "reality" shows on whatever pixelated screens they possess. But, meanwhile, there's an elephant in that room. Or, maybe a bird. A wild bird which has flown into the room and has begun plummeting against the walls in panic and desperation. And, because no one knows quite what to do - and the program is over anyway - they wander into another room and close the door.

End of metaphor.

Artists, on the other hand, stay in that room... with the elephant... with the bird... with no pixelated screens to distract them. That is, unless they're a certain breed of digital artist, but, at this point, the screen is blank, apart from maybe a shadow of a large ear, or dim trails from a flapping wing, or the bright glints of light on a splintered beak. Images from the unconscious are hard to pin down. They're anomalies in a different language... poetry in unspoken words. You might say, (re: quote above) an unspoken cabala, the true language of the birds... and, invisible birds, at that.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Magic of Art & The Art of Magic

"Personaje Astral" - oil on board - 1961 - Remedios Varo

"Behind the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the shadows and the strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of the old temples, and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx, in the monstrous or marvelous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the strange emblems of our old books of alchemy, in the ceremonies at reception practiced by all mysterious societies, traces are found of a doctrine which is everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed. Occult philosophy seems to have been the nurse or god-mother of all intellectual forces, the key of all divine obscurities, and the absolute queen of society in those ages when it was reserved exclusively for the education of priests and of kings. It reigned in Persia with the magi, who at length perished, as perish all masters of the world, because they abused their power..."

"Actually, art and magic are pretty much synonymous. I would imagine that this all goes back to the phenomenon of representation, when, in our primordial past, some genius or other actually flirted upon the winning formula of “This means that.” Whether “this” was a voice or “that” was a mark upon a dry wall or “that” was a guttural sound, it was that moment of representation. That actually transformed us from what we were into what we would be. It gave us the possibility, all of a sudden, of language. And when you have language, you can describe pictorially or verbally the strange and mystifying world that you see around you, and it’s probably not long before you also realize that, hey, you can just make stuff up. The central art of enchantment is weaving a web of words around somebody. And we would’ve noticed very early on that the words we are listening to alter our consciousness, and using the way they can transform it, take it to places we’ve never dreamed of, places that don’t exist."

- Alan Moore via a 2013 interview found here.

“In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central painting of a triptych, titled “Bordando el Manto Terrestre,” were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in the tapestry, and the tapestry was the world."

- excerpt from Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49" (full quote)

Remedios, I told you that I am making you a spell against [the evil eye]. There it is. Last night I had a fever of 38, auto-suggestion perhaps—I do not feel well enough to go out—Come to see me if you can? Can both of you come to drink your tequila? … Leonora.

- Alleged Note from Leonora Carrington to Remedios Varo written on a drawing - found here.


Alan Moore, described as "the greatest graphic novel writer in history" - and, a self-professed magician - has been constellating on the web in recent weeks, beginning with the Mysterious Universe article: Artists Manipulate Minds Using Powerful Magic. Well, that's an attention grabber for sure, but, In the article, Lee Arnold is, for the most part, referring to graphic art; pulling examples from the advertising world, and the slick shlock found on television. But, then, the ways and means by which we're manipulated via the televised world is a given; it goes without saying. In reference to magic however, advertising and commercial iconography is the lowest common denominator - the bottom feeder - of the creative spectrum. It represents mere tricks of the trade, a practiced sleight of hand, and not the workings of the "Magus."

But, it got me to thinking about art and magic, and, although Moore was elucidating specifically on the written word - he is, after all, a writer - my thoughts turned to line and form... as they would, in my perennial investigation of a form language.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Jewel - Image and Premonition

The Jewel - Digital - 2006, Dia Sobin

She looks like some exotic, tattooed, Middle-Eastern cat-woman - possibly a court card from the Tarot of the Cat People - and was the first of my enigmatic hybrid creatures; but, I have a strange amnesia about this image, and how it emerged. And, it's difficult to talk about, because it's emergence coincided with the death of my mother in 2006; a harrowing, catastrophic period in my life (and hers), which I'd give anything to forget.

