Tag Archives: uriél dana

Colored Pencil: A New Look At An Emerging Medium

In the world of art, colored pencils as a medium continue to be regarded as the new kids on the block. They’ve got the attention of a lot of people but still sit alone at at the drawing table waiting to be joined.

Colored Pencil - Jesse Lane
Jesse Lane

Colored Pencils for art were introduced in 1924 by Faber-Castelland Caran d’Ache.

There are three types of colored pencil. There are thick, soft leads that are waterproof and lightproof. They do not smudge or erase easily (Derwent/Eagle)

The second type are thin, non crumbling, lead pencils. They are are waterproof and great for detail, but come in limited colors. They do not smudge or erase easily but can be removed with a blade. (Verithin/Venus. The Venus brand can be erased).

The third are the water soluble leads.These can be used in combination with water to produce washes of color (cross between colored pencils and watercolors. The most common colored pencils are wax based because they are easily accessible, offer a large color selection and are easier to erase. They have a tendency to bloom (get a milky appearance) if they have not been sealed with a fixative.

Oil based colored pencils generally have a lighter appearance and can require the artist to repeat applications many times to get the richness he desires. They also can smear but a fixative usually is not required.

Colored Pencil - Brian Scott
Brian Scott

Colored pencil artists layer 3, 5, up to 20 layers of pencil to layer and mix colors. In addition to using crosshatching or other techniques to get the pencil into all of the nooks and crannies of textured papers, finishing techniques often include using solvents to blend the colors further.

Colored Pencil - Kerry Brooks
Kerry Brooks

Dry blending uses tools like tortillon’s (paper stumps), tissue, silks or other dried cloth. Additional color can not be laid down again after dry blending.

The U.S., Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom now have national colored pencil societies.Their professional competitions are beginning to attract the professionally trained artist to the medium.

Colored Pencil - Tanja Gant
Tanja Gant

Perhaps there is hope we will see the end of the plethora of puppy paintings along with sentimental children imagery that has become the hallmark of Social Media Censors.

The art most people are exposed to on social media distorts our perception of art. Classic art or the work of the classically trained, are often censored out by low paid home based operators. Often, especially in European accounts, moderators are Chinese, Indian or even American companies with a deeply Christian tradition.   Moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision, often breaking European censorship laws. For more on this subject, please see my article here.

Colored Pencil - Ann Kullberg
Ann Kullberg

Art Credit: Header Image by Christopher Pugliese (b.1968)

Drawing: The Line Between Real And Illusion

Maria Kreyn (b. 1985, Russia)Learning to draw trains us to see the world through our own eyes and not through the filters of the mind. Our minds delete, distort,and generalize through processing filters.

People who can’t draw have not learned to see what they are looking at. Drawing is a skill set that can be taught. It is not so much about what you do with your hands as it is what you see when you look at something.

In art school many drawing exercises quickly revealed to each of us how the mind lies. Our drawing materials were in one room and the model was in another. We were allowed only 5 minutes to look and remember as much as possible before returning to our easel and draw for ten minutes. After each quarter hour journey we learned quickly what our minds had shut out.

A major problem was that few teachers had the skills to teach drawing, especially the technical drawing needed in the design of textiles, industry, and science.

I see a technological parallel happening in the 21st century. So many tech “creations” are not “creations” at all but more akin to mental innovations. Many people see tech as the high priestess of design, but to those who actually create it is seen as derivative. Every reference of a CGI screen can be easily spotted to the trained eye.   I have said that art done in the digital world is a bit like compact fluorescent light bulbs: the color feels off and the energy is considered dirty. The emotions are stripped in the same way humor or sarcasm do not translate well in text messages.

 

Shane Wolf (b.1976, American)

There is an expression, “great artists steal.” Sadly it has been adapted and distorted from a quote by TS Eliot. People have heard so many versions of it, that is often taken at face value. I will get back to that later.

Junghoon Lee (South Korean)

The original quote, “the immature poet imitates and the mature poet plagiarizes”, has been parodied by artists, composers and writers such as Picasso, Stravinsky, and Faulkner.

Pablo Picasso changed the quote to, “Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.”

Igor Stravinsky changed it to “A lessor artists borrows, great artists steal”.

Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner, added his version with “Immature artists copy, great artists steal”.

Stealing in each of these cases refers to not copying someone else’s work, but taking it in what you love about it and making it a part of your self. It does not mean copying.

Someone who copies is confusing mental ideas with creativity. It is coming from fear, not creativity.

Competitive people believe only a few good ideas exist and there is not enough to go around. Competition is the opposite of creativity.Creativity manifests itself uniquely to every individual. It is unlimited.

