Posts Tagged ‘mollusca’

The Incredible Slowness of Patience

August 22, 2017

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As I worked to complete the final drawings and haiku for Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation, I learned about Tim Pearce, Ph.D, the Assistant Curator of Molluscs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, here in Pittsburgh. When I contacted this walking encyclopedia of snail facts and lore, I was pleasantly surprised at his accessibility and eagerness to talk about the intricacies and nature of his favorite subjects. When I told him of my book in progress, we made arrangements to meet at his department for a private tour of the museum’s vast holdings of snails, shells, and other obscure, mysterious forms of life beneath the seas.

Here is a photo of the Snail Man himself wearing his favorite hat!

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And what a collection! Giant conch shells once used as trumpets by ancient island tribes to gather their people for special events or war:

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many varieties of cone shells that had contained carnivorous snails who project a tiny dart from their bodies that are loaded with a compound containing 50+ different toxic chemicals! Their shells are very attractive but don’t get too close,  Mr. Pearce warned.

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We think of snails as carrying their own houses, but this chitons’ shell reminded me of a knight’s armor or shield!

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Their names are a mouthful to pronounce but these Xenophoridae or carrier shells are worth a closer look for their ability to disguise themselves in the deep seas against predators by secreting a sticky substance which they use to glue many abandoned shells to themselves as camouflage! Below is the Xenophoridae spread from Codex Gastropoda which I’ve envisioned as a gathering place for a summit of snails:

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Finally, I was introduced to Tony (i), a snail whose name Tim spells with both an ‘i’ and a ‘y’ because this tiny creature is an hermaphrodite; it hosts both male and female gender characteristics. If you can be patient for the three minutes it takes for this little video clip, you can see tiny Tony (i) emerging from his/her shell! Just click on this link to view the video:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7spialg7hn0fj8b/TimPearceSnail-Trimmed.mov?dl=0

I have a small edition of Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation (Imaginarius Editions, 2017) available for preview and purchase with credit card or Paypal for $30.00 at my Magic Eye Galleryhttp://bit.ly/2vzsSTM or at my Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/Imaginarius

You may find that the images and haiku that comprise Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation are a fine antidote to turbulent times like ours for they encourage us to patiently look, listen and THINK beyond the obvious…

 

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Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation

July 26, 2017

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You know the old adage, “Time passes quickly when you’re having fun” ? Well, this sentiment truly described the years between 2007 and the present when I began thinking about snails. Now, why on earth would anyone care about snails except as a purportedly (I say ‘purportedly’ because these creatures are among those forbidden to me by religious doctrine) tasty dish served with garlic butter?  Because I actually find them fascinating since I am able to look at them objectively for their natural beauty and metaphoric value without planning how to cook them.

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These musings slowly inspired a series of eighteen drawings on several species of snail (a.k.a mollusca/gastropoda). Some of them appeared along with my thoughts/poems about them over those years in several blog posts here.* Later, during this project’s development, a friend loaned me an eye-opening book that proved very inspiring and that I now recommend to you: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey (2010). http://amzn.to/2w18Zpc

My drawings are not strictly scientific but an amalgam of fact and fancy. Each tells its own story, inviting questions and second glances. At first, not knowing whether these drawings should become a book or simply a portfolio collection, I put out a query on social media.  Though enthusiastic early feedback suggested a book, I still liked the idea of a portfolio collection and decided to publish a ‘bookfolio’ (a portfolio in book form) as a sort of compromise.

In this light, I considered writing more thought/poems like those in earlier posts. However, I soon determined that haiku (seventeen-syllable non-rhyming Japanese poems), with their economy of language would better complement the nature of my drawings.  Slyme-TextGrid-8x10.jpg

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Now, I am happy to announce the release of Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation. This 44-page ‘bookfolio‘ includes an introduction and has just been released from Imaginarius Editions in an initial small press run.

