The Way of Numbers and the Power of Art

Top left: Malachi's freeze brand - two letters and three numbers. One can find the horse's race history, registration & lineage in a database using this branding number. Bottom left:  A close up of the deep scars from his years of wearing an ill-fitting harness 24 hours a day, day in and day out.  Right: a full face image showing the long term damage to Malachi's facial structure caused by years of constant wear of the ill-fitting gear.  Malachi went from being a money winning trotter, to an Amish machine, to the kill pen.  Rebecca Pearl rescued him from the kill pen and spent days working to gently remove the offending harness.

Top left: Malachi's freeze brand - two letters and three numbers. One can find the horse's race history, registration & lineage in a database using this branding number. Bottom left:  A close up of the deep scars from his years of wearing an ill-fitting harness 24 hours a day, day in and day out.  Right: a full face image showing the long term damage to Malachi's facial structure caused by years of constant wear of the ill-fitting gear.  Malachi went from being a money winning trotter, to an Amish machine, to the kill pen.  Rebecca Pearl rescued him from the kill pen and spent days working to gently remove the offending harness.

Understanding has levels. It is the experience of "the way it is."

Today's blog post might seem a little heavy for your tastes. I think the topic and whatever thoughts you might have prove the power of art. Whether visual or written, art has the power to encourage critical thinking, dialogue, personal, and societal change.  As an artist, I will speak to that power whenever the moment requires.

In my creative imagination

The images (above) were taken during one of my days with Rebecca Pearl and her horses. She used the images during her Artist's Talk last week. 

The images were printed and laid out to be framed when my attention settled on the freeze brand on Malachi's neck. Suddenly, I experienced a vision of wild horses galloping across the plains. It was a wide vista, one that earlier poets have described as viewed from the heavens, or birds flying along with the herd. Today, we'd say it was a "drone shot." (I like the earlier poetic version.)

I heard them communicating, "Run free! Run Wild!" The words were as much a warning as a way of life. The horses were running from a life of being numbered, being owned.

Then I thought of our own rescued greyhounds with their registrations tattooed into both ear flaps. 

You know the next thought...the tattooed numbers survivors of the Holocaust bear.

Numbers keep track of "things"

Inventory, widgets, SKU's, tracking numbers...all used to classify THINGS, what THINGS do, where THINGS go, how many THINGS exist, how many THINGS have to be replaced. 

Used in the manners listed above, numbers have the ability to make an animal or a person, "less than". The numbers have a way of separating into "mechanical" versus "soulful." It is the way of numbers.

Mechanical eventually becomes disposable. Mechanical is valuable as long as it "produces". Whether that production is winning money for owners at the track (horses and dogs), or being used as forced labor (people and horses), the outcome is the same. When production slows down or ceases, the mechanical is disposed of.

My very structure vibrated with recognition about the power and purposes of these numbers. My gut went cold from realizations upon realizations. A deeper level of understanding had been experienced.

The Power of Art

We often experience fragmentation between our thoughts and feelings. Whether you make it or view it, art has the ability to reunite thoughts and feelings.  If you create the art you engage in reflection, a distillation of your own thoughts and creating a context for your art.  If you view the art, you pause for a moment of quietude. In that moment of quiet, you construct a meaning, a story, a new experience.

Art allows us to meet people we wouldn’t ordinarily meet, travel to places we wouldn’t normally go, learn about topics that we didn't know we were interested in, and sometimes even help people out in small ways that make us feel good. Maybe our art becomes a call to action. Maybe the call to action changes how people think or act.

Art has the ability to open our minds, our hearts, our experiences, and our lives. Art holds our histories and our hopes. Art can bring about change. The words you are now reading and Malachi's story are the results of art. I would not have had my own experience of revelation if I hadn't been involved in the creation of art about Women and Horses.

You can find a deeper reflection about the power of art, here. The link leads to a blog post that reviews the power of art in every aspect of our lives and communities.

Final thoughts

It was art that led me to new understandings about the way of numbers.  I'd love to read your thoughts about "the way of numbers" and the powers of art.

Has art ever brought you to a new level of understanding? What was the art work? Did you create it or were you the viewer? What was your new understanding?

You are welcome to comment below or over on the Facebook page.

May your week be easy!