Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Artist Statement - Animal Essence Oracle Card Deck

It is with much, much excitement that I formally announce my latest and biggest project: in the first half of this year, I am planning to create multiple animal oracle decks completely on my own, decorated with my own artwork and with my own written descriptions for each card.

Ever since I can remember, I have loved life. Not just existence, but all living things; every living being is, and has always been, utterly sacred to me. As I grew up and witnessed the actions of others, and how those actions reflected their perspectives, I learned that they certainly did not match my own. I recall other kids in school once telling me how they used a magnifying glass to kill ants. It genuinely broke my heart to fathom. Just because ants are much smaller than us does not mean they don't deserve to live, and that we have the right to consciously and intentionally take that away from them, especially for our entertainment. How barbaric and unbelievably cruel, I thought.

Unbelievable video if Amazonian fire ants working together to make a life raft to save their colony from a flood

Later, I learned from how exceptional ants truly are. How they work in such insane efficiency with one another to build a nest, to gather food, to protect the queen ant, etc. How they actually count their steps in their path to find a food source, and how they can even communicate this information to other ants! Such exceptional creatures, ones that we can observe and learn from; I think it's safe to say that ants not work harder, but much more peacefully in their cooperation than we humans do.

So why don't we learn from them? Why don't we observe the Earth's living creatures in the way that, say, the Native Americans did, and allow them to assist us in reflecting our greatest needs, struggles, our afflictions of the mind/body/soul? As far as I'm concerned, I would say that it's straight-up, unadulterated ignorance.

                                                                          Photo Cred

Our society is so fast-paced, involving nearly every one of our daily moments in technology. In many countries, we don't participate in the cultivating and harvesting of our own food, but rather buy it in a building, often far away from where that produce came from. Even our food itself can be highly processed, where we don't even know how to pronounce the ingredients let alone what they actually are or how they are made. We also don't make it a priority to teach our children what healthy food is, where natural produce comes from, and how cultivate it, because even we, adults, don't really know!

This is one of my favorite Ted Talks; so very powerful. I highly recommend you watch the video it its entirety, but you can skip to about the 11:11 mark to see kids be absolutely clueless on what vegetables are to reiterate my point above. 

While our issues with food is a whole other topic that I could write several blog posts on, it is the perfect point to exemplify our disconnect to our earth, to our survival, and to our basic rights as living beings. In addition to the artificiality of what we consume, the majority of us spend most of our time in buildings either to make money (work), or reside after we're doing making money (home), and then our transportation between the two is nearly devoid of getting a little bit of fresh air.

As a collective, how often do our bare feet ever actually touch the ground? As a collective, how often do we look at a bird flying over us, or a tree blowing in the wind, and consciously notice it and appreciate it? As a collective, how often do we slow down our lives to authentically connect to the foundation of our home, our magnificent planet? While certain individuals are active in participating in connecting with nature, I would say as a planet, and especially this country, that we can certainly improve on this. If we, as a species, as a part of a whole, recognized the oneness of all life, how could we possibly treat any other living being with malice? We only harm our own selves when we act in such a way. 

Even when we do go out of our way  to educate ourselves about animals, what do we, as individuals in our society, do? We go to zoos, to marine parks--to places where animals are stripped from their environment and held captive for our entertainment. We respect these creatures enough to want to see them and learn more about them, but not to let them be in their own environment? These animals may seem like they're treated well enough; perhaps to survive, but not to live. I recall going to a zoo during a school trip and seeing the tiger enclosure; probably about only 15'x40' in size, with not one, but two adult tigers in it. These creatures somehow appeared to be sulking in their laying posture, and I recall feeling such sadness as I looked into their eyes.

Marine parks for particularly marine mammals are especially terrible and abusive. While I won't go into too much detail, marine parks often strip single marine mammals from their pods--their family--transport them hundreds of miles away in an enclosure that is much too small, all causing tremendous physical and emotional trauma. I found a couple brief articles here and here. I encourage you to do your own research and vote with your dollar by avoiding zoos and especially marine parks. 

Trailer for the documentary "Blackfish"; gives a look into the abusive treatment of sea creatures that are captured and put into captivity at Sea World. More specifically, this documentary, tells the story of the orca Tilikum, who killed and injured multiple trainers due to decades of psychological distress.