You can preview and purchase it (US$30) at my online gallery: http://bit.ly/2vzsSTM

Codex Gastropoda will soon be available at Amazon but for now you can also find it at my Etsy Shop: etsy.com/shop/Imaginarius

Given the experiences that inspired it, my goal for Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation became to raise awareness of the wondrous details that inform Creation and their consequences for our world. I hope this visual journey and spare prose will also inspire you to appreciate our complex existence and perhaps add your own words and ideas to the continuum of human creativity.  

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* https://wordpress.com/post/imaginarius13.wordpress.com/754 https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/the-snail-queens-soliloquy/  

*https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/postscript-for-the-new-year-a-divination-of-snails/ 

*https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/codex-gastropoda-4athe-time-snails/ 

*https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/codex-gastropoda-2-the-snails-song/ 

Codex Gastropoda #7: Between The Pages Of Reality

January 14, 2013

Codex Gastropoda: #7

Codex Gastropoda: #7

Yesterday afternoon, in appreciation of an unseasonably warm January day, my better half and I went for a walk on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Heading east on Carson Street past a barrage of  bars and nightclubs led us to City Books, a venerable remnant of Pittsburgh’s once lively independent bookstore market. Inside the old shop, a wrought iron spiral staircase punctuates two levels of floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves whose old and rare inhabitants speak volumes on an array of subjects that include philosophy, art, science, math, history, foreign languages and vintage fiction for adults and children. A little schmooze with the owner, Edward Gelblum and his elegant assistant whose name I did not learn, was intriguing enough to provoke my tentative climb up the spiral staircase to inspect their impressive philosophy, science, foreign language and Judaica collections.

Their intimate knowledge of such collections within this timeless, musty ambience reminded me of an Imaginarius post of December 19, 2010, written upon completing the third drawing in my Codex Gastropoda series, ‘The Unbearable Slowness of Reading’. You can access that post here:https://imaginarius13.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/codex-gastropoda-3the-unbearable-slowness-of-reading/

During this little reminiscence, which inspired the new drawing above, I began to think beyond the act of reading; beyond the physical properties of books to their metaphysical attributes. Does their power to manipulate our minds and hearts come from our literal interpretation of the words, from the images they may contain, or from the associations and ideas inherent in both? Despite the proliferation of electronic media, there is a magnetic attraction to words and images on paper that I can’t trivialize as a mere Luddite denial of technological reality.

Though the written word bound in book form has been likened to ‘conversations with great minds,’ etc., I wonder whether books can be more accurately perceived as vessels made to contain the power of alternate realities? Does encoding these realities in language and 2D images make them more approachable? It seems to me that even if these ‘realities’ could be experienced directly with all ‘six’ of our senses as the human modus operandi, we would still be overwhelmed. The ‘arcane’ technology that enables cinematic ‘reality’ via animation/CGI effects has brought us closer to a total sensory experience. Even so, marvelous as it is to watch movies like ‘Avatar’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ , we are served generous helpings of the detailed, brilliant imagination of others with little left for our own to play with. Maybe this is why the power of books to evoke and provoke our own emotions and memories remains its own distinctive experience. It is also why I think that bookstores will never disappear completely; despite the fact that the majority of Mr. Gelblum’s sales originate online. Just as great food deserves to be presented beautifully in a warm and welcoming environment,  so does a warm and inviting shop remain necessary to contain and disseminate the literary treasures that continue to define us.

Note: Codex Gastropoda #7 is available as a gicleé print at: http://www.magiceyegallery.com

“A Cord Of Blue…”

June 15, 2012

Though Parashah Shelakh-Lekha in the Book of Numbers (BaMidbar) is memorable for its dramatic account of Joshua, Caleb and the group of ‘spies’ sent to scope out the land of Canaan, its final verse (16:37) is the take-away message that will inform the identity of the Jewish people for generations to come. The message appears in the quotation within the illustration above, titled A Foundation Of Faith. It and the interpretation that follows have been adapted from my book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)*

