Enter at Your Own Risk

by Dory Hulburt

from The Taos Horse Fly,
October 15, 2004



Robert Dean Stockwell's show at R.B. Ravens Gallery, "The Spagyric Eye," pulls us into the unconscious, employi ang the language of dreams. My dictionaries failed me, so I went on-line to access "spagyric," which was described as relating to alchemy, or as an alchemical term meaning to take apartnd reassemble. Both definitions are illuminating, because these collages pluck images from the collective unconscious, dreams, nature, and pop culture, reassembling them in nonlinear compositions that are strangely familiar and unnerving.

How many times have I dreamt about a house, usually with strangers in the basement who refuse to show themselves? Stockwell's "Dream House" is a decaying, ominous Victorian peopled by Hindu and Aztec deities, strange colored eggs, and surreal beings. Aloft in a nearby tree is a full-sized, flour-white man, ordinary for the most part except that
his body is as boneless as a rag-doll's. A reptile emerges from an egg on the ground; a woodpecker perches upside down on a tree trunk. It's all a little off.

Who are the robed figures holding aloft "candles" topped by illuminated light bulbs in "Where Are You Going?" Nuns? Women in burkhas? Members of some religious cult? They move in procession away from a massive pillar of smoke from which peers an Egyptian eye; the pillar is topped by an Islamic snowflake motif. Meanwhile, a bicycle rider with a gun slung over his shoulder heads into the conflagration. I was reminded of something I'd just read in the journal "Yes!" (Spring 2004) in which Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff, coordinator of the Bering Sea Council of Elders, wrote, "Spiritual leaders throughout the world knew that this time was coming - a time when all things feminine would be exploited, smashed, and destroyed, including all Mother Earth-based cultures, feminine-based spirituality, and women."

This is a world we don't like to look at in waking life. Yet, looking at darkness straight-on, as Stockwell has done here, can have unexpected effects - dislodging pain, freeing energy invested in repression, and unleashing creativity. "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain," wrote Kahlil Gibran.


The End