But, the point of this post - and the one which will follow it - is an attempt to discuss the paranormal aspects of art, specifically, art as imagery. Which is not to say the word "paranormal" appeals to me, because it doesn't. I prefer to refer to all of the weirder, inexplicable, and/or misunderstood varieties of human experience as transdimensional* - precognition, telepathy, ghosts, aliens, UFOs, faeries, the whole lot. In other words, I feel that all these human experiences are very real, and valid. Why we fail to understand them is because, in spite of all we think we "know", we don't "know" enough. We may never know enough.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoth... and/or, Why it is That Artists Die in Art School (w/ update)

(Color translation of) An Automatic drawing - pastel on paper - 1973, Dia Sobin
(original drawing at the bottom of the post)

I came upon a scrapbook of old drawings of mine recently - very old, pre-art school drawings - of which the above is an example. It was a colored version (executed in pastels) of a black and white automatic drawing I did around the same time. I did a lot of automatic drawing in my pre-art school days. I liked this one because it was less abstract than the others... it was a recognizable symbol and I knew it meant something, although, at the time, I was unable to identify it. Years later I would come to the conclusion that it was a representation of Thoth, the ibis-headed Egyptian moon god of knowledge and wisdom, who was both patron of the arts and sciences as well as an important occult symbol. My teen-aged self had dipped into the collective unconscious and Thoth is what emerged.

The drawing is obviously not an example of high art. It is primitive, at best, looking like something pried off a cave wall. And, yet, therein lies its power... a vitality and immediacy that I've somehow lost along the way, and will never again recapture. But, why is this?

Because, shortly thereafter, I went to art school.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Transdimensional Landscapes of San Base

There are numerous new artists out there - too many, in a sense, to wrap ones head around - and new artists jumping into the digital arena every day. But, every now and then, I'm introduced to new art (this time via MOCA) that really resonates with me, and art that fulfills the purpose of what I believe art should ideally be; that is: a visual language which has the ability to both illuminate and transform. And when I find the art, the artist, I am moved to feature them here... and so, I present to you San Base, a Russian artist now living in Canada.

San Base, as in the case of many digital artists, though artistically inclined, was initially trained in the science of mathematics, becoming a cybernetics engineer before fully devoting his efforts to his true passion, painting. What he refers to as "Dynamic Painting" - both the images and the program he developed to generate them - represents the marriage of his painting skills and his digital expertise, and the result... well, as you can see from the example above, the result is amazing.

All too often digital creations are too slick - lacking integrity, emotion, and poetry - but, Base's transdimensional landscapes breathe, shift and transform as naturally and aesthetically pleasing as running water and drifting clouds. One recognizes something... maybe it's the way we dream... or the organic composition of our thoughts and memories. But, no description is ever necessary with successful art. It simply is, and, intuitively, we know it's precise.

Bravo, San Base!

Incidentally, after you've viewed this "painting", you might want to try this one!

For more of San Base's work, including imagery for sale, more videos (even a few Mandelbulb fractals), visit his website, and his online studio.


PS: And, here's two new articles in cyberspace that may interest you... "Art + Technology = New Art Forms, Not Just New Art", and "What is New Media Art?"

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Paleolithic Artist

Ancient handprints from a Borneo cave

"An archaeologist’s analysis of ancient handprints could overturn decades of male bias regarding the origin of cave paintings.

Prehistoric hand stencils have been found with cave paintings across the world, but, because the art mainly features game animals such as bison and mammoths, the weight of scholarly opinion is that they were made by male hunters as a record of their kills.

However, Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University studied hundreds of hand stencils in 8 cave art sites in France and Spain and, based on their finger length, determined that three-quarters of them were made by women."

- Sandra Rimmer via an October 9th, 2013 article found here

No, Trans-D is not becoming a news site... but, I couldn't resist posting this tidbit!



Photo of Moche pottery found here

...And, while I'm at it, for new tidbits illuminating a slightly more "contemporary" time in ancient herstory, see these articles about the recent archaeological discoveries regarding the Moche civilization, and the Lady of CaoTomb find confirms women ruled ancient Peru and Girl power in ancient Peru confirmed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Patron Saint #10: Deborah Remington - The Future Looks Back

Ackia -  color screenprint - 1975, Deborah Remington

“My work concerns the paradoxes of visual perception, the enigmas and quirks, and how it all forms the basis for our realities. The impact, excitement, and energies created by incongruity, juxtaposition and opposites all interest me.

The images are couched in paradoxical terms and must challenge the mind’s eye, must invoke opposites and hold them in tension. The work at times seems to refer to something in reality, but then the reference is denied. Identity; the fusion of so many experiences, so many inquiries, so many intuitions is also a primary issue.”

