THE LANGUAGE OF VISION by Jamake Highwater


Meditations on Myth and Metaphor
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 The prolific and controversial Highwater (Dark Legend, 1994) leaves behind his interest in American Indians and turns to his other obsession, aesthetics, in this ethereal and silly collection of essays. Examining the complex relationship among art, myth, and metaphor, the author contends that much of what we term ``reality'' is nothing more than our dreams turned into banalities. Real truth and meaning are to be found in the dreams themselves, but we lack the language to do them justice. Art, therefore, becomes the means by which we touch this ultimate reality. The job of the artist is thus to lead others to the realm of dreams and back again in such a way as to show that dreams are possible. The present volume explores the ways various artists seek to accomplish this task. Each of the essays takes its title from one of the 22 cards in the Tarot's Major Arcana. For instance, Highwater uses the Falling Tower, which symbolizes disorder and loss of old beliefs, as a springboard to discuss the modern period's divorce of art from the sacred. The Magician, who represents free will, creativity, and guile, serves as a metaphor for the modern artist who struggles against convention to speak in new forms. With the Empress, who stands for feminine power and terrestrial creation, Highwater returns to one of his familiar themes: ritual and our relation to the earth itself. In his final chapter he turns to the World, a nude figure of a woman symbolizing completion. By his own admission, he ends the volume as he began: Much of the final essay is a virtual verbatim repeat of the first. Filled with Jungian psychology, this unoriginal book relies heavily on the words and work of others, especially the late Joseph Campbell--who's a lot more fun to read.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8021-1518-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994


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