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The Mind at Large
Early humans stood up on two legs, and suddenly the brain was on top, elevated from its previous, more humble position on level with the gut. Since then we have considered this exalted station fitting for the seat of human creativity and thought.
Yet in reality, the mind -ndividual and
collective -functions something like a belly. It absorbs, assimilates,
and ingests, and what it takes in becomes transformed into something else.
Its food is nothing less than the magnificent, tragic, and ever-expanding
cultural/spiritual fodder of human experience, accumulated over eons of
time. The mind consumes and then expresses countless evolving forms of thought,
language, art, inventions, symbols, religions, wisdom, consciousness, and
memory, both individual and shared.
But none of our thoughts are new. Like finite types of food prepared in different ways, these expressions are variants - reassembled, recombined, and refined of what we as humans have experienced. Our discoveries are the uncovering of what already exists, in this rich, universal stew of consciousness and culture.
Through all of this, the mind at large continually
seeds and grows itself. It unfolds and metamorphosizes as its sources of
nourishment expand. We are the mind. We also are the cultural/spiritual
food the mind churns up and digests. And we are the evolving expressions
of growth produced by this timeless, organic process. We navigate through
creation, and we are the universe through which we paddle.
Look up. Our deepest, spiritual nature is crowned
with qualities of purity and power. Our male and female halves are revealed
to be two faces of the same creative source. Weve been tempered in
fire, washed in the flow of living, burnished by the transfiguring winds
of human relations, and put down roots that are deep enough to sustain us
through all change.
The Mind at Large
Hillary Riggs Envisions the Evolution of the Human Race
By Gussie Fauntleroy
Tracing her fingers up the spine of the Andes Mountains on her raised-surface globe, Hillary Riggs felt the column of rugged peaks continue through the North American Rockies and then arc across the Bering Straight, ending in the Himalayas of Tibet. The long crescent reminded her of the journeys of people and culture that have followed that same route over eons of time. The curving mountainous spine is like the backbone of the earth, she thought. It symbolizes the flow of people and ideas, just as the human and animal spine channels the energy of life.
Riggs imagined a colossal dragon, his body draped across the
northern Pacific, the spiny ridge of his long, curving tail dangling down into
the Americas. This blending of earth and animal became the artists vision
of the heart and soul of the earth. It also became a central image on one of
the six wooden totems comprising her newest body of work.
The Mind at Large uses carved and painted totems to explore
the evolution of the human race through shared patterns of knowledge, thought,
language, and cultural innovation as these have moved and changed over distance
and time. The work is a celebration of the entire earth - all cultures, languages,
and information, all people.
My son asked me why I use dots so much. Its because
theyre an art form the Aborigines use in their paintings, and these are
not abstract paintingstheyre maps of the Dreamtime, and theyre
deliberately laden with information, Riggs explains. In a way thats
what these (totems) are all about, the idea that we think and express ourselves
using chunks of culture, using genetic imprints and everything weve been
taught. Were only original in terms of the way we combine things. I rearrange
them in a way that tells the story I want to tell.
The story begins in primordial forms, in the genetic, biochemical,
and elemental information that builds and carries life. This core aspect of
existence is symbolized in images featured on the first two totems: the double
helix of DNA, the travels of sperm, sap, molecules, and roots. But the evolution
of knowledge reaches beyond the material realm. In very early cultures, shamanic
practices allowed the transmittal of medicinal information directly from plants
to people, Riggs believes.
From there, innumerable forms of cultural expression evolved
and spread across the earth. The two middle totems present many of the patterns,
belief systems, and innovations that have had the greatest impact on the human
race, through both the feminine and masculine aspects of humanity. On 56 small
panels are painted images of such things as scientific inventions, human sacrifice
in various forms, goddess icons, and artistic accomplishments.
In Riggs view, the human spirit, or mind at large
is this labyrinth of cultural change which we navigate, just as a woman and
boy maneuver a canoe through the universe in the central panel on one of the
totems. As in much of her imagery, the artist draws on personal experience for
inspiration - in this case, the memory of canoeing on northern waterways with
For the fifth totem, titled Generation, the artist employs the
universal symbol of the forked tree to represent the genealogy of the human
race. Featureless faces in all shades of human pigment tell of the long succession
of generations that have branched from the single seed of human life. In a parallel
lineage, the names of dozens of deities from cultures around the world are listed
on the totems sides. And connecting the universal with the individual
are panels depicting a mother nursing her baby and a father holding his child.
The final totem brings the story full circle. Crowned with a
giant butterfly, it celebrates the sacred and omnipresent process of metamorphosis
and transformation - in nature and animals, in the individual consciousness
and the entire human race, on both the material and spiritual planes.
A totem, as created and used by traditional peoples, is comprised
of images and figures that represent sources of power for the individual or
tribe. For the human race, Riggs believes, an essential source of power lies
in a deliberate embracing of all aspects of the self, and of all of our
I think it really is time, she contends, for
all of us to share a world vision.