So how did the USA get to a point where basic drawing skills are no longer taught to everyone? In 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act was passed. For schools to receive federal monies or what is known as Title I Funding, schools would have to administer standard based assessments.

Elizabeth Zanzinger (b.1980, American)

Schools began to focus on test results through memorization. Although it technically included the arts, they were not tested for Title I funding. If the students did not pass rigorous tests, schools lost their funding and teachers lost their jobs. Teaching kids to think or to create was no longer financially worth it.

The No Child Left Behind Act was replaced with “The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015. Although modified, it did not eliminate the requirements for periodic standardized tests given to students. It has left generations of visually illiterate adults and the non development of the part of our brain that helps us creatively solve problems.

Drawing with computers does not train the eye in the same way we learn with paper and pencil. Digital manipulation does not replace the skill of learning to draw anymore that cut and pasting from what is online is writing a novel.

I am not suggesting that everyone receive the rigorous training as a professional artist at an Atelier. Learning to draw in this way takes 2 years (graphite, charcoal, pen and ink, washes), It includes technical drawing (perspective and human anatomy. I am suggesting we take the lead from the French and take away cell phones from students during school hours.

Steven Assael (b.1957, American) Shana Leveson (American)


When drawing was initially required to be taught in our schools we had to use Britain’s school system to know where to begin. Art Master Walter Smith was hired and brought to the USA as the Art Education Supervisor Of Massachusettes.Walter Smith wanted to teach children how to draw, not make drawings. He wanted to give them an understanding of technical drawing that could be brought into design of products, incorporate science, and an understanding of how to see.

Edward Schmidt (b.1946, American)

Jamie Hudson in his paper, Industrial Drawing in America in the 19th Century describes Smiths plan as follows:

  • “Smith separated the public into three sections:Children,skilled artisans,and general public. Children would be taught drawing in schools as part of their general education, artisans would be taught in night schools, and the general public would be able to have lectures in museums if they wished.
  • Smith educated teachers who had previous knowledge of drawing. He did this so in turn they became knowledgeable enough to teach normal teachers how to incorporate art in the classroom.
  • Smith devised a plan for incorporating drawing skills in grade schools. For younger students, they would be taught, “free-hand outline drawing” and when they were old enough they would eventually learn “model drawing”. “Memory Drawing” and flash cards were also included in his method (used in all grades).”


Many studies show technology is effecting our attention span and memory. It is literally re-wiring our brains differently. According to a new cognitive research out of Germany, “the production of visual art improves effective interaction” between parts of the brain.” Drawing skills benefit our ability to contribute to dozens of skill-sets and contributes significantly to how efficient our brains age and work over all.

Colleen Barry (b.1981, American)

I post a figurative art stream on Twitter featuring contemporary artists. The gratitude I receive from artists and art lovers is my reward. So many people do not realize we are living in a renaissance of classically trained artists. If you would like to visit it please go to Twitter.com/Uridev.


Artists Work by order of appearance

  1. Camie Salaz (b.1977, American) drawing for the painting of “Orion”
  2. Maria Kreyn (b. 1985, Russia)
  3. Roberto Ferri (b.1978, Italy)
  4. Shane Wolf (b.1976, American)
  5. Junghoon Lee (South Korean)
  6. Elizabeth Zanzinger (b.1980, American)
  7. Left: Steven Assael (b.1957, American)
  8. Right: Shana Leveson (American)
  9. Edward Schmidt (b.1946, American)
  10. Colleen Barry (b.1981, American.)

The Nude in Art & The Evolution of Consciousness

The nude has experienced as many highs and lows in the art world as a manic depressive painter. Tim Marlow in The Nude In Art explains, “For at least 30,000 years, humans have represented the naked form in a variety of ways.”

To the Greeks and Romans, the male nude was a symbol of physical perfection the body was capable of achieving. The female nude was more focused on the deities that birthed the world.

Colleen Barry - The Nude in Art
New York artist, Colleen Barry (b.1981)

The British, although prudish by nature, enthusiastically collected nude paintings during the Victorian era.

Inspired by the French and Internationalism of the Orientalists, even Queen Victoria bought nudes for her husband Prince Albert.

War often changes everything in the arts. The world moved through not one but two world wars.

After WWII, figurative paintings became associated with Nazi Art or the propaganda art that used Socialist Realist Art. Western Germany became repulsed by figurative work. The Nude went back into the closet.

Studying art history, I’ve noted a correlation between the nude in art with what is known as Skirt Length Theory. When times are financially difficult, skirt lengths get longer and art on the walls gets more prudish. When we are in a positive state financially and emotionally, we tend to feel more comfortable revealing extra flesh in our clothing and in our art.

