Thursday, September 3, 2009
Orlin Helgoe's Visions of the Prairie
When you google the web for Orlin Helgoe, you don't come up with much. He's mentioned briefly by name a few times and, oh, there's an out of print book about him and his paintings . . . and there doesn't seem to be any copies available. It gets even worse when you search web images with his name, all you come up with is misleading photographs of other peoples paintings which would lead the unsuspecting investigator to have a very wrong picture of his work. To me, this is a shame.
Lucky for me, I live in Pueblo Colorado. Now, I haven't used that sentence an awful lot in my life, and I do not use it lightly in this instance. This is Orlin Helgoe's hometown and so there are clues about him to be found here. Many of his paintings are collected at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center some of which are displayed through the year. The Pueblo City County Library District has a copy of the out of print book. There are other local artists living here who were students of Orlin Helgoe. His family and friends still live here.
The late Orlin Helgoe is known by some as "The Shaman of the Prairie." His work often depicts life and inspired moments on the prairie which he both loved to roam and paint. To me he was one who had absorbed the spirit of earth and sky, and took strength from the visions he recieved of the prairie. His powerful paintings exhibit that he was one who sought to pierce the veil between the seen and the unseen, to unify the outer landscape with the inner world.
His paintings are, well . . . full. Full of images and emotion and something else. Something they draw from the observer, elements which lead the mind of the beholder to translate, or fill in the blanks. Some of his paintings are close up shots of something, like the one of the dead deer he painted after killing his first and last deer on a hunt, or bleak landscapes with mysterious circles floating in the air, or some like the one these pictures come from which is an enormous painting depicting a scene which seems like a multiple exposure shot of several moments and perspectives at one level and then one finds that this multiplicity of scenes is comprised of many other smaller elements, smaller scenes and micro-mysteries.
When I found this stone the scene depicted in the picture jasper was instantly recognizable to me as Helgoe-esque. Although nowhere near as colorful or complex, it definitely reminded me of the elements in his work. When my subconscious mind sought to interperate the imagery of this stone it's only corroborating connection was "Helgoe." Here was a desert scene of mystery complete with the floating wheel within wheel orbs. No mistaking it, this piece was some kind of memorial to Helgoe and and the mystery of the wilderness of the local landscape. Were the stones speaking? Did they miss their lone wanderer? Did they miss the seeker of meaning and mystery, the "Shaman of the Prairie?"