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Erika Wanenmacher

Linda Durham Contemporary Art

May 16-June 13, 2009

Santa Fe, New Mexico


Almost every day I walk our little dog Kevin

around the corner and along the old irrigation ditch, or acequia, as they are called here in New Mexico.

"Kevin Marionette"

Fuzzy sweater, wood, cotton, string

38X21X7 inches

Kevin is peppy, and needs to walk twice a day, so sometimes I get the daytime walk and Scott takes the nighttime, then we switch. Rain or snow. I don't really love the snow,

"Snow Erika"

stitched angora sweater, wire, cotton, beads, embroidery

18X10X7.5 inches


but Kevin does, except for the ice balls that collect on his legs.

Some days I walk in the ditch, and at night I usually walk along the path next to it. I walk along and pick up stuff. It's not like I'm really cleaning the ditch, like the lady who runs along the Acequia Madre near the school every sunday carrying big trashbags. There are certain things I don't pick up, like stuff out of the area of the ditch I call "Bum Tea" that catches sleeping bags and clothing that wash down from the camps upstream. It always reminds me of the name of the tea shop that used to be downtown, "Steepings". Eeuuww. I pick up needles if I have something to put them in, because that seems responsible. I am always surprised by all the I.D.'s I find;

driver's licences, credit cards, hospital bracelets....I do not pick up underwear, thank you. I just pick up things things that call me, or I focus on a particular type of item. One day I will see heart-shaped rocks with every step.

Some days I find none. I know, it just depends on my state of mind.

"Hawk and Ravens" and "Geese Flying"

acrylic on plywood, glass eyes, welded aluminum frames

both 25X25 inches


When we got Kevin and I started doing these walks, I started finding these little beads,

usually green or orange, in the dirt. They aren't exactly beads because they don't have holes in them. I find them mostly around parks and places that humans share with prairie dogs and other critters. What ARE these things? I thought maybe it was some kind of pesticide or other nefarious poison, since people always seem to want Prairie Dogs out of their parks. It was a total mystery, until I went to the flea market with my friend AnneMarie, and she pointed them out, "Look, your beads!" They are BB's for air rifles.

Did you know that Prairie dogs have language?

So, I pick up things. Lots of liquor bottles. Many, many miniature liquor bottles. Okay, I pick up paraphernalia of every, um, habit. Bent spoons, lighters, baking soda boxes (crack-read "Infinite Jest"), pipes....I think that humans need the connection to the earth near the ditch-water, trees, stars, animals-in an altered state. Also, it's relatively private.

"Tree Erika"

stitched fabric, cotton, steel, glass eyes

60X32X32 inches

There is a particular drinker who walks my same path often. His miniature of choice is Yukon Jack ("The black sheep of Canadian whiskey"). I say his even though I've never seen him. I'm just assuming. Actually, it's more than assuming. I tend to make up stories about the people whose leftovers I pick up. For example, I got sort of concerned about the Yukon Jack drinker when I only found pint bottles of Importers Vodka instead of Jack miniatures, as if the economic downturn forced him into quantity over taste. By the way, Yukon Jack is sweetened whiskey, and tastes the way alcoholic sweat smells. Then, there is the occasional Crown Royal drinker. When the stock market crashed, I found big, empty bottles in the same spot, a couple weeks in a row. I imagined some broker or banker, parked in his Lexus by the ditch, drinking and crying. There is also the Jagermeister party crew that parks over by the volleyball court. Big bottles of Jagermeister. Like I said before, I never see these people, only their leavings.

"Miniatures Lamps"

plastic miniature bottles, l.e.d.lights

both approx. 19X11X11 inches


There is also the person who does the sculptural arrangements in the ditch. It's funny, because it kind of annoys me. It's like, "Hey, they're fuckin with my stuff!" Ha! Besides, I don't want someone picking out things for me. That's like going to an antique store as opposed to finding the treasure at a yard sale. I can't help it, I'm a Hunter-Gatherer. Back to the liquor. One of the weird things about the bottles is that 98% of the time, the top is on the empty bottle. Maybe it is part of the gesture-twist the cap off, swig it, cap goes back on, pitch the bottle. Whatever. Interesting, though.

I pay attention to smells as well. The winter's crispy cold, pinion smoke, the neighbor who burns garbage in his fireplace. For a couple weeks in the spring, if I stand in certain spots, waves of lilac scent wash over me. There is a certain smell that happens every spring around the ditch. You can smell it alot at Amy and Michael's house around the corner. It's a strange smell. Scott says that it smells like melting crayons. I think it smells more soapy than that. I finally figured out that it comes from these little purple flowers that cover the ground. Shane at the nursery says it is some kind of wild mustard. Later on comes the Russian Olive blooms, then the honey locust, then the honeysuckle. Heaven. Then there was that period of time when the people down the street were having some construction done, and I would be like "hmmm, what's blooming? It's a sweet and unidentifiable floral...? It was the Porta-Potty. D'oh. Also, someone on the block uses alot of dryer sheets. Really alot. I'm just saying.
As we go walking, we stop and say hi to our friends if they are out.