The Nude in Art - D Jeffrey Mims
North Carolina born artist #DJeffreyMims (b.1954)

 

The Nude in Art - Daniela Astone
Italian painter Daniela Astone (b.1980)

Sadly, I’ve noted a pattern in censorship of the female in nude when women begin to become more empowered. Francesco Goya’s Nude Maja (c.1800) offended audiences not so much because his mistress was naked, but that she is comfortable in her nakedness. She locks eyes with the viewer completely unashamed to be seen in her birthday suit. A hundred and twenty years later we see police shut down a gallery in Paris when Amedeo Modigliani painted a woman comfortable in her body and her sexuality.

Now, yet another 120 years later, the London underground (as well as Hamburg and Cologne), have deemed the nudes of famous Austrian painter Egon Schiele too daring for his own 100 year anniversary celebration next year.

People sometimes ask why artists would continue to paint nudes when they “offend” people? Do they? In my article, How Social Media Is Editing Our World View On How And What We See, I go into more detail on how computer algorithms and moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision to remove posts, breaking European censorship laws.

Artists paint and draw the human form because there nothing more challenging than to do so. It requires great skill in anatomy, foreshortening, understanding skin tone, light and shadow. Every emotion is held in the human body and no one has the same face or body two days in a row. You could paint the same model every day for the rest of your life and it would be a new person every time.

The Nude in Art - Zack Zdrale
American artist Zack Zdrale (b.1977)

I think what history has taught us about knee jerk reactions to nudes is this: naughty or nice is a projection of our own self image. If we vilify the human body, how will we (or our children) ever feel comfortable in our own skin?

When we take something natural and attach shame to it, something bad happens. It becomes a shadow part of us and acts out inappropriately. We get people secretly addicted to porn, who do not honor boundaries, pedophiles and men in the workplace that act like Harvey Weinstein.


Featured Image: American Painter Adrian Gottlieb (b.1975) “Pasithea”.

To follow my Twitter feed on contemporary figurative art you can find me at Twitter.com/Uridev

Art Censorship: How Social Media Edits Our World View

With all the horror terrorizing the world, something wonderful happened recently for the arts, and we have the French to thank for it.

In a landmark censorship case against art, the French ruled that Facebook can be sued in France for censoring content. Parisian teacher Fréderic Durand-Baissas had his account suspended 5 years ago after he posted Gustave Courbet’s painting, The Origin of the World, because it depicts female genitalia.

The social media giant tried to insist complaints had to be tried in California Courts. They lost as the French courts said, we think not. The Paris appeals court dismissed those arguments. The ruling could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users.

M. Durand-Baissas, a 57 year old art lover and a father of two was angry at being portrayed as a pornographer after posting the famous 1866 oil painting. He told AP News Service, If (Facebook) can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France can.

As a professional artist and a curator of contemporary figurative artists emerging from the atelier systems, the issue of censorship on social media has been an ongoing issue. One of the problems is that social media image scanning algorithms cannot tell the difference between pornography and the painted image.

In fact these algorithms often can’t decipher the images they are viewing. For example, this painting by Marco Grassi was removed from my feed and my account was frozen for three days. (It was properly identified for copyright and included his bio).

Art Censorship - Marco Grassi - Autocorpo
©Marco Grassi, “Autocorpo”, oil painting. This painting caused my Facebook account to be suspended for 3 days. The algorithm could not tell a marble arm or a human foot from a penis.

France is not the only country taking issue with Facebook, Norway, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands have also insisted Facebook explain itself and about its ludicrous censorship policies. Examples include male nipples being OK, female nipples banned. Breastfeeding is banned but the beheading of a human or the evisceration of an animal is not.

Norwegian author Tom Egeland had his account suspended when he posted the Pulitzer prize winning photo The Terror of War which depicts children, including a naked girl fleeing from a napalm attack. The subject was about photos that changed the history of warfare.

One of the issues with trying to contest our pages being shut down is that most of the complaints are turned over to a low paid home based operator. Often, especially in European accounts, moderators are Chinese, Indian or even American companies with a deeply Christian tradition   Moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision, often breaking European censorship laws.

A clear example of this happened to American Senior Art critic and columnist for the New Yorker Magazine, Jerry Saltz. Saltz was kicked off of Facebook for posting images of medieval art. Although he has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times, a blitz of hate and insults were directed at him personally.

The problem is that anyone who views art or imagery which conflict with their own beliefs can have your page shut down by moderators. A Muslim man that expects his wife to be covered is not going to want to see a woman in her natural form. White nationalists target paintings with people of color. The problem I have with this issue is the same question other artists have, “Why follow our art if you don’t like it?”

