The ancient stories told through the work of Savannah, Georgia, artist Phil Starks unfolded in a very modern setting with the opening of his Gaia Earth Goddess and Her 7 Matriarchal Daughters exhibition, scheduled to run from October 23 to November 19, 2009, at the Savannah State University (SSU) Art Gallery.
Starks has participated in a number of group shows over the past few years, including the critically acclaimed Seeing Sounds exhibit and the Savannah Area Artists Fine Art exhibition, both in 2009. The SSU event is his first solo-artist exhibition. The path that has led him to this point, like the spiritually-charged subject of his art itself, has been an exceptional one.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Starks is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (1968-1972) whose studies at Columbus State and New York University were geared more towards preparing him for his career in dental technology than for one as an artist. Ironically, it was while working over the course of some twenty years as a top-notch dental lab technologist that he first began to work with a waxer, a small hand-held machine that allows you to control the application and the molding of heated wax.
As a dental lab technologist, Starks used the waxer to create appealing smiles. As an artist, he began using it as part of a finely-tuned process that would lead to the physical creation of his artistic visions. "Over the years, over time, as I developed technically, learning more carving skills, casting skills, and material skills, it just grew from there," said the artist.
The technology may be new and Starks’ employment of it a creative innovation, but the artist is quick to point out that the technique of waxing in general is not. "This is an ancient technique, not something just created. The Egyptians, the Babylonians, and Africans especially– when you see some of their bronze masks and other figures, those were made by waxing."
The "vision" part of Starks’ quest for creative expression came when he started studying Yoga. The process of creating "became a part of my meditation."
He found himself entertaining images and ideas which he did not fully understand at the time but nevertheless made sketches of and saved in folders. "I am just now coming to this point, in finishing these [the work for his SSU show] to an understanding of what I was doing," said Starks. "I knew deep down there was some meaning to this but it was full of abstracts and was a little ethereal but it was also beautiful and I knew that it was talking to me."
"Wise Woman" sculpture by Phil Starks (photo by Gwendolyn Glover)
As it turned out, what he in fact "was doing" was constructing a visual interpretation of stories based on the idea of the Earth as a living entity named Gaia. In Greek and Roman mythology, Gaia is the name given the Earth as a divine being generated by Creation itself and who has numerous children (thus the term Earth Mother). In modern times, various environmental groups have adopted the term to increase awareness of such issues as planetary pollution and global warming. Various indie music groups have adopted names like Daughters of Gaia or Sons of Gaia to help promote "planetary consciousness."
Where the artist Phil Starks is concerned, the "Earth Goddess and Her 7 Matriarchal Daughters" is a direct product of his personal spiritual journey. They wear brilliant primary colors and rich shades of gold, green, and purple that symbolizes different aspects of each figure. The finished work is a series of painted relief sculptures that rest regally against a background of Japanese paper print patterns. These sit within classically-styled ceramic frames that are also made by Starks and which can stand as works of art on their own. They range in sizes from approximately 7 ½ x 8 ½ inches to 16 x 25 inches and weigh from 17 lbs to 40 lbs. All but one of these "7 Matriarchal Daughters" bear a name from world mythology: Maat, Kachina, Mojo, Shakti, Wise Woman, and Sophia. The seventh has not yet been named.
Part of the reason the names are taken from different cultures, says Starks, is because, "as opposed to finding what’s different about religions and culture, I think that in this day and age we need to recognize and see that which we have in common."
Please Click For Part 2: The Artist Makes His Move
© by Aberjhani