CHILDREN OF THE SUN: Works by Isis Aquarian, Alison Blickle, Delia Brown, Roberta Gentry, Rema Ghuloum, Rochele Gomez, Natalia Kent, Julika Lackner, Shana Moulton, Mary Anna Pomonis, and Madam X. More artist information below essay.
… “Of all forms of yellow, all–knowing.
The supreme goal, the one light, giving heat.
Thousand-rayed, existing in a hundred forms.
The sun rises as the breath of creatures. “
- Prashna Upanishad (1)
Children of the Sun examines works by women across a spectrum of media toward popular cultural, political, and historical understandings of the Sun as a metaphysical source of total enlightenment or absolution. Children of the Sun proceeds from Isis Aquarian’s rare 1970s documentation of The Source Family, a Los Angeles cult figuring around the patriarchal leader, Father Yod, who they considered their “Sun” or center of their universe. These images detail the workings of a California mysticism, a specifically American variety of Eastern-Western confluences and accumulations of philosophies, ideologies, religiosities, with women cast in the role of the worshipful, a faith bound in the bounty of a reproductive energy.
Accompanying the historical photos are critiques of and homages to the Sun and contemporary spirituality by 10 Southern California-based artists. In the exhibit we see the Sun as a phenomenological power, an examination of women's relationship to this spiritual power, and a decidedly Californian-cultural location to a spiritual conflict or encounter with the Sun. The works range from complex and fastidious painting incorporating sacred geometry by Roberta Gentry, Julika Lackner, and Mary Anna Pomonis to dreamy, ethereal sunrises by Rema Ghouloum. Through optic distortions of light, time, and space, Natalja Kent’s camera-less photograph renders a portal to alternate dimensions, while Madam X’s meticulously labored gouache and colored pencil work on paper depicts a “cosmic~human” transcending through alchemic elements beyond the cosmos. In Alison Blickle's desert scenes and ceramic representations, a psychic tension arises between the figures distorted in the sunlight and heat against the fired materiality of the sun disk, resolving as premonitions or hallucinations, whereas Rochele Gomez’s stained glass work figures the Sun's light as a means of demystifying art historical narratives departing from euro-centric modes of thought. Notions of enlightenment and holism within the wellness industry, a phenomenon rooted in Californian mystical-cultural developments, are turned wryly by Delia Brown’s paintings, while Shana Moulton’s whimsical video deconstructs the interior world of her alter-ego, “Cynthia,” a hypochondriac seeking the next fad/cure in her morning rituals.
Veneration of the Sun as a deity in art and architecture has been documented from primitive eras through today. The symbol of the Sun in ancient to contemporary ideologies has stood as a constant reminder of “wisdom, truth, justice, the all-seeing and omniscient eye.” (2) The Sun has also embodied the heavens and the underworld simultaneously in various cults and religions—its world historical presence in ancient societies boundless—, from Brazilian cave paintings to Stonehenge, as well as the pyramids of the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Egyptians, for which stones were erected upward to a point resting in gratitude for the brilliant spiritual energy of the heavens. Heliotheistic Aztecs offered live human hearts (3), Egyptians donned gilded sun masks representing god in their sacred ceremonies (4), and Greeks built the Colossus of Rhodes dedicated to the sun god Helios, a gargantuan 33 meter high bronze statue considered to have been one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. (5) In modernity, expressionism and abstraction gave space formally to the psychic encounters of women with the Sun, as metaphysical solar allusions appeared in the works of Hilma af Klimt, Emma Kunz, Georgia O’Keefe, and Agnes Pelton.
Groundwork for Children of the Sun was laid in 2005 when exhibition curator Annie Wharton moved to Los Angeles and began to explore the phenomenological history of her chosen environs. She used this research for her first LA curatorial endeavor, a group show called Dreamland at Jail Gallery in 2008, which examined alternate realities, enhanced awareness, and escapism. In the ensuing years, Wharton has studied the metaphysical past of Southern California and curated projects in the US and Europe with these analyses in mind. This exhibit includes research by LADIES’ ROOM curatorial assistant Fiona Lamb, whose interest in esoteric knowledge, Jungian archetypes, and the metaphysical commenced as a journey of self-discovery in 2008.
In encountering the discursive history of the Sun and its mystical properties of light, the works assembled in Children of the Sun variously honor solar energy as a source of life problematized. In its power over creation, a space of contestation has arisen, inherited by women and re-figured—all its brilliance, wonder, and uncanny. With such accumulations of thought, and a channel of reproductive energy billions of years from extinguishment, there remains incalculable light to cast of the Sun in art. Children of the Sun points toward the specific vision of the California Sun in our collective past, as a meditation presently, and onward of cultural futures in our epoch, evincing prophetic elucidations and works of awe.
(1) Prashna Upanishad 1:7, 8
(2) Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS). The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images. Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 2010.
(3) Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS). The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images. Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 2010.
(4) Henry, Kathryn Davis. Symbolism Through the Ages. Los Angeles, CA: Philosophical Research Society, 1993.
(5) Hall, Manly Palmer. The Secret Teachings of All Ages. - An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy, Being an Interpretation of the Secret Teachings concealed within the Rituals, Allegories and Mysteries of All Ages, Theosophical Edition. 1st edition. San Francisco, CA: H. S. Crocker Company, Inc, 1928.