Having this kind of inverted censorship has created decades of the visually illiterate. Much of art being posted online is amateur, sentimental at best, toxic at worst. The classically trained painters are systematically blocked, often by people who want to control and punish others who see the world differently. It has become a tool for control those who embody shame, rage, religious dogma.

Cesar Santos, a master painter who trained at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, had 30,000 followers on Facebook. His account was closed by Facebook because “the haters kept reporting his nudes.”

Art Censorship - Cesar Santos - Map of an Island
© Cesar Santos, oil painting, “Map of An Island”.

If Social Media can create an Emotion Buttons its time for them to create an Art Button. An Art button would tell people they must be over 18 to view, that there might be nudity involved. If you view that person’s art page, you have agreed that you are of age and know what you may see. You will not have the right to report. (While they are at it they can design one for violence too).

How difficult could this be for coders if they have technology to recognize the skin of a child based on Markov Random Field Modelling? (I won’t explain it because it’s too creepy).

Here’s an image by Kamille Corry that got my account blocked both on Facebook and on Twitter.

Art Censorship - Kamille Corry - Scorched Wings
©Kamille Corry, oil painting, “Scorched Wings”.

As long as social media censors art, our perception of both art and the human form will be distorted. The human anatomy is studied, drawn, and painted for years by professional artists. It is a satellite for every emotion and a timeless beacon of all that we all share, our humanness.

Art Censorship - Angela Cunningham
©Angela Cunningham, student work from Grand Central Atelier in NYC

Featured Image: A visitor in front of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 “The Origin of the World,” painting which depicts female genitalia at Musee d’Orsay museum, in Paris, France.

To follow my Twitter feed on contemporary figurative art you can find me at Twitter.com/Uridev

Gage Taylor, California Visionary Artist and My Art Master from a World before the Internet

Tropical Dream has been part of my private art collection for over two decades. I apprenticed as a painter with Gage Taylor for 4 years, served as an USIA Art Ambassador with him for the US State Department, and we collaborated professionally on canvas for many years under the signature Taylor Dana.

In his lifetime, Gage’s work was exhibited nationally in the Smithsonian, The Whitney Museum in NY, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Huntsville Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The National Museum of American Art, The Haggin Museum in Sacramento and the Oakland Museum.

Internationally it was exhibited with the Paris Biennalle, the India Triennale, and Ortona, Italy.

Our collaborative work was featured in The Egyptian Rosicrucian Museum In San Jose, Ca and what is now the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle. Internationally Taylor Dana was exhibited at The National Museum of Art in Jamaica & the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana.

Gage Taylor (1942-2000) was considered one of the six originators of an art genre known as California Visionary Art. (Visions, Walter Hopps, Pomegranate Press). California Visionary art followed the poster art craze made popular by record covers. These artists made history and changed the course of art. Twelve of Gage Taylor’s early works were printed as posters by Pomegranate Publishing; including ”Mescaline Woods” and ”The Road”. Artweek’s David Clark estimated that Taylor’s reproductions (and those of his compeer Bill Martin) “are on millions of walls throughout the western world.” They were profiled in publications as varied as Newsweek & Omni Magazine.

Visions by Walter Hopps
“Visions” featuring Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. This book was about the original California Visionary Art Movement.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas as Dennis Gage Taylor, he received his BFA from University of Texas, Austin (1965). Gage graduated with an MFA from Michigan State University (1967) where he later taught sculpture and drawing.

In 1969 he married his high school sweetheart and moved to California. He started working at the San Francisco Academy of Art. San Francisco was still in a post-coital summer of love phase and Gage spent hours smoking pot, dropping mescaline, and communing with the Nature Spirits. He was an avid meditator, and loved hiking and painting in nature every week. This is the time that most influenced his early work.

Ironically, Gage could not sell one painting as long as it was signed “Dennis Taylor.” In mediation, he was guided to legally drop his first name. He did, and within a year, Gage Taylor was internationally known as a painter.

Gage had his first One Person Show in 1970 at the San Francisco Art Institute. (He taught there in 1971 for one year). He also published the first of 14 posters (The Road, Pomegranate Press). In 1974 Taylor became a biographee in Who’s Who In American Art and Who’s Who In the West.

 

The Road Gage Taylor
The Road by Gage Taylor (from the book Visions). Oil on Canvas.

By 1975 he was featured in the Paris Biennalle at the Museum of Modern Art (“Mindscapes From The New Land”) in Paris, which went on to tour Germany. His “Baja” exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was also in 1975 as well as his participation in “Hanson Fuller Gallery Pays Tribute to the Art Institute”, San Francisco.

