The Chakras of the Kundalini Elevator.

Bastion, found wood lumber, 64″x 84″x 84″, 1970.

I made this sculpture in 1970, inspired by the Shinto Shrine Ise Jingu in Japan. I was impressed with all things Japanese in those days, still am. I had an inspiring teacher Teruo Hara, a man made in the mold of of “Living Treasures”; those who demonstrate a dedication to Art and Artistry setting them into the long-haul of Japanese sensibility. His teacher in Japan was Shoji Hamada, one of those recognized living treasures.

Shoji Hamada Squared Vase c.1955

I had seen a book in the school library on Ise, and I was simply stunned by the fact that this, # 1 shrine in all of Shinto, is torn down and rebuilt in a ritual of renewal every 20 years. Has been since the year 960. Some say, for 2000 years. It’s the ritual of death and renewal, the core of Shinto as a living presence in all things Japanese.

Hara had left Japan because, as the expression there goes, “A nail that sticks its head up gets pounded down.” He was a rebelious sort, as was I; one of those nails, and he tried in vain to pound me down. Hmmmm. I would never become one of his favored students. But, I was left with an abiding love for one of the world’s great aesthetic traditions.

Ise Jingu, the Shrine of Amaterasu.

This is the structure we’ve put together. As we’ve have talked about inside and outside, this is the outside. An homage to the Sun Goddess, Amateratsu, from whence we make our living as creatures on Planet Earth, the little 4′ x 4′ wheat field we are growing agjascent is a ritualistic gesture, we’ll probably get enough wheat for an English Muffin, but as a gesture, it is a real one, as real as these things get.

Shrine, 17′ x 4′ x 4′

This puts the structure into perspective. Now, on to The Kundalini Elevator, the inner structure. Made of seven individual pieces, it functions as a whole when meditating. We think it helps focus awareness on the inner life. I like to think about the inner structure when I am meditating or drifting off to sleep.

Starting at the bottom we chose to use a cast-iron flywheel we found when diggging around our barn. The barn began its life as a machine shop and over the years have found many objects from when our lives were centered around simpler machines. We even retrieved the crank from a Model T Ford.

The first Chakra.

The heaviness feels like the bottom of the body, the root of our neural lives. Think of the jellyfish clan with their pulsing motion similar to the pulse of orgasm and in defication which we mostly experience daily. To our minds it is very settling to begin meditation here.

The second Chakra

This is the sexual center of the body. Sexual longing has been described as a full bowl of water wanting to be emptied. This glass bowl was picked up on Kehoe Beach along our journeys there. It was originally the housing for a scientific instrument made in Woods Hole, MA. It rings nicely when struck, creating fascinating wave patterns. The blue ball at the bottom reminds that we live on a watery planet. Planet Water, not Planet Earth, we think.

The third Chakra

The third is personal power. The strength and force to defend yourself and others. It implies swift action being an authentic Samurai Sword. Judith’s father brought home from service in Asia. When you have self confidence and act on it you are in the third chakra. To act with self-assurance from a place you feel is your true calling, you are in the 3rd Chakra.

The fourth Chakra.
Kids gathering glass, 1996

This is the heart of the matter. It is filial piety, the love of fellow creatures, and not really romantic love. It is made from the other half of the glass bowl from the 2nd. It also makes a tone when struck. The glass pieces were collected on the sandy mud flats on the Island of Murano, Venice. On a family trip, waiting for the water taxi, I made a sketch of my three kids scrounged among the many bits of glass; heartening for me to see this, as a family who finds value where most would not. This is the happiness of human connection. The true heart of family life.

The fifth Chakra, photo-voltaically lighted at dusk.

This is made from an aluminum Russian fishing float picked up on Kehoe Beach and gifted to us by Shirley Saltzman. Thanks, Shirley! We drilled holes and fed a string of photo-voltaic powered LED lights into the interior. At night, it sparkles. This is the “voice” of the Elevator. When you feel you are authentically speaking from your own core of inspiration. Artists of all ilk speak of the joy of finding their unique voice.

The sixth Chakra

This is the rational mind. I had this object made for me at the local wood-shop. I found a real lightbulb, curiously intact, lying on the sand, filled with sunlight on a bright day on a remote beach, becoming for me, the image of thinking. As it was lit by the sun, casting a shadow, I thought of all the thinking that has made a difference in our lives and inscribed some of that on the wooden “bulb”. S=K.log w is the formula for entropy from Ludwig Boltzman. It’s to know a veil is an aphorism that came to me walking that same beach where I found that light bulb. When did thinking begin? There’s a thought for you.

The seventh Chakra.

This is the center of the body that is not in the body. It’s all vision of the ineffable. Have you ever felt so happy you didn’t even consider happiness as a possibility. Happiness beyond its opposite. “A day so bright, there was no one worth my envy…” writes Czeslaw Milos. “Often I am permitted to return to a meadow, a place of first permission, everlasting omen of what is…” writes Robert Duncan. This is not the “end-game” of the Kundalini Elevator, the penthouse, just another place to focus attention


All this is down right didactic, a big no-no for contemporary art. “Art that tries to convince you of something is pornography” This quote is attributed to James Joyce, who had Art as Unexplainable Mystery always at the front of his mind. That said, we are convinced the roots of art-making lie in teaching. It was an honor and privelege to sit in Pre-historic caves and draw the art we saw there, left alone for a late afternoon without the bustle of tourists, and tour-guides explicating, our little group was granted this special time in Peche Merle because, if France is anything, it’s a place of honoring Art. Sitting there, the mystery of cave art was revealed in the realization, that these caves functioned as schools. They were instruction centers. Have a look at this child’s foot print calcified into the mud of Peche Merle, who would have had to crawl on her or his belly through a 1/2 mile of chilly mud to get to the great mural of spotted horses.

Child’s foot print in Peche Merle, c. 25,000 BCE
Something happens when you stare for an evening, drawing these images. The world stops, and you enter into a different sense of yourself, a sense that we are all a part of the continuum of Art-making.

We think Peche Merle was an Academy of higher education, as were all the caves, Altamira, Lascaux and on. While we enjoyed Werner Herzog’s documentary on one of the oldest caves, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2013), Chauvet Cave, we were puzzled that he didn’t “get it”. His narration says, “We have no idea…etc.” It feels like a disservice to the human mind that these caves, used at the dawn of Homo sapiens, were made by “Cave Men”, Hobbsian brutes slaughtering animals, using sympathetic magic to aid in the hunt. These were schools to simply transfer information from one generation to another. Our so-called postmodern stance which is an attempt to strip meaning from Art so it becomes something ever more pure of intent, seems like silly, campy snark when seeing something like Peche Merle. Dudley Young, writing in his Origins of the Scared, of the cave art, “our first attempt as humans to express our connection to the ineffable and holy, we pretty much got it right.”

The Kundalini Elevator lies squarely in this tradition. Across the history of Art, there are good examples of this; we’ll get to those…in the meantime to focus your attentention means you live your life more fully. To sit and think about the centers of your body aligned with the many purposes of being alive in a body, sifts a lot of the dross we are confronted with every day. The news, the robots are feeding us, information that ONLY feeds more of the same information from inside a silo, keeps us from the basic pleasures we were born to—to gawk in wonder at all that is unknown and to be a part of it. The message from the Kundalini Elevator is: There is a place for you at the table. The message from the “Academy” of Pech Merle was exactactly this: “You are a tiny mote in the Universe, AND you are a vital part of that Universe.” This is the thing “…we pretty much got right on our first attempt.” Oh, and, kindness is everything, BTW…the Golden Rule always applies.

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