- Deborah Remington, from a quote found here.

"...Drawing doesn’t have to have color for me. The Japanese would always say, ‘Can’t you see the color there in the black and white?’ It’s implied, and if you’re a really good artist and if the paintings are wonderful enough and if they really sing, then the viewer gets a sense of color. That influenced my work a lot, mostly the philosophy of calligraphy.”
(via a 2008 interview with Nancy M. Grace)

"Anyway I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at Gallery Six that night, which was, among other important things, the night of the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was the one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience standing around in the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o'clock when Alvah Goldbook was reading his, wailing his poem "Wail" drunk with arms outspread everybody was yelling "Go! Go! Go!" (like a jam session) and old Rheinhold Cacoethes the father of the Frisco poetry scene was wiping his tears in gladness."

- Excerpt from The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, 1958

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by 
              madness, starving hysterical naked, 
       dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn 
              looking for an angry fix, 
       angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly 
              connection to the starry dynamo in the
machinery of night, 
       who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat 
              up smoking in the supernatural darkness of 
              cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities 
              contemplating jazz, 
       who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and 
              saw Mohammedan angels staggering on
tenement roofs illuminated, 
       who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes 
              hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy 
              among the scholars of war..."

- The initial lines of Howl by Allen Ginsberg, 1955, found here (with audio).

“This was the time of the Rosenbergs and the [Estes] Kefauver hearings, the Hollywood blacklisting. It was horrible. The police were everywhere, and it was kind of a fascist country. This was the climate within which and against which we were working. We were trying to break all the rules. It didn’t matter: you just broke the rules. You rarely got anything substantial out of it, but by hit and miss we did.”

Deborah Remington, from Inside and Around the 6 Gallery with Co-Founder Deborah Remington (via a 2008 interview with Nancy M. Grace)


"It was a great night, a historic night in more ways than one..." wrote Jack Kerouac in 1958, for his semi-autobiographical Beat novel, "The Dharma Bums." He was referring to an actual event, a poetry reading that took place in a San Francisco art gallery - the 6 Gallery - October 7, 1955. 

In his thinly veiled account, Kerouac mentions a number of Beat luminaries on the scene that night.  Alvah Goldbook was, of course, the poet, Allen Ginsberg, who astounded the crowd with an impassioned reading of his definitive poem "Howl". "Old Rheinhold Cacoethes", on the other hand, was Kenneth Rexroth, while Kerouac's close friend friend, Gary Snyder, appears as Japhy Ryder. Earlier, he mentions a "delicate pale handsome" poet, Ike O'Shay, referring to a very young Michael McClure*. Of that night, McClure would later write: "Ginsberg read on to the end of the poem, which left us standing in wonder, or cheering and wondering, but knowing at the deepest level that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America..."

Deborah Remington as an art student in the 1950s - Photo credit: unknown
Currently found: Remington's NYT (2010) obituary (click to enlarge)

Oddly enough, one figure who does not enter into Kerouac's fictional account - although, certainly worthy of a mention - was a six-foot tall, redheaded woman** - and one of the six Beats who owned the gallery - artist, Deborah Remington. (Her co-owners were artists, Wally Hedrick, Hayward King and David Simpson, and the poets, John Ryan and Jack Spicer.) Granted, Kerouac was loaded on California Burgundy - Dionysus being the god of lost histories - and focused on the Beat literati, but, it's hard to imagine that such a strikingly beautiful young woman would've fallen outside his radar. Then again, judging by her own brief account (via an interview excerpt included in this .pdf file), Remington fails to recall the presence of Kerouac and several members of his poetic posse that night. Go figure.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Cosmic Nest (w/ footnote) (& A Restored Musical Link)

A Cosmic Nest - digital - 2013, DS
(Click to enlarge.)

"... I also realized (in the dream) that the universe was not infinite, but, was like a round area bordered by a ring of space which was a different dimension bordered by other dimensions. (?) The Saturn-shape comes to mind.

Also, there are other universes next to this one... as there are other galaxies and solar systems. The pattern of eternity (this universe arrangement) would look like a field w/ all these Saturn-shapes polka-dotting it."

- quote (recounting an actual dream) from a 1975 personal journal, via an excerpt from: "Temp L (The Temple Drawings)" - unpublished project record -1982, Dia Sobin

"Many modern theories of fundamental physics predict that our universe is contained inside a bubble. In addition to our bubble, this `multiverse' will contain others, each of which can be thought of as containing a universe. In the other 'pocket universes' the fundamental constants, and even the basic laws of nature, might be different.