In 1976 Gage’s work was included in the National Collection of Fine Art in Washington DC. (“California Painting and Sculpture”). This exhibit had traveled from The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.(California Painting and Sculpture,1976).

1977 brought his work to the Huntsville Museum of Fine Art in Huntsville, Alabama (“The Modern Era-A Bay Area Update”) and he was featured in the July 11,1977 issue of Newsweek.

Gage’s paintings were also included in the India Triennalle (“California Visionary Art”) and his work then travelled as a group exhibition through Nepal and Japan.

In 1978 he began a two-year project painting California’s Endangered Landscape Series under sponsorship of the Oakland Museum of Natural Sciences Guild. His work was also featured in “Vision Quest” at the Hall of Flowers, San Francisco.

Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor
Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor, Oil on Canvas, Part of the California Endangered Landscape Series.

In Sept of 1979 Gage Taylor’s “Holy Grove” was the first art centerfold featured in Omni Magazine. “Holy Grove” was later included in the touring exhibit “Artists of Omni Magazine” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City in 1980.

Holy Grove by Gage Taylor
Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In 1981 his work was included in a group show at James Atkinson Gallery in Houston, Texas and later in the year Gage’s work traveled to Ortona, Italy in an exhibit called “The Soft Land”.

Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor
Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The Nasty Bits: In 1982 Marin County was declared a State Disaster Area as rainstorms devastated the area. The irony of this was it was the very day Gage and his first wife decided to divorce. Unknown to Taylor, a swollen mountain stream by his home had created a dam of debris, turning a forest of Bay Laurels into battering rams.

The dam gave way and destroyed the house with Taylor, his wife and their two children inside. They all survived, but his wife was left a quadriplegic requiring 24-hour care for the rest of her life. Gage and his children never recovered from survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress from the event. It was a physical and financial blow that Gage Taylor would never really recover from. It was this single event that eventually led to Gage and I painting together years later. It also began a more spiritual path for Gage in his art.

Part two of Gage Taylor’s life begins when we meet and I became his apprentice. (He had many apprentices that went on to have very successful art careers).

In 1983 Gage was invited to participate in an exhibit the San Rafael Civic Center in CA called “The San Geronimo Valley Artists”. He was also invited to participate in a similar themed exhibit at The College of Marin Gallery (Kentfield, CA) called “Artists of the San Geronimo Valley”. I was a student studying Sculpture and Museum Management and helped launch the exhibit. Gage and I met when I was receiving artwork and filling out insurance information for the exhibit. I had been a huge fan of Gage Taylor from his cards and posters going back to when I was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany in the 1970’s. I invited him to participate in an upcoming exhibit I was curating at the College of Marin Gallery called, “Crystal Energy”. He invited me to be his student. (1983-1987)

Crystal Energy (1983) was a major exhibit about rare quartz crystals that heal from the Scientific, Metaphysical and the American Indian points of view. Many internationally known artists and speakers were featured. I took a chance and included 3 small pieces of my art in the exhibit.

Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor
Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The owners of The Illuminarium Gallery discovered my work and invited me to exhibit in their galleries. (They also cloned my exhibition in several of their future galleries).

Long before adding me, The Illuminarium represented Gage’s individual work from 1978 to 1988. Gage and I both exhibited regularly in their galleries in Marin, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills.

Gage and I began collaborating together in 1984. We painted in his style on the same canvas. We were both only children and working together was an effective and pleasant way for me to learn. It allowed him to teach me and increase his income with our additional work. (Our gallery represented both of us and people liked the collaborations). Although it was an intense way to learn, I retained my own distinct voice as an artist.

In 1985 Gage Taylor’s work was in the Hall of Flowers exhibit “Bay Area Regionalists” in San Francisco, “Artists of the Bay Area -1945 to Present” at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, and The San Francisco Art Commissions “100 vows To The Sun” at the Southern Exposure Gallery.(My work was also included in this exhibit).

At this time our collaborative work was featured in the gallery scenes of Shirley Maclaine’s mini series based on her best selling book, Out on A Limb (1986). It was also the first year our collaborative work was listed in the Encyclopedia of Living Artists (1986) and in Art Diary, Perugia, Italy (1986).

Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana
Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana. Oil on Canvas.

By 1988 Gage and I decided we wanted work that would be a synergy of our mutual interests. Both of us had studied all the world’s religions and mythologies, we both were meditators that honored the unseen worlds in our work. Based on archetypes that repeat in the East, the Middle East, and the West, Taylor-Dana was born.

