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The Power of Grandmothers . . . and Creating a Cosmology for our Age!

"So . . . how'd you get interested in cosmology?" I'm often asked that question. My grandmother, Barbara Morgan, a renowned photographer of dance (Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Eric Hawkins, Pearl Primus, Jose Limon) had huge impact on me as a child. To wander into her studio was to come face to face with nearly life size images of modern dancers in contraction and exaltation. I internalized those images early on. Grandma and I talked for hours about mythology, cosmology, and anthropology. Joseph Campbell was a very dear friend of hers. Recently, I discovered a precious page in her journal written in 1960 when I was five years old, that expresses her own search for a cosmology for our age.

Underneath a reminder to herself to take a whirlpool bath that night, it says,

"Blake made a cosmology with full cast of characters -- Urizen -- Los -- etc.
Michelangelo made his cosmology - Sistine Chapel, mixing Biblical (Adam, God, etc.) with classical pagan (Delphic, Sybil, etc.)
Byzantine world made its cosmology: (Pantocrator, Virgin and Child)
Romanesque to Gothic went on with iconography.
Cambodian-Angkor way took iconography and cosmology from India, and developed it's own way (Apsaras, Boddhisatva, Lokesvara, Deva, naga, Garuda, etc.)

Now it's time that I made a cosmology for my own time -- and an iconography. Abstraction will work for scientific concepts -- but there must be some form of human participation that is not boringly obvious realism. But is part and parcel with atoms -- electricity -- brain waves -- outer space -- emotion -- mood."

-- Barbara Morgan, 1960

Reading this entry in her notebook reminded me about how much of my own life flows out of her fascinations and those of my other grandparents and parents as well who spilled their passions into their children along with their DNA.
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