In desperate and disrespectful days, acts of memory, healing and affirmation can evoke the revolutionary. Where people are demoralized—numbed beyond caring for the present, or the future—a sudden epiphany lands like lightning, showing forth the life yet alive within us. Welcome to the works of visionary Greek artist Kadiani Veligrantakis.
What would it be to live in a world that conceives of planet Earth as alive, awake, and sacred—as a living Mother to whom we always owe, first, respect and gratitude, because that is the true natural basis of our own well-being?
We don’t have to look (or, remember) too far back to hear the voices of people(s) who really held and practiced such beliefs:
Goddess Gaia, mother of gods and mortal humans,
who nourishes and gives everything,
who perfects everything and ends the life of everything,
who brings and raises the seeds…
foundation of the immortal world…
That was how one of the Orphic Anthems or Hymns spoke of Nature—a.k.a. Earth Mother, Mother Earth—even during that most rationalist age of ancient Greece in the Classical era. It was said that such sweet songs could coax rocks and trees to rise and dance: to show themselves, that is, as alive as their Creatrix.
And that, for us, is the sudden and deep revelation that issues from the works of Kadiani, whose exhibition called Epiphany: Gaia & Gods of Vegetation opens to the public on Monday August 19th (2019) in the east-Cretan city of Sitia. What were its sources, and what are its implications?
In Kadiani’s words, these works “wanted to come into the world”: they rose up into her mind from deep, beyond-conscious realms within. As artists will tell you, it’s those insistent and ego-indifferent promptings that bring on most of their best work. They talk of feeling almost unable to keep up with powerful driving half-blind forces working, somehow, through them—and it’s even more astonishing when the results have a substance all at once deeply traditional and revolutionary.
In this cosmos, all things born of Her are identical and one with Her, divine, vibrating with life-spirit. And, like Earth, She bestows every gift and nourishment freely to those who honor Her and carefully cultivate the world. Within those relationships, there’s almost no surprise that the world becomes a garden—The Garden, which was never really lost and is as close as our own loving hands.
This real-world “miracle” is attested also in the original Canaanite story of “the original garden,” on which the later Bible’s authors based their tale of a “fall” away from “God.” Those first books of The Pentateuch turned the religions and rites of becoming awake into its opposite: humans “must not become as gods,” must not be the knowing agents of their own existence, their own creations, their realities and their evolution.
Yet, in the Canaanite story, the prototypes of Adam and Eve are immortal happy stewards of this garden, which surrounds the luminous Tree of Life—and we see that Tree again as a consummate image in Kadiani’s collection. The so-called unconscious brings every whit of tradition to new life.
Such were the powers also of every “green thing” born of Mother Earth. From ages even older than Minoan Crete, peoples of the land found deities in them, and allied their eternal spirits with their natures: they were/are the indestructible survivors rising out of every seeming-calamity from fire to volcanic fury, healing all ravaged lands and proffering again new flowers, medicines and nourishments.
These webs of connections survived in language too. Minoans deeply identified their own lives with cycles of Earth and green things. This was kalliergeia: cultivation of the land was cultivation of the soul. With this, Minoans left us all kinds of “good work” (kalo ergo).
These humanizing ideas persisted in later Latin, in the root of the word culture itself. Cultus: Nature and society posed not as opposites, but as complements—a feeling and an idea that fostered a world of “tending, care, and respectful treatment.” To cultivate The Earth like a garden was to live in one, a healthy and worthwhile place, founded in the grateful honoring of powers greater than ourselves.
No, not Utopia. Yet, the merest hard-nosed summary of our true best original selves reveals, like that language and these paintings, how much we still stand to gain.
So I write gratefully to Kadiani for bringing these healthy, original human roots back to our consciousness. What can be more important now than to reconnect our souls with what our bodies are doing, each day, toward all that gives us life?
As the poet Barbara Mor said, Look through a microscope or a telescope: Nature Works. But gaze into the eyes of Kadiani’s “Artemis” and “Dark Mother.” These Earth Mothers know what happens when a culture so deranges itself that it forgets what is greater than itself.
It was said long ago, Who consents, She guides: who refuses, She drags. We can know Her as Gaia—or, as Nemesis, and Her retributions always come deserved.
One crucial last point as we commune with these presences. It follows from all these expressions that the “faces of Earth Mother” in Kadiani’s works have human form. In Minoan pictorial art (for example), when a person is seized with the presence of Divinity, the divine being also looks (most often) like a person—they’re practically indistinguishable.
But these images are nothing like the “personalizations of The Goddess” in narcissistic New Age productions. The message here is that by looking deep into these images, we look into ourselves (and, hopefully, listen, and remember our best). We are not here to make a separate peace in our so-called private selves with a system that exploits every living thing to death. Rather, we, the artist and the images are one—all functions of what Barbara Mor called Nature’s “continuous lust to make art.” And Nature’s message in some of these daunting visages is an urgent, healthily disturbing and inspiring cry: Wake up, for the time is shorter than you think.
We fuse with Nature in communion with Itself. As Mor elaborates, “She [Nature] makes art from Her dreams”: “we are Her [Nature’s] extensions, Her poetic technologies.” Hence, “It’s only when you remember always that the only living god is Earth—then you get serious.” We come to our healthiest senses in these presences, and their eyes ask what, exactly, we intend to do for our Mother in so much pain.
The faces hold back no patriarchal rage, no threat, no punishment: what Nature brings us next will be simply the natural fruits or the consequences of our own (either blind or awakened) making. In their gaze, we know that The Time Of The Lie that harms Earth Mother grows short and dark. Nobody now can invent a machine or run a business that poisons the world without knowing this is crime, deliberate murder and suicide. The proposition is, Evolve Or Perish.
In our communion with Gaia through Kadiani’s works, we understand that practices which pretend to control and “develop” Nature with destruction teach only self-destruction. One way or another, Earth Mother will have us remember the wisdom that began our human story.