Stephen Feeney, a PhD student at UCL who created the powerful computer algorithm to search for the tell-tale signatures of collisions between "bubble universes," and co-author of the research papers, said: "The work represents an opportunity to test a theory that is truly mind-blowing: that we exist within a vast multiverse, where other universes are constantly popping into existence."

- via this Science Daily article, dated August 3, 2011


Flat Disks vs. Bubbles

Everybody dreams, and dreams come in a variety of flavors: mundane, romantic, other-worldly, prescient, wish-fulfilling, historical, etc.  The truly transpersonal "cosmic" dreams are rare, but, when you have one, you tend to want to share it. It took me over 30 years to "share" this one of mine... and then, only because it inspired an image, "A Cosmic Nest" (above).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Flatbed Scan of a Summer Flower

Begonia blossom scan - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

As an artist, despite all the scientifically-documented neurological, psychological & pathologlogical excuses for my existence, isn't the need for beauty the real bottom line?

And, in the event that every living organism has consciousness and sentience to some degree, isn't it possible that the expression of beauty - and the appreciation thereof - is as innate, inherent and essential to life, as any scientifically-accepted, well-documented mechanism to survive?

I scanned this begonia into the computer today, because I wanted to record it exactly as it was. I suppose that's what my scanning exercises amount to lately... along with a sort of subliminal attempt to understand transdimensionalism, albeit in reverse... that is, translating higher (3) dimensions into lower (2).

But, that's not the reason I posted it.

I posted it because it's beautiful.

Enjoy your summer.


Tech Note: Concerning flatbed scans of 3-D objects (also referred to, on this blog, as "live scans"). There's a plethora of info on the web describing the ways and means to perfect this type of image document, if you're interested. The most important factor in taking a good scan is having a scanner capable of copying 3-D objects... not all of them can. The ones which can, generally indicate this on the box description. Also, they often have a fluorescent light bar, which captures a greater depth of field than LEDs. And, by "scanner" I'm not referring to expensive equipment or anything having to do with the new 3-D printing technology. A dedicated scanner is imperative, however - forget "all-in-one's"!

Tech Note 2: To avoid a "pressed flower" look to a scanned flower image, leave a stem on your flower, and then try constructing a truncated cone around the flower head that will separate the flatbed glass from the flower petals. I used black paper for this - black is generally the best ground - with some degree of success. But, the contours of the cone are key, as well as the depth. The flower has to fit exactly and its petals should just brush the glass. Best bet? A fairly flat, rigid flower.

Tech Note 3: Except in the instance of a very flat object (like a house key, for example), you will either be leaving the scanner cover open, or taking it off altogether. Back-lighting may be an interesting effect on occasion, but I find it helpful to have a several boxes - lined in black - of various depths on hand to cover the scanner bed while shooting. Another possibility is a blanket of fabric, normally cut to the dimensions of the scanner bed, unless the "draped fabric" effect is a desirable background. Fabric, incidentally, scans fabulously!

Begonia blossom - 2016, 2013, DS

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Anthracite Coal & Graphite

2 scans of a small slab of anthracite - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

I guess I feel obligated to finish my "Black Rock" series (started here & continued here). So, here's the "big reveal".

Well, it's like this: one can't write on a hard, granulated surface with obsidian... however, with anthracite coal you can. Which is how I now know that all my mysterious black rocks - despite how iridescent and pretty they may be - are, in the last analysis, anthracite coal. The ones with a more silvery sheen, however, make finer, more pencil-like lines, which sent me on a google search for graphite; apart from being pencil lead, I never did know exactly what it was.

Actually, the game was really given away when I found the anthracite slab above... which is glassy in the center, but, the surface of which is similar to a shimmery black poster board. Whatever it was, it wasn't obsidian.

(Note: It was also easy to pry apart in layers... and, though I still hadn't concluded it was coal, I still half-expected to find a fossil. In reality, one can find fossils in slabs of coal... and, two things on my "bucket-list" are: finding a meteorite, and finding a fossil!)

Anyway, I now know that anthracite coal is a mineral and the high-carbon metamorphic state of bituminous - ordinary household - coal. Interestingly, anthracite may be considered to be a transitional stage between ordinary bituminous coal and graphite, the latter often considered to be meta-anthracite and/or the last - and purist - metamorphic stage of coal.