Enlightenment and Purrsuasion by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana
Enlightenment and Pursuasian, Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriel Dana) Oil on Canvas.

These collaboration took on a life of their own at the Art Awards 88 (1988) National Competition in Bellevue, Washington (now Bellevue Art Museum).

Nocturne by Taylor Dana
Nocturne by Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriél Dana) Oil on Canvas. Entry into Art Awards 88 Competition.

Later, an exclusive retrospective of the Taylor-Dana work was given in 1993 at the Rosicrucian/Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA named “The Mythic Image”. (A limited edition poster of the painting “Honoring the Goddess was printed for the Exhibit).

The Mythic Image by Taylor Dana

Our collaborative work was sold at the Illuminarium Gallery & Isis Rising Galleries in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Santa Monica, and Tampa; Center Art Galleries in Honolulu, Hawaii & multiple locations on Maui, Hawaii. Dyansen Galleries, Maui, HI. Our work was also sold through Addi Galleries on Maui, HI & Fine Art Collections in Kona, HI.

Valley of Light by Gage Taylor
Valley of Light by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In Hawaii the Taylor-Dana work was commissioned for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kauai, and Gage Taylor was commissioned to paint 15 watercolors for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikoloa, Hawaii in 1988. During this time we became Art Ambassadors for the Arts America Program for the USIA (part of the U.S. State Department) (1987). We toured and exhibited work through the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, & Guyana) in this invitational post assisting the creative community. We also had an exhibition of our work at the Brazilian Embassy as it was near Guyana. One of our gouache paintings (Two Tigers) was acquired for the International Collection of the Jamaica National Gallery of Art in Jamaica.

We moved our studio to Sausalito, CA in 1990. Our work was represented at Hanson Galleries in Sausalito, LaJolla, & Carmel, CA., Eaton Galleries (Sausalito), Sierra Galleries, Tiburon with work represented on Maui, HI by Addi Galleries.

From 1991 Gage Taylor and I were represented by Conacher Galleries on Maiden Lane in San Francisco until Don Conacher’s death.

Conacher Galleries brochures for Taylor Dana
Conacher Galleries (Maiden Lane, San Francisco) brochures for Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana)

In addition to Gage’s dozen posters with Pomegranate Press, Taylor’s work was published on 75 Art Cards (50 with myself) with Visionary Publishing, Queens Cards and Milk and Honey Publishing. Taylor cards were published by Pomegranate Press as well as one billboard for National Tire Company (I had a billboard for Relax America Music label). His work was also used on a National ad for Boise Cascade Company, several magazine covers, and other creative works and prints.

Gage Taylor wrote one children’s book Bears at Work (Chronicle Books) and had written 4 young adult books & their screenplay adaptions that were unpublished at the time of his death.

Bears at Work by Gage Taylor
Bears At Work by Gage Taylor, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Late in 2000 Gage Taylor, who had never been ill, was diagnosed with 4th stage Prostate Cancer. Four months later he was gone.

Photo of Gage Taylor by Uriel Dana
Photo of Gage Taylor taken by Uriél Dana in Sausalito 3 months before his death.

It’s hard to describe what its like when you lose someone who has touched every part of your life for 17 years. My 3 oldest friends suddenly died during the same time period. I went into a traumatic shock and grief kept me from painting a long time. Tropical Dream was Gage’s idea of Heaven. For me to move on to my own version of Heaven I am letting go of his. Please contact me at [email protected] if you are interested in adding this painting to your collection.

A Tantric Viewpoint: Reconnecting To Our Lover’s Energy In A Disconnected World

A long time ago in a galaxy called the “Buddha-verse”, there existed a world where the Goddess ruled. This was the world of Tantra. The core of these teachings reveal that we are each a microcosm of the universe and everything mirrored in our reality is a macrocosm of what is going on within us. For this reason, tantric’s revere and nurture their emotional, spiritual, and physical bodies. Tantra is the yoga of the heart.

“We are each a microcosm of the universe and everything mirrored in our reality is a macrocosm of what is going on within us.”

From the traditional tantric view, the Goddess (often referred to the Divine Mother) 1, gives reverence to both male and female powers. Tantra affirms that God and Goddess go together, support each other, and should be worshiped together. The couple agrees to individually embody the archetypal energies of a male and female deity.

According to the tantric world view, we are all male/female by nature. In the womb our bodies are androgynous for a certain amount of time until the soul entering the body makes a choice as to which sex would serve it best.

