During this modern golden age of technology when humankind mimics and defies nature through 3D printing, human enhancement technology, genetically modified food, pharmaceutical medications, computers, robots, cinema, and video games, we have consequently decreased our connection with our own biological machine that is the human body. In early-1900s America there was a surge of country folk moving to the big cities to leave the hardships of rural life and adapt the comforts and luxury of urban living. To accommodate an inner-city lifestyle where consumerism was designed to replace culture as the center of one’s life, household appliances like vacuum cleaners, electric irons, and electric refrigerators provided convenience so that one may have the leisure to indulge in radio and television. Generations later this shift from simple living to cosmopolitan luxury has not only created an epidemic of waste, it has also transformed our relationship with the natural world, especially in cities where our interaction with nature is limited. The dynamic of successful living is no longer based on the fullness of one’s experience within the physical body and with nature, but the extension of one’s ego projected into various forms of technology.
Technology is designed to make our lives more comfortable and easier to manage. The problem is sometimes that resistance, pain, and chaos can be a catalyst for growth. In modern culture many people avoid growing pains by ingesting a pill or marathoning a television series so that they can escape pressing emotional or mental issues. Is this human progression? In the past man’s fight to survive against the elements, collectively and individually, helped inspire religion, or spiritual ritual. For example, in ancient Andean cultures people lived in unsteady terrain and so they offered sacrifice to the mountains to honor the goddess Pachamama so that she would not create earthquakes. Religion also developed through mankind correlating the processes of nature and the characteristics of animals and plants with aspects of the human psyche. Civilization flourished because people understood how to have balance within their lives by understanding the balance of nature— the balance between light and dark, pain and pleasure, life and death. With technology acting as a supplement that spiritual balance has dissolved, or rather it has been concealed.
To date, the longest-lasting empire in this world is humankind over the animal kingdom. One could argue that technology is man’s dominion over nature, or at least man’s attempt to dominate nature. And yet nature can so easily defeat us, from a storm knocking out our wireless internet to a drought that wipes out a civilization. Perhaps our technology is trying to achieve what the ancients were trying through rituals— to manipulate nature. Should we base our progression as a species through the linear evolution of technology? Should we base progression on economic development? Should we base it on religion? What if everything we built upon nature came crashing down? What if we lost our empire? How would we see ourselves in relation to nature?
An Exchanging Glance
Jeremy Hush has created watercolor paintings for the show An Exchanging Glance that remove the human being from its dominant role and place it back within the flourishes of nature. In the painting An Exchanging Glance, a human skull is but a mere object to the Bateleur eagle that has chosen it to construct its nest, along with twine, leaves, pearls, ribs, and a rosary. The Christian cross not only represents the sacrifice of Jesus but also reminds one of his resurrection. In the eye of the skull is a coin, suggesting the Greek burial rites where coins were placed with the departed so that they could pay the toll to the ferryman Charon who would take them across the river Styx. The skull, cross and the coin are important symbols for the painting because they are representative of death and reincarnation, and by placing them within a nest in which new life is being hatched, the grim imagery of death suddenly reflects the beauty and necessary cruelty of nature in order to continue the circle of life.
In The Empress, a woman is depicted as an enchanting medium for the messages delivered from the animal kingdom. She corresponds to the Empress Tarot card that represents abundance and fertility. The abundance is not material objects or excessive monetary wealth, but the wealth of nature and life. All that we require for sustenance is found within nature, hence, Mother Nature. The Empress represents this nurturing mother in mankind. In the context of Hush’s series, this could be considered a call to get in touch with our feminine energy individually and as a species. Setting gender social issues aside, although that also is significant to this point, getting in touch with the feminine energy requires us to acknowledge the direct connection of our survival and sustenance with nature.
The crossed keys are generally associated with St. Peter, representing the keys of heaven—one key represents the power of heaven and the other represents the power of heaven on earth through the Catholic Church. Whether Jeremy incorporated this symbolism into his work to associate the meaning with the Church, the concept of a key unlocking mystery goes back to the idea of spirituality and ritual originating from man honoring the spirits of nature and reflecting on nature within himself. As the Church is to Heaven so is our body to nature.
Falling Tower, like the Tower Tarot card, might be one of the most foreboding paintings for those challenged by the idea of returning to the essence of nature. The painting depicts a Gothic cathedral façade with flying buttresses connected to pinnacle towers collapsing to the ground. Strangely, there is a procession of people wearing animal masks crossing under the façade celebrating this disaster. In a Tarot reading people often fear the Tower card because it is an ominous card showing chaos and destruction; however, the meaning behind it is ultimately a positive message. In order for an individual to grow or receive a gift, sometimes they must remove outdated routines or psychological structures so that a new thing or idea can take its place. Every end leads to a new beginning, but it’s at dusk when many begin to tremble. Falling Tower shows that though there will be collapses in society, inevitably it is for the betterment of humankind and nature.
Every empire throughout history has fallen. The fall of the modern human empire will not lead to extinction, nor even anarchy for that matter. The fall of the world’s greatest empire does not require war but a shift in consciousness—a change of perspective. The fall is not the collapse of the concept of civilization, but the rise of illumination in the minds of its citizens. Jeremy Hush’s An Exchanging Glance reminds us that nature was here before us and will certainly be around when we leave. To see the world through nature’s eyes is to see eternity in its ever cyclical process of life and death, the two keys that unlock the mystery of immortality.
An Exchanging Glance will be on view at Last Rites Gallery, New York until January 16th.
A Loss for Words