I am happy to announce the completion of the Deer Panther Spaceship Sculptures! This iconic duo is part of my “Ancestral Spaceship” series of mixed media assemblage sculptures. I’ve imbued these pieces with deep concepts and they have been a very long time in the making.
Life & death, the ultimate duality! Can you have one without the other? That is the hidden subject for this Deer Panther pairing…balance through complementary opposites!
I created this pairing to align with Spring and Fall, which, being on opposite sides of the medicine wheel, are symbolic of life & death.
Spring (“Deer Time”) is the season for the emergence of new life, hence, I gave my deer the bright & shiny innocent eyes of a child!
Fall (“Panther Time”) is the season of death and the spirit realm. This is why I put the Milky Way in the open mouth of the Panther (Jaguar). It’s symbolic of the soul’s journey, and of our transformation as our consciousness moves from one reality to another (more on that below).
I built the Deer “Spaceship” with Venus, the Morning Star in mind (also known as the “Deer Star”). In addition to using sunrise colors, I gave this piece a double morning star for eyes. I have frequently included deer in my art since 1996, when I connected to my Tuscarora heritage and began to illustrate stories I was told about the deer clan. At that point I started exploring deer imagery in my photo collages. Later on, I did some 2-D deer composites, inspired by an encounter with a picture of the Caddoan “Deer Man” mask, found in a mound in Louisiana…see below:
The Panther (Jaguar) “Spaceship” is my rendition of the mythological water being known as the the “Underwater Panther”, a direct ancestral icon from the mound cultures of North America. The “Underwater Panther” possesses great supernatural power, including extremely keen vision. In the Panther (Jaguar) “Spaceship” sculpture I show this hunter peering through water reeds as he/she surfaces from the depths. Notice the large bright green eyes I have given it!
The ceramic Underwater Panther above shows the tell-tale red and white swirl. Historically in the southeast, the fundamental color duo of red and white was used to express dualities of many kinds. A red and white combination could encompass good vs. bad, pure vs. impure, order vs. disorder, chaos vs.harmony, war vs. peace, light vs.dark and the on-going struggle between the celestial and subterranean realms, to which the Underwater Panther belongs. Mississippian artists depicted this concept frequently in many forms and media. I painted the backs of the Deer Panther Spaceship Sculptures red and white like the other sculptures in this series!
The Panther (Jaguar) is an prominent icon from ancient Mississippian culture (part of the “Southeastern Ceremonial Complex” or “Cult of the Dead”). When I started to research this belief system, I realized how widely shared across Indian nations the Panther (Jaguar) is. Spanning from South to North America, the Panther (Jaguar) represents the connection to the ancestors who reside in the spirit world (underworld).
But the Panther (Jaguar) carries an even deeper symbology because it guards the “gates” to that underworld, a metaphysical world (“Xibalba” in Mayan) of a different dimension or realm. The entrance to the road to Xibalba is traditionally shown as the mouth of a cave or as the dark rift which is a visible part of the Milky Way. Again, that’s why I put the Milky Way in the open mouth of the Panther (Jaguar), with the teeth having a stalactite and stalagmite appearance.
For more Panther (Jaguar) info See Panther Series story.