Well, yeah, I guess I had hoped my mystery rocks were obsidian... but, anthracite and graphite are not the lowly, mere utilitarian minerals one might expect. Anthracite was a common replacement for jet in all that wonderful Victorian mourning jewelry... and it's been carved into sculptures as well. And, the same goes for graphite! The two beautiful figures above - the hand and shell (above, left) - were carved from graphite by Angelio Batle, found here, along with a number of others. And the graphite quill (above, right) is just one example of a whole series of really cool, carved graphite pencils (one can write with!) for sale here.

And, so ends the tale of the mysterious black rocks... ;-)


Restore the 4th (& steal this banner!)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Obsidian Glass (& a "moon rock") (?)

2 scans of the latest found object - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

"Seek and ye shall find"! 

Actually, this is rarely true in my experience... but, I did find what I was looking for at the beach yesterday (see previous post): obsidian glass. Of course, it's so glass-like, it's practically impossible to scan, but, this should give you some idea. It has a slight rainbow flash, but nothing like in the scan - more like the colors one sees in a crow's feather.

And, I also found a lunar rock! Okay, so, it's not really a lunar rock - just another specimen of volcanic rock with a lot of obsidian. It's blacker than it appears in the scan, though; it also has a very silvery sheen to it... 

Scan of the "moon rock" - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

Later note: Actually, the true identity of these rocks is still in doubt. I suppose virtually anything can be found on a shoreline, but, we are talking about a Connecticut shoreline... (see the comment section of this post). So, ladies & gentlemen, the jury is still out.

The jury's in... see: Anthracite & Graphite.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Found Object: A Mysterious Black Stone

2 scans of the same black beach stone - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

I actually found two stones on the coastline today, made of the same mineral... but, the one shown is the most photogenic, and this is it's best side... scanned at 200%, and then blown-up another 200%. For the top one, I used the "light adaption" scanning feature, but, both scans exhibit the same peculiar chromatic artifacts that are created when a glassy object is scanned: there's a distinct polarization of red and blue which is impossible to modify... but, in this case, actually enhances the image.

I've no idea what sort of mineral it is. Some surface areas are glassy, but, the rougher areas have zillions of tiny flecks of what is probably silica, and which reflect a rainbow of colors...

In any case, it's a keeper! :-)


The other volcanic rock - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

Update (6/30):  My friend, Moo, has just informed me, that yesterday's found objects are bits of volcanic rock known as rainbow obsidian. (Thanks, Moo!)

I've googled it, and, while it surely is an igneous rock, I'm not sure it's wholly obsidian - certainly not gem quality - and might be the combination of basalt and obsidian known as a tachylite.

In any case, it's pretty cool to have some volcanic rock, and it's really quite handsome, (though not in the bismuth crystal league). Also, it probably has bits of plagioclase feldspar, and, if you remember, that's the family labradorite belongs to.

Judging by the lack of saltwater erosion, my specimens may have originated from one of the more recent volcanic eruptions... though, how they arrived on a Connecticut shoreline is, yet, another mystery... but, you can bet I'll be looking for more! (For the sequel to this story, see: Obsidian Glass (& a "moon rock").

(Note: obsidian is an anagram of my name...)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Megabalanus tintinnabulum - A Chorus of Barnacles

Today's scan: A barnacle cluster (detail)
(click to enlarge)

Hmmm... more voracious maws (though, happily, I never paid Freud much mind)... but, unlike the mesembs, these appear to be singing. 

I am not sure about the identity of these beasties... but, I'm assuming they're some large, striped acorn variety of barnacle... that is, megabalanus tintinnabulum.

In case you're wondering, I'm posting scans of various found (and purchased) objects these days as a type of visual exercise... for myself, that is. But, here's a visual exercise almost anyone can enjoy: gooseneck barnacles. (click on the image - amazing!)

For all you (other) amateur naturalists, a photo of what might be this variety of barnacle in its natural - though, apparently, not native - habitat.