Plato wrote there are three types of souls: Man, Woman, & Androgynies. Man is attracted to man and woman are attracted to women. Androgynies are what we would call heterosexuals in our current times. The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad describes androgyne as a male and female heterosexual but other scriptures and icons describe them as one bi-sexual body whose real power lay in their feminine attributes. 2

In Tantra, the cosmic consciousness is feminine and embodies feminine qualities. These include psycho-spiritual receptivity, compassion, and the energy of consciousness.

The masculine force is the manifestation of will, drive, and control. Tantra views the feminine as the embodiment of spiritual wisdom, with the male being the embodiment of physical wisdom.

Female energy holds the power to see through the illusions of the mind. It is the feminine energy that is the Shakti, or power-source. The Shakti is the direct access to the universe for her mate. (In Tantric practice you do not have to be a literal female to become the Shakti. It is understood there can be a female soul found within a male body and that a male soul is sometimes born in a female body).

This view is quite different from the distorted patriarchal Christian or Judaic perspective we live with now. I say distorted because there was a time when all religions honored the Goddess and believed that without Her blessings, they were powerless. In Tantra she was the Shakti, in Sufism she was the Fravashi. In the Middle East, Al Lat, the Goddess of the Moon, became Allah.1

According to The Book of Jasher, a nine foot ancient scroll intentionally left out of the Old Testament, the Jews worshipped the Goddess Asherah long before the had ever heard of Jehovah.3 Jesus called Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the apostles”, “the Divine Mother that knew all”.4

Internationally acclaimed author and tantric scholar, Miranda Shaw, revealed some astonishing research with reference to the woman behind Shakyamuni Buddha. In her book, Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, she states that he received his spiritual enlightenment during tantric sex with his wife in their palace. Only then did he renounce his kingdom and become a homeless wanderer in inspire people to take up the spiritual life.5

“(Buddha) received his spiritual enlightenment during tantric sex with his wife in their palace…only then did he renounce his kingdom…to inspire people to take up the spiritual life”

So when did this schism between the God and the Goddess occur? Apparently not until what the Hindus call the Kali Yuga (the current world age). It was written there would be a time when male energy would fall out of alignment with his female counterpart. Just as we are born of a woman’s body, the Gods and Goddesses confess they were also born of a feminine consciousness. The universe is the embodiment of the feminine principle…just as Mother Earth is. Feminine energy is creative, win-win, caring for future generations (using only the resources needed); that embodies an awareness that humans are not the only species on earth, nor a superior one.

A damaged male energy system is competitive and hoards resources. It is aggressive, entitled, and often demonstrates little empathy. Each of us has both the male and female energies within us. The kind of world we create for ourselves reflects the balance of these divine energies in our daily lives.

Why? Remember that whole microcosm/macrocosm belief system I mentioned above? We are living in two worlds right now. We have one foot in the old male energy systems and one foot in the new feminine energy that has awakened.

The old, male world is dying. It is fighting back like a bully child throwing its weight around. In the US we see it reflected in a government run by a misogynist that is using an office to benefit a gluttony of greed. We see it in the elimation of food for the poor and our old, not caring for the infirm with millions losing health care. We see it the theft of Social Security from the people who paid into it in good faith.

“The old, male world is dying. It is fighting back like a bully child throwing its weight around.”

This dying energy reveals itself in the attempted destruction of our National Parks, The National Endowment for the Arts, and Public Television. We see it in the assault on the EPA that protects our natural resources. Ending Planned Parenthood, an organization that gives affordable healthcare to millions, is not about abortion: it is about disempowering women. This energy endangers our entire planet and all her species, so that 1% of the world can control others. It is a vampiric energy, not a loving one.

Tantra clearly defines and honors the male and female energies. In American society, those roles have become muddled. So what can Tantra teach us about our masculine/feminine roles in today’s world?

The first step would be to honor the God/Goddess in ourselves. See our bodies as a temple for a visiting deity. What must we do to prepare this house for its sacred guest? Holding an image of the sacred within us sets a resonance for our life. Seeing that sacredness in others sets another resonance. When you treat all beings in your life as a visiting holy being, it brings out the very best in them. Treat the partner in your life this way and the results will be astonishing.

