The oldest cave paintings in North America are dated between 9,000 to 12,000 years old. Their meaning and function have never been fully resolved, but two distinct functions can be determined; our native ancestors said, “We were here,” and the images made them feel good.
The paintings most likely performed the basic function of giving their makers comfort through mimesis, the copying of the things they loved and needed, primarily the animals they hunted for survival.
By painting animals repeatedly the mass of images gave them feelings of plenty, which was especially important if the animals migrated to other parts for long periods of time. Those feelings of plenty became a necessary tool for survival, giving psychological comfort and reminding our ancestors that the animals would return.
Having plenty, like our modern version of being materialistic, makes us feel good. We get status and security by owning lots of stuff. And for artists and others who collect art, art can be a substitute for the real thing. What we can’t have we make real in images, like lonely men painting women, poor people making vision boards, rich people collecting art supposedly imbued with deep meaning from some kind of guru artist, or a prisoner painting landscapes. Your fruit and flower curtains replace the winter view when everything outside appears dead. Your curtains remind you of better times. Lonely people watch lots of television.
Having plenty of visual substitutes of what we can’t have makes us feel better.
That’s why having art is so valuable in Thunder Bay, especially for young people. In our little community what we don’t have we can get surreptitiously through art.
Witness the modern version of cave painting at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery currently on display in gallery two created by the Die Active Art collective. The imagery is a cross between graffiti and cave art where the art allows for a perfect blend of two desires most important for young people, acceptance and variety.
The need for acceptance by ones peers and the need for freedom to be oneself may seem contradictory, but here at the DEFSUP gallery both meet perfectly in an expression of organized anarchy.
Around thirty-five artists were involved in one week of work, which included two workshops to teach graffiti and how to use wheat paste. The only limit to the creative individual expression of the members was the colour palette. Limiting the colour helps give the show some cohesiveness.
A few members to note are, NoHart, a graffiti artist with ten years experience, Vivike Knutson, a recent grad from OCAD, David Hotson, a talented low-brow artist, and new members, Nick Van Skahl, Sam Piche, otherwise known as “Fish,” and Saskia Pateman, who at fourteen years of age also did a musical performance piece at the show’s opening last week.
Two former Thunder Bay residents, returning from Montreal, Adam Waito and Tyler Rauman, who have their work in Gallery 3, also contributed to the show.
Die Active is in its fifth year of operation, coordinated by the talented Laura Northway. Membership is free. They always welcome new members.This Tuesday Die Active is having a yarn-bombing workshop at 3:30, and on Thursday, July 11, from 1 – 4 they are working on their Cook Street graffiti project. Lora can be reached at 344-3814. You can get more info from their Facebook page by searching the Web with “Die Active Art Collective.”