Building a Mystery

Posted in Arts and Culture, Painting, Work Update on May 19th, 2011 by Angel Villanueva

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A detail of the first in a series of paintings about forces at play in the time before time.
The rest will follow shortly. I for one am excited.

Thank you for your continued presence,

~Angel Villanueva

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Incomprensible Estancia

Posted in En Español, Writing and Poetry on May 11th, 2011 by Angel Villanueva

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La magnética bemol
se acerca en la cruel distancia
y llega hasta el corazón
lo llena con su substancia
con sus azares caprichos
con sus temores nostalgia
con opacidad y brillo
con amalgamada náusea
hoy te encuentro en las orillas
del cráter de las mañanas
en donde con tu luz brillas
con tus esperanzas vanas
cuántas veces te lo he dicho
me dijo algún día mi nana
que la gente es un peligro
y yo observaba sus canas
al caminar por las noches
me desespero y me atacan
estos inciertos temores
esta risa demoníaca
hoy te encuentro en las aldeas
hoy te persigo en las faldas
de las montañas ardientes
de las humaredas vastas
a dónde van los vilanos
nunca supe, imaginaba
que las garzas sonreían
que las ranas platicaban
que las gotas que caían
y la tierra humedecían
eran lágrimas hermanas
del dolor que llevo dentro
de esta incomprensible estancia
del calor que aquí en el centro
de mi corazón estalla
hoy te encuentro en las campanas
de iglesias abandonadas
donde el sonido es intenso
el silencio es el mañana
el mañana de la muerte
el acontecer del alma
el universo que vibra
con estrellas y con ansia
cuántas veces te lo he dicho
y no escuché pues cantaba
con la música del viento
y mi voz lenta viajaba
expandiéndose en el aire
por la faz se desplazaba
de la tierra donde charcos
de lágrimas agrupadas
se contaban sus secretos
unas a otras en manadas
hoy te encuentro en las ideas
de mentes diferenciadas
del ordinario bullicio
multitudes descarriadas
en los cielos tan gloriosos
tan azules y espumosos
donde el silencio flotaba
te encuentro en las hojas secas
que vuelan tras la ventana
arrastrando sus memorias
misteriosas y agraciadas
en el verde laberinto
que existe de madrugada
donde la vida es un cuento
y el amor corazonada
hoy me persigo de nuevo
al amanecer con calma
al esperar veredictos
entonar himnos con ganas
de reventar en colores
y no regresar jamás
a este punto de retorno
donde cuenta tú te das
de que nada habrá cambiado
de que todo es por demás
que para esto no hay remedio
no importa que tanto habrás
querido ver otro rostro
siempre el mismo encontrarás
hoy te encuentro tras las nubes
en el volcán apagado
por la escalera que subes
para llegar a mi lado
en el azul de dos mares
en el rojo del sangrar
en el mercado de flores
en la memoria de amar
en el mundo de los niños
en la inocencia y estás
transformándote sin prisa
para venirme a encontrar…

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~A.V. 2000

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The Rose

Posted in Impressions, Journal Entry, Uncategorized, Writing and Poetry on May 8th, 2011 by Angel Villanueva

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I remember her smile, her hands, her long fingers as they delicately removed the outer petals of an overgrown rose in our garden, granting it the gift of temporary perfection. Had I not remembered it, trimming that rose would have been a gesture lost in the immensity of space, in the eternity of time, gone with the unknown lives of countless generations who haven’t understood their mortality and the ephemeral quality of their every thought. But the whole of her expression told me that this wasn’t a meaningless event; the very essence of our nature was contained in that simple gesture, and it was my duty to understand it, to remember it, to pass it on. The pursuit of meaning and fulfillment in our lives, and its seeming lack of consequence when faced with the inevitability of our departures, were symbolized by that one rose, standing there perfect once again for a tiny fragment of time. A trivial achievement when placed in context with the rest of reality, yet a superb example of our spirit, of our willingness to make things better, to bring the world around us in line with our visions. The rose was that desired life, a state of balance that couldn’t last, but in the meantime, it could be perfect: a paradoxical mix of natural and creative input.

That is how she was herself: a living, breathing, walking paradox. The depth of her mind a wellspring of revelations, a vast library whose true content I never had an opportunity to explore completely, but from which my own creativity stemmed and flourished. She placed my early mind in an almost mystical environment, in a world of her own making, always full of sensory experiences: music of birds, air perfumed by flowers and fruits and lush vegetation, nights under the stars, a feeling of peaceful solitude permeating our everyday life. Life was a rose garden, an oasis in the middle of the desert. That metaphor continues to live in me, and I will bear its mark until the day I dissolve back into the universe.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.