The title refers to the Even ha-Shetiyyah, or the mythical Foundation Stone upon which the world was created. Diverse legends describe this immense stone and its origins. There is an eye at its center to indicate the presence of God within every aspect of Creation. Poised on the stone is man wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin engaged in prayer. The tallit prominently features the knotted fringes at the four corners of the garment, which the man has gathered together. Each fringe contains a cord of blue as a daily reminder of the bondage in Egypt and the instructions to observe all of God’s commandments. The tefillin are two small black lacquered boxes containing passages of Torah with black straps attached to them. One box, worn on the head bears a four-pronged letter shin. The other is placed on the left arm, near the heart. The straps are wrapped around the left arm and hand so as to form the Name of God. Suspended above the man’s hands is the letter aleph, whose description by the magic realist writer Jorge Luis Borges  inspired its inclusion here. “ In the Kabbala, that letter stands for the Eyn Soph, the pure and boundless godhead; it is also said that it takes the shape of a man pointing to both heaven and earth, in order to show that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher world…”

 Above the figure is a tiny Murex trunculus snail, the origin of the famed blue dye called techeilet. Known as the chilazon in Hebrew this boneless invertebrate was found on the coast of Northern Israel and ancient Phoenicia and its secretions processed at dyeworks in Tyre. Behind the figure is a compass motif inspired by a medallion that illuminates the Moreh Nevuchim, Maimonides’ classic work, Guide To The Perplexed. As the Foundation Stone supports the ‘four corners’ of the world, the cardinal points on the compass guide the two figures representing Jews around the world towards the observances of their faith. Though the Sabbath occurs each week, its potential to remind us of what we’ve forgotten while offering us new understanding are timeless.

*For previews and purchase information of Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) visit: http://bit.ly/g2D9Lm

Voyage Of The Snail Queen

November 29, 2011

Though journeys require literal time away from domestic doldrums, some require only an investment of imagination. So for today, still in a state of surgically enforced enervation, I’ve decided to revisit my Codex Gastropoda series with Voyage Of The Snail Queen. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skimming the seas above her domain
The Snail Queen surveys all in her reign
One kingdom lies far beyond her reach
For want of a treaty to heal the breach

Within her shells of memories rerun,
She sails to the islands of her renegade son.
Beneath a pale moon, her dragonship flies
The shadow of a dream traversing night skies.


Dreams and Nightmares: The Foundation of Faith

June 17, 2011

Parashah Shelakh-Lekha, one of the best-known episodes in the Book of Numbers, concerns the twelve scouts, or spies, sent ahead of the Israelite camp to appraise the nature of the Promised Land. It is often compared to the Golden Calf incident of Exodus, in that both events were tests of the Israelites’ faith and trust in G-d, their leaders and themselves. When the expedition returned, ten of the men dramatically exaggerated what they had seen, in an attempt to discourage the Israelites from accepting their territorial inheritance. “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves and so we must have looked to them.” In the left-hand illustration, the small hybrid grasshopper-man addresses the terror and trepidation the scouts disseminated. Perhaps, they calculated, their negative report would ensure positions of power for themselves among the people instead of encouraging the people to act with faith in G-d and in their own abilities? I have given this creature a tattoo in the shape of the Hebrew letter ‘mem’ whose numerical equivalent is forty because this incident doomed the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years until a new generation arose that would be spiritually prepared to realize its divine inheritance.

The symbols that comprise these illustrations each tell stories of their own that are too lengthy to include here. They can be found on page 169 in the AfterImages portion of my  book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) It can be purchased directly from the publisher, http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html or from Amazon,  amzn.to/gZSp5j where you will find several reviews.

