Chumash Dream Images

Chumash Dream Images


     The Chumash, a tribe related to the coastal California Indians, painted dream world sequences in caves and on cliffs as far inland as the Colorado River.  The figures represent "shu-shu" or the spirits of ancestors and spirit homes, the star like figures.  It was believed that such shamanic portrayals honored the ancient spirits and enlisted them in helping humankind.

The painting relates to star spirits and heavenly events, more like star memories than star maps.  I think the purpose for doing the painting is to acknowledge these people's spirit of connection with the heav­ens.

The images relate to ancestor spirits in the skies.  The figures are strange and unfamiliar to me, and they had to be painted precisely.   This isn't what I would call a decorative painting.  It tells a story but the story is spread over a long period of time, illustrating movement in the sky. 

It's not a ceremonial or ritual type of painting.  It's not a story.  This is not a typical visionary painting.  It's like I know something that I don't know.

I had no intention of doing a Chumash style painting when I began.  I was hoping to do something along the visionary style.  Normally, I enjoy altering my state of consciousness and letting things flow.  With this piece, I felt like I was dreaming while I was painting it.  I felt tired, worn out, heavy.  My arms and the paint brush felt heavy.  Yet I felt compel­led to do the painting. 

As I was doing this painting I got the impression from the con­sciousness that I was touching that many traditions need to be brought back and included in ritual celebrations today.  The ritual portrayal of the ancestors of the Chumash through shamanic art needs to be continued to preserve our awareness of our inter­connectedness with the ancestors and our responsibility to crea­tion as participants in creation. 

Like most American Indians, the Chumash believed that their response to creation did have an effect; they were not helpless victims of an arbitrary universe.  By creating rituals and keeping the traditions, the people affirm their sense of belonging to and participating in all of creation.   Even quantum physics recognizes that the observer becomes the participant in scientific experiments.

Humankind needs to recon­nect with the forces of the heavens and of the earth and of the ancestors to restore the balance of life.  When we deny our abil­ity to respond to a keeping of the order, then our part of creating reality is weakened and reality itself is weakened.

Art Stories
by David Paladin