When one goes into a museum environment with the intention of speaking with dead things, sans a degree in the sciences, there’s a certain amount of second guessing that naturally comes along for the ride. I came to the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research armed with tacit knowledge, book learning and commitment to my subject and mission. This was not the first time I had used fossils for shamanic work, but it was certainly the first time the fossils in question were very much larger than me, complete and in articulation.
Previous to this, I had made and fostered connections with several species of dinosaur and a few marine reptiles in shamanic space, with tyrannosaurs and mosasaurs being particularly present and amenable to imparting information. While I had no firm expectations of what my proximity to the BHIGR collection would provide, I did reasonably feel that these two particular species would be the most talkative of the animals I worked with on this trip. They did not disappoint, but surprisingly, it was the pachycephalosaurs that dominated my stay. The Black Hills Institute has a large amount of material on these impressively domed dinosaurs, and with each day spent drawing pieces of them, my affection for them grew. The diversity of their cranial structures, the beauty in their form and the obvious mythic significance of the wing-like structures that ring their heads were fascinating and inviting. Multiple ideas for further art were generated from this one family of dinosaurs within a day or two of drawing.
Working right next to a mosasaur still in matrix was humbling. I spent more time talking with it and observing it than drawing it, admiring the curve of the cervical vertebra, the elegant length of the skull and the mysteries still awaiting prep work to free them. Mosasaur has, for me, been about setting and maintaining appropriate and desirable boundaries. In my days working with and near it, it also showed me about expanding boundaries while safely lowering defenses and shields to more fully experience the present moment, which was to prove incredibly useful when interacting the following day with a tyrannosaur, also in matrix. On reviewing my notes at the end of that day I found that I had very little conscious memory of having taken dictation of the material I had gathered. Even as I was aware of the preparators in the loft above me making molds and putting finishing details on first generation replicas (listening to classic Bauhaus, no less … ) I was apparently just as unaware of the details of the transmission from the dinosaur with which I was working that day. I remembered it as a couple of sentences rather than the page I shared later that evening with my partner in our Airstream.
With that transmission also came a meeting with a dinosaur which is becoming a big part of my practice. The replica of a powerful forelimb was my introduction to acrocanthosaurus, and I would be spending all of the following day getting to know it very well. Matt gave me a brief history of the holotype and sent me, carrying the forelimb, back to the room which housed the mosasaur. Once there, I set up my drawing station and arrived ready to plug in and begin drawing immediately the next morning.