I welcome your comments and questions here at Imaginarius and will do my best to respond. Wishing you a thoughtful Sabbath and weekend…

The Snail Queen’s Soliloquy

March 17, 2011


Many writers and philosophers have made brilliant and erudite attempts to comprehend and court the ‘soul’ of imagination, but it remains a capricious creature, cultivated solely on its own terms. When, in rare moments, we are attended by one of its minions, it is a privilege to be treasured and shared. So, with barely more than what was given to me, this sixth drawing from my Codex Gastropoda series comes courtesy of The Snail Queen who crashed my dream with her little quatrains:

I am of the water that flows through me
Weaving my hair like the silk of the sea.
Memories color my undulant waves
Tales of seafarers, pirates and knaves

But these are only artifacts of Time,
Barely a ripple in this vast sublime.
With purple-black ink I’ve filled my fine quill,
Hungry for visions to appear at will.

In your dreams I travel through phantom worlds
Mining images that briefly unfurl
Savoring some that speak to the ages
Leaving others for you to grace your pages…

Postscript For The New Year: A Divination Of Snails

December 30, 2010

For this fifth drawing from my Codex Gastropoda series, I was inspired by a cartoon which recently appeared in the online Tablet Magazine, drawn by the playwright David Mamet (http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/54112/a-very-special-message/). So, in addition to The Time Snails posted a few days ago, here is a postscript New Year Wish for Good Fortune to all of Imaginarius’ visitors!  I imagined the traditional forms of snails’ shells morphing into the equally intriguing shapes of a Chinese fortune cookies; which will you choose?

Codex Gastropoda #4:The Time Snails

December 26, 2010

The onset of a new year often inspires sentiments revolving around endings and beginnings. These might be memories accumulated over the year past and/or resolutions slated to inform the coming year. Both are part of our big picture, but share an underlying urgency to affect change in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we interact. Inevitably we all wish for more time to bring these new realities into being. The irony is that the process of time in the known universe remains a universal mystery even as we create methods for containing and measuring it. In that sense, time as a human construct theoretically offers us more power to use it than we often wish to acknowledge. Though the construct of ‘leap years’ are a familiar phenomenon, ‘leap seconds’ and the need to insert them into our time systems are relatively obscure. Since 1972, the ‘temporal authorities’ of The International Earth Rotation Services of the Bureau of Weights and Measures, at Paris, France, have slipped an extra ‘leap second’ into the calendar, making their decision to do so either on June 30 or December 31 of the target year.  This was done to maintain the accuracy of atomic clocks that are affected by the irregular spin of the Earth, which seems to be slowing down. December 31 of 2010 is being considered for the next insertion. If this is not done conscientiously, they claim, then after several centuries, the time discrepancy would amount to one whole hour or more. With all the time we spend online and in pursuit of less than world-changing activities, many of us probably wouldn’t notice.  Anyway, most clocks are not designed to accommodate leap seconds and because we are so synced to automated systems, there is the potential to mess with our minds that defies logic. Remembering the pre-email days of frantic deadlines for illustration assignments, it would’ve been handy to offer the following scenario to a client: “Well, I’d love to have this drawing ready for you tomorrow, but according to temporal authorities, if I don’t have another day to work on it, time as we know it will bend out of recognition, worlds will collide and the universe will pretty much descend into utter chaos as a result. Will Wednesday be okay?”

On that thought, I’ve resolved to reset my clocks on December 31 and gather my grand plans for 2011. Here’s wishing you all the time you need for yours in the New Year, too…

Codex Gastropoda #3:The Unbearable Slowness of Reading

December 19, 2010

The German writer and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is credited with observing that “thinking is more interesting than knowing but not so interesting as looking.” Visually tethered to technology as we are, this casual aphorism characterizes our global culture in ways he could not have imagined, yet would probably have embraced with equal enthusiasm. But is our fascination with high-speed looking diminishing our ability to think analytically and understand the consequences of our thoughts and actions? I fear that to some degree it is. And books, those tactile reliquaries of conversations with minds great and small are becoming casualties in a virtual battle between the Warriors of the Printed Word and the Knights of the Kindle. Although this entry was composed on my iPhone (sigh!) ‘The Burden of Knowledge’ shown above was drawn with these thoughts in mind and in memory of the pleasures of the ‘Unbearable Slowness of Reading’.