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Crossing Over to Jan Harrison

One reason why we don't easily experience other dimensions is our fear of meeting up with monstrous otherness. We fear fusion. We are careful about who we let get into us, under our skin, lest we sew dark seed in our imaginal garden. We the people spread our lobes for the palatable, the desirable, the familiar, or else corralled wildness, the jungle zoos of horror flicks and their amusement park frissons. Fearing possession we prefer our genies/our genius bottled. Yet the truly exotic and the perilous have their own attraction, threatening our sense of order, because actual strangeness also belongs to the erotic. When the monstrous becomes irresistible we fear the influence of devils, magic. Deep down we retain knowledge contained in the word itself - monster and mind have a common Indo-European root, men- as in mental, memory, mania, mantic, muse, music, mantra. A monstrance for Catholics is a receptacle of the Host. The sacred is held at but a sleight remove from the aesthetics of sex with the devil himself. Think of Milton's covertly powerful Satan in Paradise Lost or Blake's inverse bible, The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, with good guy devils and bad guy angels. Clearly it's all a matter of view, disposition, tolerance, taste, and, most important, the precise demands of individual nature.

Occasionally an artist embodies the full manifold, a many-folding mind field, a replete and monstrous sheath turning out an underside of mind and, as Blake said, "the infinite which was hid."

Jan Harrison answers to this description in her own way. She thrives in the strange view. Her work says in every stroke: scratch the elegant surface and you strike an icon, letting its daemon out. She thinks tenderly of Pandora and opens her box for inspiration. She offers thresholds of intimate other dimensions. At the drop of a hat she sings creaturely love songs in unknown animal tongues. She helps us see/hear ourselves in the animal with the quality of the animal finding itself in us. This puts an unthinkable, even unconscionable burden on us - a burden, however, welcomed by that part of us that is ready to be warrior, pilgrim, or lover of Being itself.

When you look her sad, longing, animated daemonial creatures in their beastly intimate eyes redly glowing, it mirrors, stirring an immemorial familiarity. Its images can weigh us so far down we're looking out on our world, and in a flash, bouncing back to reflection of my strange face. Reach out and fuse someone-something, have a Minotaurial moment - ancient myth tracing our own possible psychic confusion, our confusing possibility. Who would I be in another kind of skin. What does it feel like to lie with the cat half in its world, half in one's own.

She teaches us to have flashes of insight in the backbrain, reptilian heartthrobs, the feel of the doubling serpentine tongue, amphibial fantasies of a bliss of between - between species, selves, worlds, dimensions. Extrasensory surrender. Out of the body into another. Interspecies self-portraiture. Totemic confession. Flying reveries. The torque of dreaming awake with pastels blazing. This is liminal being with highwire intensity - and no more human vs. animal, and especially no more diminution of the animal as something sub-human, rather than the essential reality of any other in the natural mystery of its primacy.

If each being is unique to itself when it has the heart to see by way of its ownmost vision, here is its art form, wherein a creature knows its right to be in all its sexy weirdness.

Jan Harrison knows animals as full-scale beings, and she reflects us as only full-scale to ourselves when we know and love the animal that fleshes us out, in and over. The animal is a nature of being, of our being, and what we call animal is being in its other ways than the forebrain projects.

Jan re-projects Pandora's terrors as primal panorama. She works the self-imaging every natural thing is somehow part of, finds its strange intelligence. Somehow its magic is to release us from our dying images, to set us out on our journey of the precariously beautiful, with its unlimiting energy and self-secret identity, and we are, to transpose Yeats, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.

© George Quasha

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