M. LUNA ROSSEL, ARTIST
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This body of work sneaked up on me.
It followed me quietly, even tiptoeing across my dreams, until I was finally ambushed.
It happened while traveling, on a long post-divorce journey, where I was seeking healing not only for a broken heart, but also for a seemingly incurable illness. So, busy wandering through inner and outer landscapes, I had ceased producing Art. “Serious” Art, that is.
Nevertheless, I felt this apparent barrenness didn't come from a dreadful case of artist's block. I sensed something meaningful was brewing within me, even if misshaped or misunderstood as disease, and I knew it intended to burst forth, but wasn't necessarily meant to be “arted” by me at the time.
So I stopped arting.
I had felt forced to leave everything behind; married life, home, work, friends, things... The multifaceted loss was just as overwhelming as the vertiginous freedom unfolding.
I was a peregrine. A rolling moon, free range and even tech free, as I was often off the grid.
It was a solitary voyage, with the slow rhythm imposed by my meager strength and energy. It took me through mountains and valleys, jungles and deserts, many little villages, a few strange places, and some uncharted miles of my soul...

Since I was a convalescent, I was mostly content with a simple, contemplative life, interrupted only by temporary jobs, volunteering, or exotic treatments ...but then the Muses arrived. Unannounced and relentless as they can be, they started pestering me with imagery which, increasingly vivid, would finally make me surrender, and let a new series of work arise.
In the beginning, inspiration came as faint anthropomorphic visions, evoked by a warm breeze drawing on a dry, yellow rice field in northern Thailand.
I was surprised to be reacquainted with my first love, the Human Figure. My favorite subject in my drawings as a child and in my youth as a photographer, it had since faded away under the allure of organic abstraction, of pure textures and colors...
So I really tried dismissing my Muses, but as I said, they were adamant, and you may attempt to fight your demons, but you can't fight your Muses. Not for long.

Once my oneiric visitors started taking (human) shape, they haunted me day and night.
They followed me all the way to South America, where the whisper of their unborn voices flew boundlessly over a, surprisingly, blooming Atacama Desert, in Chile... only to be later drowned under deafening jungle rains, pounding over my tin roof in Peru.
They had become persistent companions, after many months of hesitant, convoluted gestation while I negotiated their birth with the Muses. As if they had a mind of their own, they were eager to emerge...

These haunting human silhouettes appeared with no garments. They had no visible face, no evidence of race, nor a discernible cultural background. They had no language, no lineage, nor social status; no religion, or political view...
They showed up as we do, alone and naked.
In their vulnerable, poetic “nobodyness”, they struck me as the “Archetypal Human”. Ambassadors of Humanity as a whole.
In some of the visions I had, the silhouettes were merged with, or infused by Nature; the elements, the botanical world, strata textures and more. Mirroring us in shape, they were evocative of a physical world map, perhaps one charting the beauty and fragility of the human condition, within its indissoluble bond to Mother Earth.

I felt these surreal beings were also primordial representations of some of the metaphysical vicissitudes of the human journey, dipping their ethereal toes into the mystical with innocent abandon. Walking haltingly that foggy path that meanders just around the corner of your eye, at the mysterious tunnel opening at the bottom of your coffee cup, in the elusive song of the wind through the leaves...
I found them to be quite suitable companions... We are after all an interesting amalgam; liminal creatures, both evanescent and eternal...
Maybe as a reflection of my ruminations on the somewhat esoteric aspects of life, I had been building “guerrilla” installation pieces, made with materials found onsite during my time in nature, at my several temporary locations around the globe. I saw them as furtive little offerings which, in the context of a no-tech, no-social-media journey, went unregistered. They were not meant to be seen by eyes other than mine, or to last in any way, although one could say they later evolved into poems, drawings, monotypes, paintings and mosaics; an unplanned although quite symbolic progression from the extremely fleeting and into the lasting...

