Friday, December 11, 2015

Wild Orchids; The Tribal Green Woman (& Two Triangulations)

Wild Orchids - Digital - © 2016 (revised), 2015, Dia Sobin
(Newest version uploaded 2017)
(Click to enlarge)

"The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek words "Cypris" an early reference in Greek myth to Aphrodite, and “pedilon” for sandal. This is because the fused petals that form the orchid’s pouch or modified lip (labellum) resemble a slipper or shoe. The staminode (sterile stamen) is often showy and seems to welcome the insect into the pouch where it makes its way to a back-door exit and in so doing transfers pollen to the stigma.

...The Cypripedium orchids of North America are hardy terrestrial plants that can grow in cold climates and flower in early to mid-spring when there is plentiful moisture and cool temperatures. Species such as Cypripedium guttatum and C. passerinum that grow in Alaska are so well adapted to cold their shoots sprout up under the snow in the spring.

For centuries Cypripedium species have been sought after and collected not only for their unique beauty but also for the medicinal trade. Widespread collection, attempts at transplantation, and loss of habitat have drastically reduced their numbers. Wild lady’s slippers have special requirements that make them difficult to cultivate, and rarely survive transplanting from the wild. Because of that, on federal lands it is illegal to dig or pick the orchids."

- From the U.S. Department of Agriculture cypripedium page: Meet the Ladies, the Slipper Orchids 


Way back when - roughly about twenty years ago - there used to be a small, hidden patch of pink wild orchids in the woods behind (what was then) my parent's house. Mysteriously, one day, the lovely flowers vanished, and were never to be seen again. Perhaps, someone picked the blossoms; along with transplanting them, it's a sure way to kill the plant.

Popularly known as the Lady Slipper, or Moccasin flower, this orchid is one of the more strangely secretive denizens of the forest... blatantly wild, deceptively fragile, quietly erotic, it's always a pleasant, somewhat magical experience to happen upon them. Although I've always considered the plant a primarily North American flower, it's actually found in Europe and Asia as well; the ones illustrated in the image above, however, are a North American variety.

About the illustration: well, I did previously mention designing my own versions of a Green Woman and Three-Hare symbol (at the end of this post), predominately for carved reliefs. As it happens - and it always does regarding ones creative plans - while I was designing the Green Woman, I suddenly had the overwhelming epiphany that my Green Woman called for - no, demanded - tattoos. Perhaps, this was because I had recently considered getting a tattoo myself. As to why I'm suddenly drawn to illuminating my torso at this time in my life - well, that's another story. But, regarding the Green Woman, suffice to say, the tattoo idea changed the playing field, and, for good or ill, a full color digital image was required.

Moreover, as the tattooed person began to emerge, I had another inspiration. For whatever reason, Art Nouveau posters* by the Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha (24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939) resurfaced in my middle eye. And, whatever your artistic taste dictates, poster art in the days of Mucha were phenomenal expressions of the marriage between art and commerce, and Mucha's images, in particular (see examples below), were awesomely designed and elegantly executed.

4 examples of Mucha's work found here and here.
(click to enlarge)

Wouldn't it be cool, I thought, if my Green Woman image was a lithographed sign... say, hanging outside a tattoo salon for women? Okay, this is, undoubtably, an odd leap of the imagination for a non-commercial artist to take, but bear with me.

Because, up till now, unknown to myself (and possibly yourself), the lowly tattoo has evolved into a legitimate art form in recent years. It outgrew its former territory long ago... a territory traditionally populated by bikers, and those sailors and soldiers who (as legend has it) had a tad too much to drink. In the late 20th century, it became "in" for proto-hipsters, self-assertive teens and a handful of fashion-conscious celebrities. But, as of now, the history of the tattoo has taken a new turn. As was recently written for "Body Electric," a New York exhibit of tattoo art:

"Bound to a limited visual lexicon for over a century, tattooing has sprung free in the new millennium, liberated by artists who combine fresh concepts, holistic design, and masterful technique in thrillingly original styles. They draw inspiration from historical genres spanning Pointillism, Expressionism, Pop Art, and Photorealism; from an array of timeless ethnographic traditions; from illustration and graphic design, comics and street art; from regional folk arts; and from the Japanese style that has informed Western tattooing for the past century. The artists presented in “Body Electric” confirm that tattooing has turned a corner into an entirely new realm of artistic possibility. They are auteurs of body art."

But, is there any hidden corner of tattoo history specifically devoted to women apart from the circus side-show?

A photograph of Maud Stevens Wagner, (February 1877 – January 30, 1961),
notably the first female tattoo artist. Another early (and more tragic) female tattoo artist:
Bowery tattooist, Mildred Hull.

Regarding women and tattoos, we need look no further than the recent (2013) edition of the following groundbreaking book, authored by Margot Mifflin (who also penned the "Body Electric" quote above): Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. (Kindle edition)

From: Bodies of Subversion by Margot Mifflin.

Quoting the New York Times review of Mifflin's book:

"For most of history, tattooing has been a male preoccupation, either a one-fingered salute or an exercise in swagger. Think of Popeye and his twin anchors. Ms. Mifflin had the good idea to examine tattooing in the Western world from a female perspective. Her relatively slim book doesn’t provide a truly wide-angle view, but the insights she brings are insinuating and complex.

