John Soderberg

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On the Wind
On the Wind
On the Wind
Life-size, Edition of 36
 
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On the Wind

As an artist, I have long been interested in the concept of wisdom and human fulfillment, and the struggle to attain it.

I am attracted to those faces that convey that struggle and the journey through the myriad experiences, impulses and influences that, with time, can build wisdom. On the Wind depicts a man, an elder, introspectively looking into the wind, thinking back on his life.

Small faceless human figures are employed to symbolize the opposite universal forces which have had an impact on his journey. Good and Evil fight for possession of his left ear, with Good being closer. Above his head, in the feathers, one figure implies Fear, with a compulsion to hold on to the past, while the other implies Freedom, a willingness and desire to let go, to accept risk and uncertainty, and to enjoy the adventure of the present and journey into the future. On his necklace, one figure shows abject, crushing Depression, while the other shows unrestrained liberating Ecstasy. By his right ear, two figures depict the opposites of Instant Gratification/Greed, versus earned, nurturing Accomplishment. The Instant Gratification blows helplessly away on the wind, while the Earned Accomplishment holds on through the storm. The single figure, Mischief, pulling the elder's hair, symbolizes the minor challenges and annoying trials (which can be more corrosive and destructive over time than major challenges) by which God or Life tests and tempers us.

Plains Indians believed that the hair was tied directly to the soul, and therefore anything done to enhance the beauty or length of the hair enhanced one's spirituality. The line of Conchos hanging from his hair indicates this man's concern for his spirituality.

His eagle feathers denote achievement and skill, and the bear claw necklace reveal his wealth and position.

On the front of his buckskin shirt, the upward zigzag created in the leather stitching symbolizes his journey through life leading to illumination. These are switchbacks on the path toward the Morning Star, telling of the obstacles and hardships that one encounters along the way. Though the path is ever upward, the switchbacks remind us that the road to enlightenment is not a straight and easy one.

Hanging from his shoulder strap are various fetishes and medicines. The flint, shell, feather and stone stand for the ancient cosmic forces, or elements of wind, water, fire and earth. The figure on horseback reminds him of mobility and freedom. Contained within the beaded bag are small talismans of spiritual helpers, as well as other items of great significance--reminders of his life's most meaningful events.

All art, regardless of media, is to some degree storytelling. With On the Wind I have tried to tell a story of the quest for, and the achievement of, wisdom and serenity. Like the calm eye of a hurricane surrounded by turbulence, this man's simple, quiet smile in the midst of surrounding contradictory influence tell of one man's fulfillment as a human being.