~A

Pomona, California
May 2001

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Divinations

Posted in Impressions, Journal Entry, Writing and Poetry on January 31st, 2011 by Angel Villanueva

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Long before any of us began wandering into the treacherous realm of prejudice, a story that we should all have listened to was told at one of the gatherings.

In the center of the garden is a small fountain, and crowning it, a talking skull. Normally no one pays attention to it, but that night, awash in the dazzle of strange spells, I struggled between reading someone’s lips and threading together filaments of the ancient voice that streamed between the gaps in our conversation. It was all over the garden, infused into the crisp air of the night, present and immaterial like the smoke, though no one seemed to hear it.

We would all be reminded in time.

“The hearts,” it said, “are made of clay, and clay can only be molded in the wet. The hearts will dry, they will crack against each other if one waits too long, if one waits for that perfect day, that perfect moment when the hearts are dry as bones, brittle and bitter. Hearts lose their power to become one with another, they become rocks and skulls. I know. I know.”

I held my smile. Sparks flew about. I felt the skull was leaving something out. At that moment, it didn’t matter. It was the song of the dead, and we were very much living. We were wild birds in the jungle, each trying to outsing and outdisplay the other, ourselves, the last one and the next one.

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Window open to the cool winter air, I hear a call. An owl. And an owl calls back. Together they are hunting in the night, roosting at the edges of their reign.

I remember someone.

I have not looked into the book of souls for ages. That book filled with blank pages, each belonging to one. I hold it once again, find a page, sit in the dark, and wait.

Soon it comes, the image of a man making his way across a vast plain, that same abject infinity that once plagued my nightmares. But this is not my nightmare. It is what I feared I would become, happening to someone else: a lone slave dragging a giant heart of stone across the desert. The pathos of lost hope, the weight of apathy, a cruel, self-imposed sentence.

There are two ways out of it. I know them both.

I wanted to help. I tried. I am not meant to. Let go.

Something within splits in two, and one half falls away. I close the book, and my eyes. Press the back of my head against the wall. Take a deep breath. Above me, far above this roof, there are many, many stars shivering in the night.

The half that remains is gratitude.

And, lurking beneath, invisible for now, the razor’s edge of fear, held at a distance.

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~A

Voyage

Posted in Arts and Culture, Photography, Work Update on November 2nd, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

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Click play. Scroll down. Enjoy.
Vorspiel, Epilogue
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D.C., Milan, Turin, Ceva, Garessio, Mondovi, Serralunga d’Alba, Barki, Monaco, Rome, The Vatican, London, Gravesend (the final resting place of Pocahontas), St. Monans, Dublin, Peebleshire, Paris, Edinburgh. And the great crossing, racing against the forward edge of the night, West across the Ocean Sea…

~A

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Farewell to a Dear Friend

Posted in Impressions, Journal Entry, Photography, Writing and Poetry on September 30th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

“There is no limit to the extent to which we can imagine ourselves into the being of another.”
~J.M. Coetzee, “The Lives of Animals”

On September 9th 2010, Rose, my Labrador Retriever, passed away. She was five years old.

In a way, it was good to be in a distant city when I got the news. Not surrounded by the familiar, I could go about my day bearing the standard of grief without having to explain myself. I could walk the streets at night under a light drizzle, letting the fresh water from above mix on my cheeks with the salt water from within as others hurried past me busy with their lives. I could, as I do, turn inside for answers and not worry about the external world being an encumbrance to the process.

Weighing heaviest on my heart was not being there. Rose was sick before I left for Europe, but we did not know what it was or how bad it was. The different vets who saw her were stumped by her symptoms, which seemed to respond favorably to treatment for an allergic reaction. The cancer diagnosis came too late, at a moment when I had no way of being in touch. Steve, my partner, had to go through it alone, watching Rose quickly fading and helping her to fight in every way he could think of. I know she was well taken care of, yet a part of me wonders if she felt abandoned, if she waited for me as long as she could. I wish I had at least been able to say goodbye.

