Painting The Dream

Painting The Dream:
The Shamanic Life and Art of David Chethlahe Paladin

author: David Chethlahe Paladin/Lynda Paladin
foreword by: Matthew Fox
Bear & Company

"Listen to the story, dream it, and paint the dream."
Mark Chagall to David Chethlahe Paladin

"Painting The Dream" is Lynda Paladin's gift of her husband's art and wisdom to the world. Through his own words, we follow the life of David Chethlahe Paladin (1926-1984) from his youth on a Navajo reservation, through his experiences in WW II (where he came as close to dying in the death camp Dachau as anyone can and still live), his rehabilitation and his visionary art work.

Paladin carried the gift of understanding the shamanic world, as well as the gifts that he showed through his visionary art work. My world is one of words - when it comes to art, I can experience it intensely, but I cannot form it myself. To see art through the eyes of a shaman is a journey that, when it appears, should be taken with great joy and an open heart. If you ever have a chance to see Paladin's work - please do so. His work, as presented through this book, has certainly taken me on a very welcome journey of personal exploration.

Paladin talks of his upbringing on the reservation, where visions were accepted, even honored, as a part of the cycle of life. Here all of life was connected in a very natural manner. From there he went to a boarding school off of the reservation, the Santa Fe Indian School. Here his visions were not only not accepted, they were actively discouraged.

One of the themes that runs through Paladin's life is his ability to accept all points of view, that truth comes from the perspective of the person experiencing it, and that the sacred ways of all people should be respected. Paladin has traveled and studied with indigenous people in many distant lands. Much of the wisdom that he carried away with him is presented in this book. One representation of this is his discussion of the three worlds of the shaman: the Middle World, our physical world; the Lower World, the world of the collective unconscious; and the Upper World, the place of dreaming and Spirit.

The second half of this book is a presentation of Paladin's work, accompanied by his own words. We see his interpretation of the cave paintings in the Canyon de Chelly (Canyon Shrine Reflections, Ancient Ones Of The Purple Cave); of a land depression near Clear Creek, on the Navajo reservation (Clear Creek Odyssey); several enchanting representations of God (Sun God, Four Faces of God, Father Sun, Sister Moon, Seven Houses of the Sacred Sun); and representations of the kachina spirituality of the Southwest (Three Kachinas). Some of the artwork that impressed me the most were the "Pueblo Mandala", "Eagle Alter", "Sacred Serpent's World", "Guardians of the Four Corners" and "Confluence".

With each representation we have the words of the artist that allow us to see how he views his work - to see the "story behind the story". These words accompany the silkscreen called "Flute Player" (1978):

"The flute player represents the eternal prayer, the music, the dance of the universe. In the Southwest, we call the male aspect "kokopeli" and the female aspect "kokopele mana".

Music is symbolic of a freeing energy, of prayer. As we sing, creation grows; as we pray, the prayer is released to become, to evolve. Each person has a different sound, and vibrations continually change; the song is never the same.

Our music must be played and released to be heard: our song must be shared with the universe. Thus the flute player symbolizes our creative prayer, the song of our spirit being released to the universe." 1

This is the story of David Chethlahe Paladin's search for spirituality, about his art and about his philosophy. He was touched by the wisdom of many people ... in turn his wisdom touches many people. Through his art, through his words, you will journey through the labyrinth into self. Make the time to take this journey.


1. Ibid page XII

(c) April 2004
Bonnie Cehovet

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