Folsom Twins by Uriél Dana
The Folsom Twins, Uriél Dana, 2016, Oil On Canvas

Featured Image – Detail: Bond of Union by M.C. Escher, Dutch 1898–1972. Original lithograph in the National Gallery of Canada


Footnotes

1. Walker, Barbara G. The Secrets of the Tarot, Origins, History, and Symbolism. Harper San Francisco. 1984
2. O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Hindu Myths. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1975
3. From a lecture presented by Sir Laurence Garner, Kt St GM, KCD, author of Bloodline of the Holy Grail, at The Ranch, Yelm, Washington, 30 April 1997
4. Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels, New York:Random House, 1979,p.22
5. Interview with Craig Hamilton, What Is Enlightenment, Issue 13, Spring/Summer 1998


Parts of this article originally appeared in an article entitled:“A Tantrik Occasion” in the Dec. 1999 issue of GC Magazine in Dallas, Texas. ©1999–2017 Uriél Dana

Impotence and Tantra: How An Ancient Practice Can Shed New Light On A Modern Issue

Tantra is an ancient practice of breath and energy work that originated in Hinduism, and later migrated into Buddhism. The tantras are ancient texts that span from the the 5th to the 8th century. Each discourse represents a software for running the human body. Together they offer a kind of “stealth” spiritual technology that can help reconcile our spiritual and sexual natures.

Of the original 64 texts, only six refer to sexual practice. Due to a childhood sleeping disorder, I have been a practitioner of Tibetan Dream Yoga, another of the tantras, since age nine. When people learn I consider myself a devotional Tantric, they often plunge into questions not about dreams or breath work, but about sex.

A twenty eight year old man once confided a very private, yet common, sexual concern. He told me that although he thought about sex a lot, when it actually came to having sex, he no longer felt interested or excited. In the past he had many positive sexual encounters. Although he still continued to be aroused looking at sexy photos and film, he was concerned that he was becoming impotent.

Thinking about sex and looking at pornography are both mental activities. Notice that I said he told me he didn’t “feel” interested, or “feel” excited anymore. This is because his sexuality had moved into his “head”. Sex in Tantra transcends the mind; it is a synergetic act of the body, soul, & spirit. The mind is useful in your choice of potential partners and for preparing for love play (candles, condoms, or comforts), but in actual lovemaking it should be set aside.

Many people approach sex with the same attitude as going to the gym: mental, goal oriented. In tantric lovemaking however, our attitude will be more a kin to meditation and prayer. (Meditation being when we “listen” to God-Goddess, prayer being when we “talk to” God-Goddess). Lets talk about what these two approaches look like in our sexuality.

First of all, the mind holds fear. When we are in our “minds”, we are constantly judging, analyzing, and trying to control an outcome. We are thinking about our performance, or our partner’s performance, what we look like, or comparing our lover or ourselves to other lovers or even fantasy lovers. This means we are living in the past, or living in the future, and we are not being in our “present”. Nothing is less satisfying than being with a lover who does not “show up” energetically.

When we move our sexuality out of the mind it goes directly into the heart. It feels as different as a one-night stand versus being with someone we deeply love. In meditation we pay attention to our breathing. We breathe into total relaxation, we are present. That “presence” becomes our “present” to our lover. We are genuinely connecting with each other energetically; to our divinity.

The problem with approaching sex from the mind is it is also where we create stress and anxiety. Without meditation, these become tension in our bodies. When men experience tension, their blood pressure is affected and the valves that regulate the blood steam of their body’s arteries are also the valves that affect the lingam’s* ability to have an erection. As a rule, stress is the culprit behind impotence as it constricts the blood flow into the lingam.

When we stay in the present while lovemaking, from that place of one-ness with spirit, we are not attached to outcomes or performance. Each moment is sacred, a gift. Time slows down. Shame and guilt fall away as we fall into the divinity of our partner. We see ourselves in them. Touch them as we would want to be touched, kiss them as we would like to be kissed, hold them in the safety and light we feel when we surrender to spirit. It is surprisingly erotic to those who have never tried it.

Even though the most sexually dysfunctional man will have at least five erections during his sleep cycle lasting nearly half an hour, his waking mind, when filled with stress or tension, will create impotence. Meditation relaxes the body and is the secret of sexually empowered tantric men.

For those who may be put off by the idea of meditating, there are many forms that fit different lifestyles. One of its primary benefits is learning how to breathe correctly. Most people do not.

The way we naturally breathe as a baby or when we sleep is to expand our abdominal muscles when we inhale and contract them when we exhale. The air you breath in through your nose should go all the way down to your belly. An ancient proverb states: The nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating”.

Controlling your breath will greatly help your heart not work as hard as well as help your immune system. During normal intercourse, the rhythm of breathing with sexual movements is synchronized spontaneously. Reversing or desynchronizing breathing during sex can help control the length and stamina of your experience.

If breathwork still seems a bit of a bother remember it could be worse. An East African Tutsi cure for impotence involves the man sleeping with his Mother.

Study for Prometheus
Study for Prometheus. 18th.century. Jean Grandjean Dutch 1752–1781. Charcoal on paper

*Lingam is the tantric word for Penis.


Featured Image: 18th Century Drawing by Francois Boucher, Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux-Arts, Paris