Scan of the full cluster
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hungry Mouths To Feed: The Mesembs from Little Karoo

Today's scan - a nest of Gibbaeum Heathii - 2013, DS
(click to enlarge)

They resemble a nest of baby parrots... or, maybe, something from the Pac-Man family, but, as a fan of weird plants - and weird things in general - this little pot of succulents, Gibbaeum Heathii, always makes me smile. But, I'm not alone in my fascination for mesembs, also known as mimicry plants, living stones, or Lithops (a pretty example is shown here); there are whole blogs devoted to them, organizations developed around them, and, regarding our featured specimen, it's even been YouTubed.

And, yes, Little Karoo is a real place in South Africa... where wild Gibbaeum Heathii is exclusively found, growing amid patches of quartz. Apart from being an amazingly beautiful part of the world, Karoo might also be considered the home of the first humans, the San people.

By the way, the little plant actually seemed to enjoy being scanned - a feat managed by dropping the potted plant in a snug styrofoam cup before placing it upside-down on the scanner bed. My guess? Gibbaeum Heathii loves light so much, it positively devours it... (hence, the voracious, gaping jaws). ;-)

(Note: Don't bother trying this at home -  better results would probably be obtained with your garden variety digital camera.)

And, oh yeah, members of the Gibbaeum tribe bloom!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We're Sorry...

(Click to Enlarge)

...for this interruption. But, an unarmed (and wholly disarming) sand cat has just taken over this station.

Our regular programming will resume shortly... we think.

(Hat-tip to RPJ at the Daily Grail.)

Important News Update:  However, it has come to our attention that we may have to consult the Sad Cat Diary before any further action can be taken. Stay tuned.

And, now, for a word from our sponsors...


(Update 6/9/13) Photo Credit Correction: Tibor Jäger

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sand & Cymatics: The Patterns of Sound

Apparently, the video above has gone viral since it was posted a few days ago (according to an article found here), but I didn't see it till today (Thanks, Moo!). I've seen photographs of resonance patterns in the past - patterns which emerge when metal plates containing various substances are vibrated with sound frequencies - but, this video is pretty cool. So, for those of you who have an interest in pattern, form and structure - and my discussions of them, and/or their esoteric aspects - you might find this video illuminating.

Cymatics - the study of wave or modal phenomena - is a word that was coined by Hans Jenny in 1967. Regarding the discovery of the ability of sound frequencies to produce patterns, however, in the West, Galileo first mentions the phenomena in "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" in 1632. (Then again, in the Far East, the ancient Chinese had already developed sound-frequency toys!) Next in line came Robert Hooke, although it is through the repetitions of his experiments with sound, and the subsequent publication of "Discoveries in the Theory of Sound", that Ernst Chladni emerged as the name most identified with resonance imagery - specifically in the term "Chladni plates".

According to the Smithsonian page (linked to above): "Chladni patterns are still of scientific interest, although their analytical uses have been mostly replaced by other technologies. Today these figures are more likely to be produced by a virtual imaging program than by an actual vibrating plate."

Yeah, but I guess they never heard of Meara O'Reilly and her Chladni song, or, her work with Bjork... or, for that matter, the experiments of Alexander Lauterwasser!

For more cymatic info and images, try here and here.

Credit: The creator of the today's featured video is Brusspup at Illusions and Science.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Day at the Beach

3 scans of a found object - 2013, DS (click to enlarge)

"Shinto teaches that everything contains a kami (神 "spiritual essence"),
commonly translated as god or spirit).

The kami reside in all things, but certain places are designated for the interface of people and kami (the common world and the sacred): sacred nature, shrines, and kamidana. There are natural places considered to have an unusually sacred spirit about them, and are objects of worship. They are frequently mountains, trees, unusual rocks, rivers, waterfalls, and other natural edifices. In most cases they are on or near a shrine grounds. The shrine is a building built in which to house the kami, with a separation from the "ordinary" world through sacred space with defined features based on the age and lineage of the shrine."

- excerpt from the Wiki entry for Shinto

High-tide is not the most excellent time for beachcombing, but, neither is the blistering heat of mid-day. So, for my first visit to the shore in a very long time, I chose the hour just before sunset for my foray by the water's edge. There were a few people milling about on the sand, but, like any dedicated beachcomber, I ignored them completely, aware only of their voices drifting around me in the air, in that peculiar way sound is both muffled, amplified and scattered by the ocean's waves.

I saw only one other person by the water - a woman, perhaps Muslim, swathed in black veils, hunched down in the encroaching waves. She was staring at the horizon, her hands folded under her chin in a way that may have been praying. But, as I approached, she stood up and slid off in the opposite direction.