Rose came home as an eight-week old puppy one eventful afternoon in July of 2005 and immediately became part of a happy triad: Steve, Angel, and Rose. She was family, an integral part of daily life, complementing our existence in ways that only a friendly and loving animal can. For five years, raising and sharing a life with Rose gave Steve and I a joyful common purpose and brought us closer together. She was a gift: free-spirited, tirelessly playful and curious, always excited about new things, places and people, and possessing of a fixity of purpose (finding food!) I have yet to construct for myself about anything. She kept us company when we were away from each other, brightly colored our day-to-day activities and even helped to keep us healthy by having to walk her for miles every day lest she be restless at night and keep us awake. Rose was a living anchor to the good in life, and we were in turn happy to be responsible for the life of an animal friend.

To me, Rose also functioned as an expansion of my mind, extending my cognitive reach into the animal world. She was my experiential bridge to a realm of perception and living otherwise closed off; a constant reminder of the fact that the human experience is but a fragment of a larger reality. Rose showed me that as sentient beings, humans and animals share commonalities which can uphold a kind mutual understanding with surprising ease.

In April of 2007, I had a strange apocalyptic dream in which Rose, then two years old, came to me during a moment of tremendous duress which just happened to take place amidst the ruins of my college campus. Considering the pressure of school at the time, the dream reads like a metaphor for salvation, an act which, in more than one way, this singular creature in fact carried out for me.

There are brands of conviction that place animals on a value scale in which they are considered lesser creatures, different and separate from us, granting adherents the liberty to distance their self-concept from animal identity as far as they wish. I find this appalling. The insight into the fabric of nature we have so painstakingly obtained through scientific study indicates clearly that humans are not simply Masters of the Earth, alone in our comprehension and privileged in our superiority. Being the first species to acquire the power to change the biosphere at will while remaining dependent upon it places us squarely in charge of maintaining its delicate balance. In this sense, we are deeply indebted to the species who have chosen to become our friends, for they are a reminder of our intrinsic connection to the rest of life. To the extent that we separate ourselves in identity, thought, and action from the animals, we become less and less.

A Short Walk Down Memory Lane


Baby Rose, Sleepyhead…


Time out for a rambunctious little girl.


With Steve in the family room.

Growing up.


Graduating from puppy school.


Still thinking she’s a tiny puppy.


In the pool with Natasha.

Fun with friends at the lake.
(Click here for full photo essay.)


Survival instinct at work: taking to the water during the brush fires behind the house.
(Click here for the photo blog of that event!)



Full Winter Coat


One day I came home from work to find that Rose had been busy making art out of herself… and the house! She was about a year old here.


With me in the garden.


Her favorite toy: a hula hoop!

And so, dearest Rose, Steve and I bid you farewell. Though we will always wish you hadn’t left us so soon, we are grateful for the wonderful time we spent together and all the joy you brought us. Thank you. We hope you had a good life, that your needs were met, and that you were as happy with us as we were with you. We loved you. You will always be a star in our sky.

Paris, France
September 30, 2010

“We send our thanks to all the Animal life in the world.
They have many things to teach us as people.
We are glad they are still here, and we hope it will always be so.”

The Mohawk Thanksgiving Address


The Great Art Adventure

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

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Tonight I leave for Italy via Washington D.C., to spend the month of August at L’Ermitage di Garessio‘s Artist in Residence Retreat:


www.ermitagedigaressio.com

Once I’ve completed the artist residency in Garessio, I will be visiting Rome, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Paris, as well as places in their vicinity. I’ll be returning to Los Angeles in October. Wish me luck!

You can follow updates on this trip here as well as on my Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/angelvillanueva.art

Looking forward to La Dolce Vita, communing with Michaelangelo, riding the London Eye, winking at the Mona Lisa, drinking Irish beer and searching for the Loch Ness monster.

Thank you for your continued presence,

~Angel Villanueva

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The Seal of God

Posted in Dreams, Journal Entry, Writing and Poetry on July 9th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

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I happen upon the nest while surveying the devastation inflicted on the farm by the storm. The nearly uprooted tree is tilted enough that the nest, miraculously spared destruction by the tangled mass of broken branches around it, has come to rest just above eye level. Sitting in it, frightened and cold, is a lone baby rabbit.

I reach in and grab it gently, the tiny creature barely fidgeting, fluffing its fur and immediately cozying up to the warmth of my cupped hands.

“Where are your brothers and sisters?” I ask as I begin walking.

“They were taken by the big bird. Biiig, scaaary biiird… Oooh…” He trembles, no doubt reliving the abduction in his mind. Cute and helpless become dismal adjectives.

“How come it didn’t take you?”

