White Moths Gold Scarab

As worn within the immersive installation, an Experimental Space for Reconnection with the Natural World, version 1.2.

When I was a child of perhaps eight years playing outside one summer at dusk, I found a small white moth who seemed magical to me. Since then I have held a fondness for, and a connection with, these special creatures. Many years later upon reading Carlos Castaneda’s Tales of Power (1974), I was delighted when Castaneda’s teacher don Juan declared, “Knowledge is a moth…moths are the heralds or, better yet, the guardians of eternity…moths have been the intimate friends and helpers of sorcerers from time immemorial.”

In creating the wearable totemic sculpture, White Moths Gold Scarab, I sought to confront Sigmund Freud’s derogatory and dismissive attitude toward indigenous/aboriginal cultures, the repercussions of which are being observed to this day. Freud’s alarmingly titled book, Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics (1913) was my place of departure.

As I intricately and repetitively sewed galvanized wire to shape the cage of the mouthpiece, I felt my surface reaction of anger and resentment toward Freud and his legacy begin to neutralize. I subconsciously dropped into a playful perspective of reclaiming and reworking Freud’s words to support a shamanistic interaction with the world; or at very least, a world within the installation of Experimental Space. By the time I cut and delicately ripped phrases from a 1950 print edition of Totem and Taboo to embellish my work, I was mischievously imagining Freud’s reaction.

To adorn the third-eye of the headpiece, the place of inner vision and knowing, I chose the Golden Scarab made famous by Carl Gustav Jung (Freud’s contemporary) in his book, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (1955). In Totem and Taboo, Freud describes the ancient Egyptian sun-god Ra (also Re). In Synchronicity, Jung explains the scarab as a classic example of a rebirth symbol, using the ancient Egyptian description of “how the dead sun-god changes himself…into Khepri, the scarab.”

I worked with Sycamore branches to sculpt the headdress, and also to sculpt the fireplace portal within the Experimental Space installation. Sycamore trees are known to have held special significance to the ancient Egyptians and are often referred to as ‘ghost trees’ in North America because of their white upper branches, especially visible in winter.

To provide energetic protection for the wearer, I suspended Tibetan quartz crystals from the branches. During the Experimental Space event, recorded guttural throat-chants of Tibetan monks emanated from the upstairs space of the installation. The chanting track, Yamantaka (27:44 minutes, on a loop), was performed by The Gyuto Monks and afforded additional energetic protection.

I remained upstairs in the early part of the evening of the Experimental Space event, behind a suspended cotton wall with a two-sided cotton mask sewn into it. A chair was positioned in front where I was waiting, on the other side of the cotton wall, directly in front of the mask.

When guests sat in the chair and peered through the back of the mask, I slowly and silently danced toward them, looking into their eyes while I swirled to the chanting.

I had not anticipated the length of time for which individual guests might choose to lock eyes with me. These powerful one-on-one shared experiences elevated me to a higher state of consciousness, perhaps amplified by the Tibetan crystals suspended from the branches encircling my head.

“In a crystal we have clear evidence of the existence of a formative life principle, and though we cannot understand the life of a crystal, it is nonetheless a living being.”

– Nikola Tesla


My character presented one possible version of how an inhabitant of Experimental Space might transform to remember her human interconnectedness with the natural world.

White Moths Gold Scarab

  • 2015 • spring
  • cardboard, book clippings, gouache, cotton batting, galvanized wire, mirrored plastic, faux gold leaf, sycamore branches, Tibetan quartz crystals