With all of this in mind (and heart), I deeply want to be part of the positive force that reconnects us to our roots, to nature; something that combines my artwork, my writing, and my passion for animals. I have come up with the idea of making this oracle card deck. While this isn't a wholly original idea (and has certainly been done before), I directly aim to place my own intentions of bridging the gap between humans and nature. Additionally, this platform is one that allows people to connect with the spirit of animals without needing to view them in captivity. Using an oracle card deck clearly keeps a respectful distance from the animals themselves in a way that is enjoyable and interactive for the user. My goal is to take a creature like the ant, a living being that people often don't give it the same respect as, say, the wolf or dolphin, and grant it the same light. The bottom line is that all creatures of earth deserve equal respect. 


Even the cockroach can be seen with wonder and positivity; this exceptional creature can live up to a month without any food, and even a whole week without its head! While they carry high amounts of bacteria on them (which can obviously be hazardous to health if there is an infestation), they are extraordinary creatures that reflect themes of survivability, durability, and not giving up. Instead of thinking, "Ew!" when the sign of the cockroach comes up--whether you see it in the media, hear someone talking about it, or presenting itself in your own home--think of what that could mean and how it could actually be reflecting something positive in your life.

                                                                          Photo Cred
                                   See? Even a cockroach can be cute! It's all about perspective.

I have a most perfect example of this, and it occurred soon before I decided that I need to make an animal card deck. Late last October, I woke up one morning feeling quite despondent about where I was going in life; how am I to pay the bills when I'm just starting up this business? Am I ever going to be "successful"? I felt urged to retreat to one of my favorite places in nature, where I had often brought out blankets and laid amongst the desert-forest scenery. I did just this, and waited fifteen minutes--usually I see birds flying over me, or chipmunks coming near me. But there was nothing. I wanted a sign, which often presented itself to me in the form of an animal. Did even nature evade me and my wallowing? After about forty-five minutes, I sat up and looked near my feet. What did I see? The cutest little tarantula, about three inches long, crawling near my feet.

                                              Exactly where I was when I saw the tarantula

While most people would completely flip out, I genuinely couldn't have been more excited. My childhood in New Mexico very occasionally consisted of watching the beautiful, gentle tarantulas glide across our desert backyard. Every time it left me in utter amazement, and I developed a great respect for them. Seeing live tarantulas in the wild is certainly not common, especially because they are nocturnal. I had also never seen or heard of tarantulas residing in a forest-covered mountainous area--but alas, there it was.

                                     The very sweet, little tarantula that blessed me that day!

I followed the small tarantula on its path, as it tirelessly weaved over and under the grasses. It then walked into what was, from its perspective, a large clearing, and kept on going. I looked to see that it was walking on a tiny human-made path that I was somehow a few feet from and didn't previously notice. After it resided back into its hole, I immediately looked up the significance of tarantulas on my phone. I read, "You are being asked to be patient for the moment. All you are asking for and trying to create in your life is coming to fruition behind the scenes." Grateful, healing tears welled up in my eyes as this most perfect message sank in. The symbolism of the tarantula literally showing me the path, the way, was also brilliantly significant.

Have you ever had a situation like this? Perhaps where you had a symbol of an animal pop up to you multiple times? Or even an animal that you most identify with? If so, I encourage you to do your own research on the symbolism of that animal as it can be a powerful messenger, specified to your needs/prayers/confusion/worries/etc in that very moment. The idea with the card deck is that I'm applying this concept in a format that can be used whenever someone wishes to have a message, rather than looking for something externally. The idea with oracle cards is that your energy--your thoughts, emotions, and actions--will attract the most perfect message for you at that time.

                                                                          Photo Cred

With just a few facts and a new perspective, I can present these animals in a way that may not have not been experienced before. I hope that this card deck, while small in physical size and not specifically fixing any/all of the issues I named above, can bring people closer to the animal world, and further, closer to nature. May it clear up any misunderstandings and confusion, and further, our ignorance. I dream of potentially selling these decks in places like animal sanctuaries or places where "domesticated" wild animals are actually rescued and given the appropriate, large living spaces they deserve (as they would not survive if released in the wild).

I want to end this post by expressing that I believe all of the issues I mentioned above is no fault of the individual, but rather of our collective ignorance and failure to understand consequences and progression of our actions. I hope that in reading this, you do not take any of what I said personally, but rather open your mind to these ideas enough to, perhaps, desire to make the world a better place on an individual level. The responsibility to protect the planet and reverse our past and current actions is now on us, as a whole.

                                                                         Photo Cred

That said, doing whatever you can to recycle, limit trash, save resources, respect wildlife/nature, etc. on an individual level does make a difference; it becomes positively powerful and contagious, spreading to those around you. I encourage you to take great care of yourself and the living beings around you--human, animal, plant alike--and hopefully involve respectful, beneficial connections to nature in the process. May the earth, may all that is, heal its wounds and recover due to our cooperative, benevolent efforts.