While on the other side of the world, I was selected to participate in “Weather on Steroids” (WOS), a group show in California; a collaboration with scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography about Climate Change. My budding apparitions, albeit covering a broader subject, seemed rather appropriate for that exhibition, and these works would become the first “permanent” pieces on the series.
My human silhouette matured into a more distinctly Female shape, the embodiment of Mother Earth, and an allusion at my own gender, while still encompassing us all as Humanity.
I also chose to work with the Water Element and its powers, both vital and destructive, depicted in all simplicity by the dichotomy between flood and drought.

So, after a lengthy gestation period, I had to put a halt to my wanderings; I hung my wings behind the door, and dropped anchor again in California. There, in lack of a proper studio, I worked in a humble, tiny nook under a pine tree, loving witness and custodian of the evanescent secrets whispered by these beings, and of some of mine. After months of painstaking labor, a few artworks took their first breaths, much like me, close to the Pacific Ocean.
Not a small deed, since my “creatures” refused to come to life as the small works on paper or canvas, or videos, I had in mind for that show, insisting on becoming life size, heavy mosaics. I yielded (once again), as I realized I had precious materials collected over the years, seemingly for this very purpose, specific and unknown, till now. This collection included very unique found objects, such as debris from local wild fires, animal bones; stones, beach glass & ceramic tumbled by waves in different oceans; seeds and wood from trees I'd met while alive; as well as recycled materials: glass, metal, ceramic, etc.

Even though this is an archaic technique, I created unorthodox mosaics, that for the dedicated observer, would carry the intimate quality of a reliquary. Eventually, I chose the tittle “Flesh & Clay” for the series, echoing the words “barro y silencio” (clay & silence) which, like a mantra, popped repeatedly in my head, and somehow guided and encouraged me throughout the manufacture process. The tittle also addresses the feeling of communion and unity that pervades the artworks; in John Muir words, the awareness that "...when we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe".

Each unique fragment on the mosaics, a connotation of diversity, was also woven within a unity of organic textures on these “physical maps”. Other tacit levels of meaning fluttered about, as an invisible butterfly... I felt my creations had not only many layers, but also an inner life and agenda beyond mine, and I found them to be quite timely at reverberating on some planetary issues.
During the manufacture of the first mosaic for the WOS show, “Dissolution”, my being immersed in the thousands of pieces of its waters, I realized it spoke beyond Climate concerns, floods and sea level rise. These problems were symptoms, the tip of the (melting) iceberg... The piece also became an aery, blue reflection on the upheaval taking place, locally and abroad, over the struggle for clean water and its protection.
Later, my female silhouettes, my Mother Earth representations, deepened their human dimension, when I finished the first 3 mosaics right for the 2016 USA elections which, amid a worldwide, general unrest, brought about a big women's movement.
Once again, I felt this Archetypical Human had a mind of its own.

Somewhat consciously, I had avoided creating from a place of sole intellect, of “cleverness”, fully surrendering to the intuitive, visceral guidance I was receiving. These flesh & clay beings held my hand, and upon each vacillation, each bout of doubt, would whisper the “clay & silence” litany, and then another one: “follow that thread”... And I followed it, at least with my gaze, imagining the red thread of destiny of a beautiful Japanese legend...

When the WOS show opened and I saw the public facing these life size silhouettes, melding (apocalyptically) with nature, I confirmed their power as a remembrance instrument.
Within an educational setup of scientific facts, this was a message that came from and was conveyed to the heart. My artworks were subtly evoking empathy, demanding respect and appreciation for Pachamama, our Earth Mother. My pieces elicited some deeply touching responses from the audience, in a show that, so far, got 2 awards for the organizers.

Soon after I began to create another set of anthropomorphic mosaics, “Secret Portal” & “Forest Spirit”, which were installed a couple of months later, for a show at the San Diego Botanical Garden. A setting they had specified, over a year before my agreeing to make them...

Hanging within the foliage, from the branches of old cork trees, they surprised the visitors with their poetic presence; much like their predecessors, they encompassed within their ecological message, one of tolerance and compassion among us, the custodians of the planet. A message of coexistence and peace.

 As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” Hermes Trimegistus