Birth of the Picicene

  • watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, charcoal, and acrylic on paper
  • 18 x 14 in
    (45.72 x 35.56 cm)
  • $1,400.00
  • Teagan White

I’ve always felt unmoored in the domain of myth; living on land stolen from others and detached from the continents of my ancestors, in a society that has replaced the practice of ancestral myth-making with an endlessly shifting spectacle of self-indulgence, and replaced worship of and obligation to Divinity with worship of and obligation to capital and state, there are no handed-down stories that feel like they belong to me or are meant to speak to me. I don’t think this is an accident — what wisdom would myths try to impart on a culture like ours, other than a sweeping condemnation of our way of life? Maybe our subconscious sense of this is what leads us to push myth away, disregard it as archaic and superstitious, renew it only as frivolous entertainment… We retain the form, but strip away the message.

Legends from other cultures may contain a wealth of insight, but their instructional value seems limited when detached from the lands that birthed them, the languages that preserved them, and the rituals that enriched them. We view them from across an unbreachable gulf, catching shimmers of meaning but without the framework needed to reconstruct the shafts of light into their radiant whole.

When I look for a through-line from generations past to myself, the clearest connections come in the legacy of surrealist and mythopoetic movements, which tasked the artist with breaking free from the constraints of accepted logic and reality to uncover deeper truths only accessible through less conscious and linear modes of thought. Through this lens, and while living through times of anthro-apocalyptic ecological turmoil, I’ve begun to understand my own fixation with woodpeckers as a prophetic vision of a species that will flourish in our impending decline.

Wildfires are tragic for us, but beneficial for many other life forms, like the woodpeckers who proliferate in the insect-laden, charred remains of burned forests. The broader environmental movement likes to paint the Earth as a helpless child in need of our protection, but it’s no such thing — the Earth is our mother and our god, perfectly capable of striking us down when we’ve gone too far. Fire is one of the many tools at its disposal, and the woodpecker is its eager emissary, waiting patiently for us to crumble under the weight of our hubris, so it can reclaim its home in our ashes.

This painting is a creation myth from a future epoch: The Birth of the Picicene.

  • Framed: 20 x 16 x 1.5 in
  • Created: 2021
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