Communing with the ocean is often - and needfully - a very private thing.

I found very little... the beach isn't what it used to be, or, maybe I'm not what I used to be, lacking the awe and raw enthusiasm I had as child, when everything still seemed new and mysterious.

But, I did find one thing... it was sitting in the sand in the path as I was leaving... a rock, but a special rock, in that it was a chunk of beach marble, my favorite sort of rock, and one that I had collected in the past; a collection I had to part with during the course of moving a few months ago. It was like greeting an old friend, but, before snatching it up, I looked around to make sure I wasn't stealing someone else's treasure.

Anyway, above are scans of three faces of the found object. It isn't as silky-textured as the specimens I've found in the past, those of which have been smoothed and sanded by the salt-water for a longer period of time... (and, an example of which is posted below... my only remaining touchstone of that species). But, it's easy to understand why marble is so often the choice of sculptors. Maybe it has something to do with metamorphic process that marble has to go through, it's physiological history, that speaks to the artist. Or, maybe some rocks just happen to "speak" a little more eloquently.

Interestingly, the grey, striated beach marble I find, tends to have one or more roughly pentagonal faces; the pentagon - along with the hexagon - being a favored shape in the organic world, and for the sacred geometer and mason, a symbol of sentient life.

In the Disneyland world of a child's mind and the "primitive", everything is alive, has consciousness, and is sentient to some degree, even inanimate objects. In other words, all is "animated". But, this is still true in many worldviews, up to and including that of Shintoism, an ancient set of spiritual beliefs and practices of which a large portion of the Japanese population, essentially, still adhere to.

Animism is defined as the worldview in which "natural physical entities - including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena - possess a spiritual essence". I suppose, how one defines "spiritual essence" is where a lot of people get tripped up.

But, to the child, the primitive, the artist, the naturalist, the mystic, and even a quantum physicist or two, that quality we call "life" permeates existence... either it's everywhere... or nowhere.

When in doubt, listen to an eloquent rock.

2 faces of an old friend - 2009, DS (click to enlarge)


Bonus link (re: how to house a kami): the shrines of friend and art shaman, B. G. Dodson. Guess which one I own? :-)

(Hint: Ever notice how the Shinto symbol, the Torii Gate, resembles a modified giant Pi symbol?)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More Ancient-Future Artifacts... Bismuth Crystals

Bismuth Crystal, Flickr photo by Ficusdesk

My friend, Bob, sent me strolling the other day, over to a Reality Carnival: Cliff Pickover's amazing, and constantly updated compendium of strange, mathematical-phenomena links; and I hit pay dirt almost immediately... and, discovered more trinkets to add to my Ancient-Future artifact collection.

Bismuth crystals - who knew?

Resembling ancient Meso-American stepped pyramids, or examples of  fossilized organic circuitry (and, I've been known to generate one or two) these tiny beauties are generated from the chemical element, bismuth... one of the first 10 metals to be discovered - known since ancient times - and the most diamagnetic of them all.

It's also an ingredient in Pepto-Bismol!

Bismuth Crystal, Flickr photo by Miriam

Apparently, bismuth crystals are rarely found in nature, but, like the ones pictured, they are grown in labs, or (and, this is the exciting part) can be grown at home on a household stove! (Links are provided at the end of the post.)*

Obviously, the possibilities are not lost on jewelry designers, and the results are items to be coveted.  For some examples, here's a steam-punk pendant by Heather Jordan, and here's Element83's Art-fire selection to drool over.


Above, to your left, is a Flickr shot by Sal Tation, but, speaking of drooling, the second photo above is a close-up shot of this article for sale in a UK Etsy shop. I guess money can by happiness, after all!

Some breathtaking close-ups of bismuth can be found at Paul's Lab.

For more info, photos, and items for sale, try here.

For instructions about how to make your own, try here and here!

*  Warning: Bismuth does have a degree of toxicity, though generally only with high exposure. According to Wiki: 

"Scientific literature concurs that bismuth and most of its compounds are less toxic compared to other heavy metals (lead, antimony, etc.) and that it is not bioaccumulative. They have low solubilities in the blood, are easily removed with urine, and showed no carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic effects in long-term tests on animals (up to 2 years). Its biological half-life for whole-body retention is 5 days but it can remain in the kidney for years in patients treated with bismuth compounds."

Previously in the Ancient-Future series: