Kris Chau works with symbols. Some of them are recognizable and universal. Some come from specific cultures, regions, religions and tribes. Some she has created herself and only she knows their specific meaning. She has created a family of characters that make regular appearances in her paintings and drawings.
A vague story left open to interpretation for the viewer runs through her show If I Break, Deliver My Fire, on view in the gallery until November 7. That same family of mythological beings and beasts make up the mural that Chau painted on the wall of the stairwell that leads guests up to second floor where These Days is located. Part dream imagery, part primitive tattoo flash, she has transformed what was once a mundane trip up a flight of stairs into another realm inhabited by dagger clutching mermaids, lightning spitting tigers and enigmatic glyphs.
In the past, when I have asked her to speak more on the story behind specific images she would usually just say something like “oh…ya know…it’s just what lives in my head. It gets crowded and weird in there.” Then she would smile and change the subject.
She recently hand poked a tattoo on my chest of one of her recurring characters, The Skeleking. I began pressing her further on the story of her creatures and I guess because The Skeleking is now a part of my flesh she allowed the door to open a bit and shared some background on him and a few of her other friends.
The Skeleking, Luna Mare, Mother Wolf and The Spirit Maiden live in another space called The Luna Realm. The Skeleking, for most all of time before, and long after man, lives in The Lightning Tree with his Skelemen. They are made of lightning bones and night flesh.The Lightning Tree travels through our dreams and into time and is the Skeleking’s Kingdom. When the light is brightest, just before the darkness, is where he derives his power. The power doesn’t last very long and is limited so he cannot travel very far at any one time, but he can travel very fast, like lightning. Skeleking wears a medicine crown made of black crow wings.
The Spirit Maiden also wears a crown of crow wings. I don’t know too much about The Spirit Maiden. I don’t know if she is a sister or a lover or a friend. All I know is that her skin is made of daylight and her bones are made of thunder. Luna Mare is an ally of The Spirit Maiden. She has a mane of lightning, a tail of morning vines and can travel all lands and time with ease. She was once a spirit of a different form, but I don’t know how she came to take on the form of the Luna Mare. The Spirit Maiden made a request of Luna Mare to help The Skeleking leave the Lightning Tree in order to travel to other realms, and Luna Mare heeded her wishes. Skeleking, like all good rulers and leaders, wants to know more of how the world works. He wants to know more about himself outside of the Lightning Tree and he wants to be a better leader for the Skelemen. He knows the secrets and stories of the quiet dark, and that they are just one side to a larger story. He leaves to seek more of the story. Only while riding on the back of Luna Mare is Skeleking able to leave his kingdom and his Skelemen in the Lightning Tree to enter all the spaces of dreams and time. While their king is traveling, the Skelemen maintain the quiet night by harvesting shards of light until their lord returns.
Wolf Mother is the last of her clan. Like all mothers she is very protective of her cub and ensures the survival of their way of life. The Wolf Clan brings balance to the Luna Realm ecology by hunting, being hunted and thieving. They steal in order to move excess resources to different parts of the Luna Realm, which brings both suffering and joy. At some point Wolf Mother’s gods honored her people by bestowing them with an extra pair of eyes. These third and forth eyes enable Wolf Mother and her clan to see from the eyes of others in the Luna Realm and allows them to take and give what is needed to maintain the balance.
Thanks for the love and support of Myla Moonbird and the many friends that encourage and contribute to this ongoing story. - Kris Chau