Volume 0, Issue 0

Working in Progress

In Art on 2012/07/23 at 9:38 am

Wishing Well (in progress) by Saia RomanisaelThe works in progress featured in this article are by Saia Romanisael, whom I have never to date met in person but consider to be a close friend. I include her striking pieces here less to accuse her of sorcery than to visually highlight her use of deep-textured elements of symbology and association that would make for good hoodoo workings. Should she be so inclined.

So much of what we think of as the syncretic hodge-podge of homebrew magical action is about a thousand percent tied up in the artistic process, and that fascinates me. We work in symbols and arrange them, in whatever media, according to a logic that has nothing to do with linearity and traditional causal logic. Visually, that means we abandon left-to-right and top-to-bottom. The important elements — subjects, objects, verbs — become central, either literally or in the way they draw the eye. Elements are chosen because of the wealth of associations they bring to mind in the artist, not because of any overt truth in description or representation. Thoughts and feelings and wishes are embedded and encoded at the lowest possible level. The composition of pigments. The personal history of the tools being used.

Horse (in progress) by Saia RomanisaelThe assumption is that it’s not the finished work that is important. In fact, in many workings, the physical representation of the work itself is destroyed. The tulpa is created; it has an action to perform. When that action is complete, the tulpa is undone, lest it get up to some obnoxious business of its own when its hands are no longer busy with its master’s or mistress’s work. If the final project is kept at all, it is merely as a keepsake to remember the effort expended.

The concept of tulpa here is included here not in any literal Tibetan sense, but to denote some kind of underlying construct of imagination that is the important part of any hoodoo working. Although I did use the word syncretic above, so you should take even my disclaimer with a grain of salt, because how the hell should I know. It’s personal to every practitioner.

I did say at the outset of launching this project that I had no intention or trying to teach anybody any kind of magical practice, religious or solitary. This is an exploration only. My own history in the sciences and in the world of computing laid alongside my artistic career as a writer, much of the artistic process of which I have yet to understand, compels me to try my hand at a catalog, at an analysis, and I’m not going to get anywhere looking exclusively at my own work or even my own chosen media. Friends like Saia go a long way to helping me see the process from outside — help me sneak up on it, as it were, and catch it at a meal or taking repose.

I am convinced that hoodoo is an artform all on its own and is best understood as art — which for me means it’s going to be a really long walk.


— The Editor

  1. There’s so much symbolism that even I was fully conscious of, and now I see it so clearly. Thank you for documenting this, J. I love you always.

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