The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2012

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SEPT 2012 Issue

ALEXIS MYRE Orchid Petal and Small Twig of the Upper Hemisphere: “Ojo de Dios”

On View
Collection Bob Holman
New York
They tell me, what is the Material World, and is it dead?
“I will write a book on leaves of flowers...”
Wild flowers I gathered; and he show’d me each Eternal Flower— Lines from “Europe, A Prophecy,” 1794, William Blake

Alexis Myre builds a box of light with flowers, other natural objects, fragile and tenacious, and metaphors and correspondences. Alexis Myre begins “using a compass” to master a world within. What plays out in the Orchid theatre? Am I her Situationist? Her poet? We will see.

Alexis Myre, “Ojo de Dios,” 2012. Collection of Bob Holman.

What is encountered is a complex confluence of generative material, a range of logopoeia or dance of appearance, idea. Radial symmetries. Global warming, a prophecy? As tensile yet fragile flower forms increasingly, needing protection and notice, pinned like Lepidoptera. From the hand of William Blake’s Europe: A Prophecy, another god’s eye lifts his golden compass to circumscribe the universe. The Ancient of Days. Blake was instructed to write the poem by a mocking fairy. Or Leonardo da Vinci’s “Studies of Concave Mirrors of Differing Curvature” come to light. Anatomy of an orchid, as you might study Da Vinci’s “Anatomy of a Neck” to gauge your world in all its connective tissue: eye apparatus at the back of the skull. A bit of trickster light. Seed pods of a mountain flower. The orchidaceae deceives insects. It morphs. Orchis, the deity, turned into a flower after his death. John Ruskin spoke of orchids as “prurient apparitions.” Gestures of the orchid column displaying both male and female parts rise here. Pedanius Dioscorides, early 1st century A.D., author of De Materia Medica, who travelled throughout the Roman Empire with Nero’s army, collected samples of local medicinal herbs and plants, hypothesized that orchids influence sexuality. Orchids are also said to be the food of satyrs.

All this plays out in Alexis Myre’s skillful, highly meticulous wall piece that advocates circles and segments of circles as frame. She says, “That’s what’s so amazing about a circle and simple geometry, how much power it has on our psyche . . . nature is very regular in its geometric patterns and we are unarguably drawn to those patterns no matter what form they take.” And, “when you draw a circle you are creating a symbolic universe separating dimensionality and dimensional existence in a simple looped and connected line.” And, “The axis is the seed of the circle, storing all potential energy and knowledge, existing as a place or birth as well as a place of emptiness.”

I would posit “Ojo de Dios” as a high meditative energy construct in which, as Myre modestly says, “I am also just pondering little natural objects.”

I am charged because Myre’s “Ojopulls me inside the orchidal dizzying darkness of my own time and skull; the “off cells” of the retina allow me to see in the dark as poet Bob Holman escorts his guests up the stairs in his NYC Bowery apartment to the viewing of the piece. He’s turned out the lights, then flips the little flower bulb “on,” which casts a magical phantasmagorical light. The central dark eye of the piece seems to fluctuate, held by its attendant wires, pins, circles and wedges. The L.E.D., sheathed by an orchid petal light at the top, sends a generative skirt shape downward, illuminating the lines of the circles. We move out of an “endarkenment” with a jolt of delight in a performance of magnetizing attention. Getting closer we see the nimbus orchid petal and small twig at the top are segmented from their reproductive parts, in a lower hemisphere. They seem to be engaged in a kind of attenuated relationship intervened upon by the central eye that stands omniscient and seems poised in an aporia or liminal space. Looking out and in. How to enter and intervene on this stage?  The full flower petal is in correspondence with its more hidden “lower” sexual parts and reminds me of an experiment with writing students, bifurcating a page in categories of what’s “seen” and what’s “unseen.” The categories provide interesting alliances.

I also think of the Svalbard Global seed vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen on a remote archipelago only 800 miles from the North Pole—a sanctuary providing a refuge for seeds in case of a large scale global crisis. They are held in trust for future survival. I think of Archive. I think of art as holding our archival memory, our psychic inscriptions, our dream-time, our seeds, our off cells and Archive as antidote to the war on memory and the warring distraction culture. I rejoice that a young artist finds and offers focus, grace, tenacity, devotion, beauty, and mystery for art’s 21st century archive.

Ojo de Dios are small woven objects made by the Huichol people of North America; they call them “sikuli,” which means “the power to see and understand things unknown.” Constructed of intersecting sticks, they are woven in the spaces between, in concentric “circles,” spiraling from the axis outward.

The Ancient of Days from the Aramaic “Atik Yomi,” and Blake’s God figure with compass, harken back to Milton’s Paradise Lost, and is a “nous” figure whose job it is to establish mathematical order and stability to keep us from nihilism. Blake also instructs, “Labor well the Minute Particulars, attend to the Little Ones” and envisions, as Myre does, a world “where every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.”


Anne Waldman


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2012

All Issues