Forest and Eban,Penny and Pilari,Pete the dog.

We walk past the tennis courts and if Kevin hears the schoolkids in the park, he wigs out. Even if he can't even see them, just the sound they make all together freaks him out, so we have to walk around them. I talk to the Ravens who are walking around on the field or in the big trees, and they talk back to me like, "Dude, you have a crappy accent, but wait until you see what's gonna happen. It's so fuckin funny, you won't believe it!"



found old enameled stove steel, steel, found woodgrain litho tin, rivets, glass eyes

24X15X24 inches with wings folded

Aannnywaay, I talk to birds and other critters. I try not to step on the little snakes, and the honeybees that are taking sips of water in the moist sand. I think that they might be Tina's bees. She has three hives, further down the ditch. There is a pair of Flickers down the way, and a couple pairs of hawks that I see hunting. I watch the Ravens harassing the Hawks. They're badass. I find parts of Pigeons that an Owl or Hawk ate. Once I tracked blood drops on the pavement for about a block (all C.S.I. like-blood spatter direction and such) to just some bits of gray fur. Maybe Coyote got a rabbit. I did find a kitty foot once, all white with pink toes right near where the day before I found an

( un)lucky Rabbit's foot. Coyote leftovers. I see Coyote sometimes, ambling across the road at night, under the streetlight. Once, he jumped out of the ditch right in front of us and ran down the path, all bushy tail and galloping legs. I find Coyote evidence all over-tracks, poop, shed fur where he goes under the fence, the spots where he shape-shifts into a human. I always think of the saying"If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him." I wonder what you should do to Coyote......At night, we look at the stars, picturing the giant drawings in the constellations. Humans ordering their universe. A couple times I have seen geese flying, a spider-webby silver V way, way up, then heard their song, sounding like a litter of puppies barking, after they were almost out of sight.

So, I pay attention, and I pick up stuff. I pick up both new and old stuff. The ditch I walk in (the Acequia Madre) cuts through some old trash piles. Old school and old hospital trash piles. I find old medical bottles and jars, broken dishware, old, old shoes, tools, combs, pieces of toys, hair tonic and face cream jars, silverware, old stove and car parts, soda bottles and bottle caps. Mostly, the things are sitting right on top of the dirt. Okay, occasionally, I will go fishing through the fence with a stick, but that's really only for special bottles. Every once in a while, I will see the corner of a bottle sticking out of the ditch side and I will have to dig it out a little bit, but usually the animals and elements do the excavating. Raccoons,Gophers, Moles and Prairie Dogs, Snakes and Beetles push items out of their tunnels, water cuts through the dirt, trees pull objects up and hold them in their roots. One day, after my friend Ed died, I was walking and thinking, feeling kind of bad, and on top of a sort-of hidden anthill I found a tiny perfume bottle, all opalescent from the minerals in the ground, and twisted from fire. A special gift for me.

In the Navaho Ant-Way mythologies, the gods can't stop the ant-people from warring and killing each other, so they kick them upwards, until they reach this earth. This level is where the various peoples get sorted out with positive and negative attributes and different languages-a kind of purgatory, I guess. The ants are made to be small, but they are given great strength. They make a good ally.

"Ant Erika"

wood, anthill

45.5X12.5X12.5 inches

The things I pick up have a resonance of where they came from, who had them, how they were used. My friend Monique calls it "Baraka". It's a Sufi word that means a power gained by proximity or love. My favorite definition is "the transfer of Grace". These objects have also been cleansed by water and wind, earth and sometimes fire. The objects I pick up could be categorized as amulets and talismans. An amulet is generally a stone or natural object that protects the wearer from evil or harm. A talisman is an object that possesses magical powers and transmits them to the owner. These things tell stories. I just round em' up. I've been rounding them up into spells. A spell is defined as objects or spoken or written formulas intended to bring about specific or desired goals, or to cause or influence a specific course of events. Magic can be defined as the art of changing consciousness at will. Will is the deliberate, organized direction of intent toward a goal. Will works in partnership with imagination. So, magic and spells work when clear intent is focused by will and imagination. Oh, if you are wondering about the pentagram, it's really O.K. It is a symbol of the four elements united with spirit.


"Spell Wall"

variable size-each spell approx. 10-14 inches

"As Above, So Below", "I Can See Far and Deep", "See With These Eyes"

found objects

"My Cooking is Delicious", "You are my Gem", "Take Me Where I Want to Go"

found and transformed objects

"Protection From Stereotypes and Assimilation", "Love to the Mother", "I Will Not Steal From My Mother to Support my Habit"

found and transformed objects

"I Have Salve for My Wounds", "It is Within My Grasp"

found and transformed objects

These are just some of the spells that are on the spell wall, and custom spells are available by request. Spells range in price from $25 to $250, depending on complexity and rarity of the objects used.

You will notice that these spells are all positive, and many are personal affirmations. They will only work with conscious, focused intent.

When you get your spell, hang it in a place where you will see it often during the day, and when you notice it, focus on your intent. If you feel that you are done with your spell, drop it into moving water and leave it. If you don't have moving water nearby, you may bury the spell.