This new edition of “Bodies of Subversion” arrives at the crest of a wave. For the first time, according to a 2012 Harris Poll, American women are more likely to be tattooed than men. Some 23 percent of women have tattoos; 19 percent of men do. They’re no longer rebel emblems, Ms. Mifflin notes. They’re a mainstream fashion choice.

She is mostly an admirer of women’s tattoo culture. Tattoos have been “emblems of empowerment in an era of feminist gains,” she declares. They’re also “badges of self-determination at a time when controversies about abortion rights, date rape and sexual harassment” have made women “think hard about who controls their bodies.

... Her book includes striking color photographs of the tattoos some women have had embroidered on their chests after mastectomies. Thanks to recent legislation, tattoo artists can sometimes directly bill insurance companies for this work.”

Another way of dealing with a mastectomy... from Bodies of Subversion, by Margot Mifflin.
The three images above, as well as the one directly below, can be found in this Daily Mail article.

Hmmm... but, what about facial tattoos?

Once again, Margot Mifflin has a bit of the dope on that, via her 2009 publication of The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman. Olive, along with her blue chin tattoo - courtesy of a Mohave tribe - is pictured below.

A photograph of Olive Oatman, held captive - and subsequently tattooed -
by a Native American Mohave tribe, in the mid-1800s. Note on the link provided you'll also find a
few more chin tattoos, including one sported by a Maori woman.

But, no description of facial tattoos would be complete without a special tribute to shamanic artist (and Patron Saint) Vali Myers, that blazingly beautiful Aussie who was a trail-blazer - and a quintessential Green Woman - for us all. Incidentally, I recently came upon a wonderful Myers fan page - Witch of Positano - from which I swiped the photo of the perennially cool "woman of a certain age" below.

Vali Myers. Photo credit: Derek Ridgers. Frankfurt, 1980.

Speaking of Australia, as I peered out my window this morning, I was dismayed to find that several inches of snow had fallen last night. Well, it is, after all, around the time of the Winter Solstice which, apparently, I can't even escape in New Mexico.

And, it occurs to me, as I come to the end of this post, this isn't the sort of entry you might expect for the holidays... and the Wild Orchids image evokes late spring far more than it does December. But it also occurs to me that, in parts of Australia, it's the Summer Solstice on the horizon. Christmas in summer? Oh yeah, definitely!

Happy Christmas, Australia!

BTW, this is likely to be my last Trans-D post this year, although I may put in a short appearance on Mac's memorial if the mood strikes me. So, I guess it's time to wish you all a happy holiday season, regardless of which holiday you're actually celebrating. The operative word is: JOY. Find some! ;-)

Tattoo by artist Marie Brennan from the Diving Swallow salon in California.

For more information about legendary female tattoo artists, try here.
For an article about contemporary female tattoo artists, try here.

* As it stands, the early 20th century style of Art Nouveau has fallen out of favor in recent years... its sinuous, organic (and erotic) lines incongruous with the hard-edged, more mechanical lief motif which constrains much of the Technological Age.  Art Nouveau had a blatantly feminine quality, and, if anything, in the presently testosterone-driven world, anything that smacks of organically elegant is a deviation. I sometimes get the odd notion that, like in some bad science fiction novel, any minute now, we might find that artistic beauty is forbidden.


"So why, of all the major European cities, did Islamic State last month choose to target Paris? There clearly was an active terrorist cell there with connections to other such cells in Brussels, and that cell laid its plan and followed through with that plan, and innocent men and women, many of them with most of their lives still ahead of them, were killed. In Paris the outcome was multiple murder. In the Middle East, Islamic State also have included torture in their ‘doctrine’. But apart from their iconoclasm and torture, what tends to be overlooked is how deeply misogynist Islamic State is: Islamic terrorism is also specifically a campaign of violence against women.

Rape has been a consistent weapon used against the women who have been the victims of Islamic State. Violence against women is as much of a practice by IS as any of its other crimes. Knowing the above history and connections which Paris has to the goddess, what does emerge is that there is a lingering sense that, however unconsciously, the Paris attacks were a violation, certainly against the innocent citizens there, but also against the ‘she’ that is Paris."

- From the latest Shadows in Eden post: Isis in Paris, by Hawkwood (David Bergen).*

An Afterword

I may as well admit it, I had another motivation for posting Wild Orchids... my own "rage against the machine"... and my own tiny solitary stab against the terrorism that seems to be the overwhelming theme of the televised world today,  And when I use the word terrorism, I'm not merely referring to little men with big guns - the power-mad malcontents who seek to conquer the world - I'm also referring to the corporate magnates, the religious fanatics (generic) , the political manipulators (also generic), the social engineers, the sexists, the ageists, the racists, the bullies, and all the other vaguely fascist groups whom, for whatever reason, oppose human diversity, individualism, and, well, freedom. "Live and let live" seems to be an aspiration of the past.