“Because I’m different. Because I’m special.” He sounds quite sure of himself.  “See how tame I am? If you look into my eye, you will see in it the ineffable Seal of God.”

Worth a look. I raise him up to my face and amplify the image of his eye. The effect is that of riding a meteor as it approaches the atmosphere of an alien planet, the round of the cornea glistening in the light of space and flattening as I come closer and closer upon the brown wrinkles of the iris. The iris expands to form a mountain range surrounding a circular lake, Lake Black Pupil, resting beneath the beautiful bluish transparency of an airy surface marred only by… What? A little cloud…?

The seal is an oblong, translucent, iridescent shape floating on the cornea and surrounded by progressively fainter concentric rings. A gentle tilt reveals all the colors of the rainbow dancing within it; a subtle, exquisite, ever-morphing composition.

“I see it! It’s there!”

“I told you.” He asserts.

“So… What do I do with it?”

“Oh, nothing. You can’t do anything with the Seal of God. You can only look at it. And it’s everywhere. As a matter of fact, I used to have it on one of my buttocks.”

He pauses, becomes absorbed. Conjuring up the memory of a different body sets off a process of awakening, the little animal vessel stiffening up as he slowly begins to understand his new condition.

“How long has it been since my life?”

A breathless question.

It’s then that I recognize the voice. Of course. I’ve come across this spirit before. I have access to his records, and begin going through them in the back offices of my mind. The images in his file are of a white man in his late thirties or maybe early forties; a pleasant face with longish, straight brown hair. The last picture shows him looking quite tired in his blue hospital gown.

“Seven years.” I whisper it to him, no need to shock him any further.

He’s frozen in my hands, trying to come to terms with what he cannot understand.

“Oh, David…”

We have reached the farm house, and I set him down in the cage where I will keep him until he can take care of himself. I know that as soon as I utter the next phrase he will lose his memory and capacity for speech, but I utter it nonetheless. I have to. It’s my job.

“You are a rabbit now.”

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Dream Journal, July 9, 2010

The Capital

Posted in Dreams, Journal Entry, Writing and Poetry on June 18th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

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“Why do you always look at me like I’m not real?”

Rather than answering I look out the restaurant window at the people pushing bales of hay up and down the street. The air between us has frozen solid, plastic toys and an old shoe are suspended in it. He says something else but I can’t hear it over the thunder of the waterfall at my back. I look down the sheer cliff, an immense drop to a pool of dark water furiously beating itself into a foam. My chair is at the very edge of the rock and the rock is wet, but I will not fall. I’m safe. Overspray moistens my face. I like it. Maybe I’m thirsty. I look at him again. Now he wears a silken hood over his head and is eating soup through it. How clever, I think. He lifts the spoon to his lips, the hot liquid goes through the fabric and into his mouth, cooling down in the process. He takes the hood off. His head is now a giant cigarette.

They call the door “The Egyptian Eye,” though it is not really a door nor does it look like an eye. A natural split in the rock wall, which the monks put an iron gate on long ago, hides in shrubbery by the side of the road. If you know about it, you come to it, shake the gate, and wait for the wordless monk. If he comes, reading you from the inscrutable darkness of his cloak, he may or may not let you in. Once in the garden you may get lost, as there are often fields of wheat taller than a man, and negotiating the narrow pathways threaded through them requires labyrinthine skills. From the esplanade beyond you can see the Capital, something of a medieval ziggurat, a massive rock complex  sitting squarely upon the Earth and boldly reaching skyward. The stairs are tricky, they look like one could fly up them, but they’re yet another laborious maze weaving in and out of the ornate facades. Up on the rooftop, you grab a chair and wait for things to be set up.

Five men dressed in red take aim at the bullseye painted on the man’s bare chest. He is strapped to a chair and they’ve put a bag on his head. “Fire!” The rifles bark in unison, a dull, muffled cough. The man’s chest bursts like papier-mâché, a cloud of fiber shreds swirling about him. He trembles briefly, starts falling sideways. The restraints hold him. Dead now, the men immediately begin disassembling the display. One of the reporters is sick. “He moved. I saw it. I didn’t want that.” So they’ve killed two men, the one in the chair, and the one who will now live with the memory of a sloppy execution.

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Reading the news before bedtime will do some strange things to your dreams.
I don’t think there is an absolute answer to the question of capital punishment, but I do believe that on a case-by-case basis there should be no room for ambiguity.

~A

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Protected: Skin

Posted in Photography on June 15th, 2010 by Angel Villanueva

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