Like a shaman’s chant

by DRM


In my imagination, I am hanging this canvas when I feel a frost on my cheek and the lining of my lungs ices over. I am drawn headfirst into the inky blue light of the river. The crisp snow abrades my raw hands. The bark of the tree fall scratches on my shirt. The cold tightens my skin. My breath hangs in a heavy cloud.

I am alive. Intensely, in that moment, alive.

Come back with me and stand on the edge of the black stream, quick and urgent even in the deep winter frost, shaping lacy ice frostings as it rushes through its banks. I’ve been in bed for a month recovering from a bad attack of pneumonia and am walking deep into the woods against the January dusk, rationing my strength. I’ve missed the onset of deep winter, when the earth lays a thick blanket over itself, shifts and turns in a slumber, and the cold dances in the thin air like spirits in the moonlight.

I come to the place where I know I need to stop, the edge of this stream. The white snow and the dark boughs are seeping into the blue sky and the dusk is working the pigments together against the cold marble palette of winter to create the fleeting color of the moment. I wait for it to pass. My black dog pants, her pink tongue thick and warm and alive. She’s waiting too. We’re back on our winter walks and everything is all right in her world.

That’s the power of this painting and the gift of this artist, Holly Friesen. She brings us back to the places that feed our soul, that lead us into our remembered self.

How does she do it? Not with intense detail. Not with decorative touches. Not with challenges of theory or intellect or context.

She does by wading with her heart open into the impression of the moment, of channeling sight, experience and emotion into a controlled rush of color and shape.

It’s like a shaman’s chant: when you stop trying to understand the words, your spirit is transported.

You can see more of her work at her web site.