Monday, October 13, 2008

Gregory Colbert: Ashes and Snow; Susanna Helm: The Creation of Myth

Ashes and Snow
Exhibition by Gregory Colbert

The Creation of Myth
by Susanna Helm

Myths are allegories that illuminate sacred truths. Creation. Prometheus and Pandora. Adam and Eve. Central to our interpretation of not only the numinous, but of the world around us, they are meant, partly, to instruct, to "teach us how to conduct ourselves during the stages of our lives," in the words of Joseph Campbell, powering all our actions and beliefs.

Myths awaken in us the wonder of the child within. Children experience an innate bond with the natural world, a bond supported by the stories and ancient legends passed down through cultures. As we age, the bond is gradually diminished -- stories forgotten and myths untold -- and replaced with logic and pragmatism. The myths that once validated a social order based on interconnectedness have been supplanted by newer ones -- the myth of individualism, of cultural superiority, of progress and prosperity. And the social order they now support is one that seems ever farther removed from the numinous. The belief systems they engender lead us farther and farther from the still-necessary underlying truths of the old stories. Our separation extends across time to religion, geopolitics, race, class, and even species. The old bond broken, our mindless self-interests range across the globe, treading more and more cruelly and carelessly upon the natural world in a dangerous dance of dissolution.

Creation myths often spoke of sacred animals that played integral parts in the formation of the natural world, but these beliefs no longer seem essential to our industrialized consciousness. Animals are no longer esteemed as the sacred basis for existence, but rather as resources to be employed in our service. At a time when respect for our environment and the creatures living within it appears largely absent from our actions, it is worrisome to have strayed so far from the mythology of our cultures.

If humanity is to tread more carefully, to guard that its footprint does not irreparably mar that on which it depends, it is in desperate need of a new mythology -- one that transcends the artificial boundaries of culture, nation, religion, and species; a mythology that carries with it the innocence of childhood, the compassion born of a connection to all living things, the shared recollection of oneness.

Gregory Colbert's timeless epic of serenity, grace, and poetic connectedness bestows this new mythology upon an age in need. In Colbert's images, humans and animals are woven together into a tender and majestic tapestry, each thread connected to the other. Speaking to us through the layers of our logic and reason, he reaches out to the innocent children we might still become.

And not a moment too soon.

More Images From the Exhibit

The Nomadic Museum

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