Enter the Green Woman. Oh, you know her. If you're a women, she's most likely the ageless, earthy, free-spirit at the center of your psyche. Regardless, she's there somewhere... somewhere in a hidden, twilight world, or maybe in that opposing, interstitial, pre-dawn realm. She's vulnerable, but ultimately invincible; a power symbol... both the symbol of the primal feminine, and the Anima, the inner feminine personality found in the unconscious minds of men. And, after all is said and done - and, remember, Isis is first and foremost the name of a great, life-giving Goddess - the Green Woman will still stand, as she's always done.

PS Here's some good "green" news from Paris. Well, you know, optimistically speaking... ;-)

PPS Synchronistically, I've just read Hawkwood's latest post, Isis in Paris... and with his permission, have added his quote above this afterword. I couldn't have said it better!

UPDATE! I just found this article by Greg Taylor at the Daily Grail which reflects and confirms my own thoughts on the ISIS, no, Daesh situation: Reclaiming the Goddess: Stop Using the Name ISIS to Describe a Bunch of Ignorant, Murderous F**ktards. Right on, Greg!


Triangulating the Green Woman

Triangulating the Green Woman - 2015, DS
(click to enlarge)

Well, the above is one way of triangulating this design... I imagine there's at least a dozen more.

Is this my conscious method of designing images? No, it isn't. Which is why this sort of exercise is so intriguing. It defines the way in which creating art is, at its core, an act of ritual and/or talismanic magic. It also gives us a clue, a map, to the way the subliminal mind works.

I often wonder why I'm so drawn to bilateral symmetry when designing an image lately - and why the muse insists upon this route. Some people would say that this sort of art is not real art at all... a lesser sort of art, and merely decorative. In a sense, this is true... but, then again, perhaps decorative art, architectural embellishment and the like, are not meant to merely decorate the walls. They are, ultimately, diagrams of force... and are there to keep the walls from falling down on our heads. 

Triangulating the Green Woman (Part 2) - 2015, DS
(click to enlarge)

Update! Well, you knew I couldn't be happy with just one triangulation. Besides which, I knew there had to be a star there somewhere. So, here it is, more or less: an oblique 24-pointed star which centers on the Green Woman's third eye. I couldn't have worked it out better if I consciously planned on it!

Later Note: Actually, I just noticed something interesting. I think I've discovered a new geometrical star... well, to my knowledge anyway. The official triangulated 24-fold star (illustrated here) is a wholly symmetrical combination of the triangular numbers 3-6-12-24. But the Green Woman version, is composed of the numbers 5-7-10-14-24. This is the second new triadic star I've stumbled across this year. The first was the underlying geometry of my Three-Hare Symbol (yet to be unveiled), and is a similarly strange configuration of a 15-fold star. The muse works in mysterious ways!


  1. Wow....the artwork is superb -- particularly the kaleidoscope pattern as tattoo. Love how you wove the Green Man theme, but with orchids as if an exhale of some wild magic.

    This piece is VERY very good!

  2. Lovely piece! Now I know why you've been so busy - it's gorgeous, congratulations on finishing it.

    1. Thanks, TB!
      Stay tuned for the post... which is proving to be as great a challenge...

  3. Dia, you really have marshaled your arguments - and your creativity - well! You are so right that an image needs to grow slowly and organically, and it will tell us its needs as things proceed. These lace-like tattoos in your Green Woman work wonderfully well. I've been using (female) tattoos in my own art for years: they offer all kinds of doors into further possibilities. And thank you for including my own blog in your post!

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by, David. I admire your work and your blog is quite beautiful.

      Yes, decorated skin does provide another way for an artist to holistically blend his or her subjects with their environments. It took me many long years to understand what it was I was trying to accomplish as an artist, and my tattooed Green Woman represents a turning point. In the end, for me, it's always been about the geometry... specifically the sacred geometry... the underlying codes which speak to us in a mysterious, alien, more cosmically-orientated tongue.

      Your Isis in Paris post really struck a chord with me. I was happy to post a bit of it.

  4. Hey Dia ( as a side note.. dia is Portuguese for day ) !!
    I recently started drawing ( 2 weeks ago ) and quickly moved to digital drawing ( so much more convenient !!)! I was wondering if you have an email address so I can pick your brain a bit on the subject, as I searched but didn't find any.
    If you prefer to not be bothered or don't like to disclose your email.. just tell me of a way for me to show you my sketchs so you can give some opinion and advice.
    If it's to much to ask... no problem ;)
    As for the ordinary compliments to your blog... great work, great blog, but mostly great writing and great topics!

    1. Yes, Dia does mean day - go figure! ;-)
      Actually my Araqinta email address has been in view all along, sweets, near the end of the sidebar column. I also have it in the text my latest post. So yes, you most certainly can write to me.
      As for your sketches, well, have you started your blog yet and could you upload them there? If not, send one or two. Just don't take my "opinions or advice" too seriously. Your vision is, after all, yours; don't let it become corrupted by other points of view.
      I'm not really a sucker for compliments, but "great" is always nice to hear. Thanks! ;-)

    2. BTW, I just deleted part of my "latest post," so if the email address isn't visible to you on the sidebar, here it is: