'Her paintings are also her journal pages, and as such retain a freshness and variation that is the inevitable result of an extremely active mind and eye.'
“Be true to yourself and you will never fall.” —From “Pass the Mic” by the Beastie Boys
Alexandra Eldridge, Guardian of New Souls, mixed media on panel, 56” x 48”, 2013
Your soul, your psyche, your anima or animus, your animal guide, your protector, your guardian angel, your spirit, your gut, your intuition, your inspiration, your duende, your inner voice, your driving force, your higher self, your pure enthusiasm, your genius, your insight, your deep imagination, your winged messenger, your freedom, your wild abandon, your character, your truth, your demons, your daemon.
How are you so animated with life, with being and seeing making and doing and eating and sleeping and running and walking and resting and nesting and painting and writing and singing and signing and getting and having and losing and crying and flying and talking and talking and talking and dying? Miraculous that for eons diurnal bodies, animal, vegetable, mineral, and atmospheric, in a continuous spherical wave around the planet’s surface rise up and stretch toward the sun each morning. We go to work; we do our thing, spirited by the day. Sun worshipping derives from Earth’s diurnal DNA. For Socrates and his Athenian buds, followers of Japan’s Shinto religion, Gothic Catholics, and nearly every indigenous culture worldwide, the garden world the sun god makes is full of nature spirits, naiads and dryads, eight million kami, djinn and genies, animal deities, spirits, sprites, and beings of light, dragons, demi-urges, divinities, and your daemon.
One of the very earliest Paleolithic examples of human artmaking is a lion-headed human figure carved from a mammoth tusk. The characterization of one’s self through totalizing identification with an animal being is as old as the first human thought. The process of discovering your totem spirit is typically assisted by music, magic, dance, ritual incantation, ceremony, meditation and/or intoxicating sacraments, and always, art. In Alexandra Eldridge’s piece Levitation, an antique, hand-tinted photograph under bubble glass of a boy sitting crossed-legged, gains, by the artist’s hand, a lion’s head, a seed-spilling pink lily, which he holds erect in his lap, and the novel sense that he is floating a few inches above the ground. The piece is part of Eldridge’s "Meeting with my Daemons" exhibition at Nüart Gallery in the middle of Canyon Road. Eldridge demonstrates once again her considerable powers of invention, releases the full menagerie of her incredible imagination, and makes our oldest meanings new again. Guardian of New Souls is an image of a stork in time atop an egg-like island inside a cosmic hourglass. Eggs pour from a round locket with a pocket-watch shape. The liveliness of the bird’s presence is uncanny as his one eye tracks you around the room. There is an obvious echo here of Thoth, the Egyptian ibis-headed god of writing and magic, who records the names of each soul in his book of the dead. Most of Eldridge’s work plays on the level of cultural and literary allusions. A great lover of Blake and Jung, she is as passionate about reading mystical and romantic texts as she is about her painting. Many of the pieces here contain hand-scrawled quotations and intriguing, cryptic phrases referencing the primacy of the human imagination and a sense of wonder as our richest universal resource.
Eldridge is hard working and prolific. Her paintings are also her journal pages, and as such retain a freshness and variation that is the inevitable result of an extremely active mind and eye. My Daemon, the title track of the show, is a large, cool painting of a massive buck with a flock of little songbirds perched on his glowing white antlers. Again, the sense of deep intelligence given to her animal avatar is arresting. This gaze will stop you in your tracks if you let it. Above the deer floats a pink cloud of ether, situating this image on a mystical continuum somewhere between Tenniel and Tomaselli. Hares abound here, and that gives the show a slight Alice in Wonderland overtone, which is scarcely odd for Eldridge’s excellent exhibitions, as she’s basically a native there. Like Lewis Carroll, J.K. Rowling, or Antoine de Saint Exupéry, hers is the territory of pure creative thought, puns, puzzles, and vast conundrums. Absurdity and a bright wit are her survival tools, and a little whimsy goes a long way. Eldridge continues to push and expand the boundaries of her subjects and techniques, as does any truly committed painter. After many unwavering years, she’s at the height of her game. In "Meetings with my Daemons," inspired and possessed by grace, beauty, and a remarkably inventive intelligence, Eldridge generously allows her viewers to come forth and confront her potent spirit.