- Hide menu

Monday Photo Meditation: Looking Outward

Wings captured this image right around this time some seven or eight years ago. It was one he included in his mixed-media show a few years ago.

It was also one that was emblematic of what his particular worldview has always been. With regard to what appears in the foreground, Wings has spent his life looking outward.

In purer, more personal terms, it would be more accurate, actually, to say that he has spent his life looking inward, looking not backward  in the accepted sense of that word, but instead to the most deeply rooted history of his people and their ways. But in his lifetime, the center of the plaza (metaphorically if not quite literally geographically) has been the mission church, and it has thus circumscribed his view — from certain vantage points, blocking it.

And since Wings has always been a traditional, one who has never accepted or involved himself in colonial religion, wherever the church puts up a wall obstructive to his view, he finds a means of looking outward.

It’s a bit of irony that the name of his show was Taos Pueblo:  Ancestral Places, Sacred Spaces. Ironic precisely because of his inclusion of this photo and one other, both of which showed the church courtyard wall (although not the church itself). To him, the church is not sacred space; his sacred space is what lies beyond it, looking outward toward the village, toward the mountain, toward the earth and sky.

The interpretive text that accompanied this image in his show made his view abundantly clear, both in the title of the work and in its description, which included an earlier iteration of a title:


I originally titled this Hope Lives Beyond.

My focus then was on the colonizing of our lands, our soil, our spirits, the taking of our sacred red earth and using it to build a temple to a god that was not ours. Under the guise of an entryway, forcing us behind a wall that trapped us with a vengeful spirit from a distant continent and kept our own spirits outside, outcast. And all of it, whitewashed, literally and metaphorically, covering the red of our earth, like the red of our skins, with the white of a colonizing force.

Then, I was focused on the prospect that hope for our future lay beyond that whitewashed wall.

Today, that still holds true, but now, my focus lies further beyond: beyond the dusty tracks of the plaza where our people gather; beyond the red-earth walls and roofs of Hlaukwima, our South House; beyond to one of the real sacred spaces of our people. To the mountain: to the wild game and plant medicine it nourishes; to the forest that provides wood for our homes, our safety, our traditional needs; and to the sky that holds the thunderheads of summer, bringing the rain that sustains us.

Signed on white matting; brown wooden frame.
Size including frame: 17.75″ by 20.25″.
$625 + $100 shipping, handling, and insurance.

It was, if memory serves, the latter days of summer when he caught this image in his lens and decided to hold it, save it, turn it back outward and set it free in the same way he deliberately set his own spirit free so many years ago. It suit this time well: The season of pilgrimage is over, the village is engaged in one final push for renewal before the feast day at month’s end, when it will open certsin of its doors, so to speak, to the public. It is a looking outward in that sense certainly.

But this is a time of looking outward in other ways, too, one common to many of our peoples right now all over Turtle Island. These are the last days of summer, the final few weeks of reliably warmer winds. Calendar notwithstanding, autumn is more here than not, and we know too well how short time grows before winter’s arrival. These are the days in which we all look outward, finding what needs doing before the snow flies, building, repairing, harvesting, making ready in a thousand and one ways large and small. Our focus is necessarily on externalities now, with an eye to drawing inward safely for the long winter months ahead.

This image was also, I believe, the first of the photos to find a home. Although the person specified “the photo of the church,” I’ve always suspected that, on some deeply unconscious level, he recognized that it as not in fact one of the church at all, but of what serves as Wings’s “cathedral,” the real sacred space. I’m sure it was not a thought of which he was aware, but Wings’s perspective is always there, a living undercurrent that flows through his work, an animating spirit that links that long past to present and future alike in one cohesive whole.

This day looks much like the one in the photo: clear air, cornflower blue skies, thunderheads still white and puffy as they come boiling over the ridgeline. But the edge on the wind reminds us that time is short; what is still green now will not remain so for long. This is a time of planning, a time of preparation, a time of work of every imaginable sort.

It’s a time of looking outward, clear-eyed, as we prepare for drawing inward. It’s a time for a full inhabiting of this ancestral place, and for rehabilitating its real sacred space.

~ Aji








All content, including photos and text, are copyright Wings and Aji, 2018; all rights reserved. Nothing herein may used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the owner.

Comments are closed.

error: All content copyright Wings & Aji; all rights reserved. Copying or any other use prohibited without the express written consent of the owners.