Where Each Painting Tells a Sacred Story
One of the most spiritual places in Sedona is an art gallery in the Village of Oak Creek. The Bearcloud Gallery at 7000 Highway 179 C-100 (in the Collective) is a place where it is possible to connect with spirit in a personal and empowering way through a series of majestic, luminous paintings that bridge the seen and unseen realms.
The gallery juxtaposes these visionary paintings by master artist and Native American seer Bearcloud with the virtuoso artisanship of Native American sculptors and jewelry makers and a cultural exhibit that highlights the spiritual beliefs and artifacts of the ancestors of the Hopi, Navajo, and Yavapai nations who first settled in Sedona and Northern Arizona.
Looking into the windows of the Bearcloud Gallery, passersby get a glimpse of the inviting gallery, but they cannot begin to grasp the potentially transformative experience that awaits within. Bearcloud’s paintings, which are the heart of the gallery, are much more than a collection of masterful works of art. When observed with an open attentiveness, they can illuminate the mystery of nature, the language of sacred symbols and geometry, and the guidance that is available to every person on his or her sacred journey.
As people look into Bearcloud’s paintings, the world becomes alive in a way they may have never noticed before. Spirit helpers appear in the earth and sky—in rocks and clouds, in trees and streams, in the wind. Each painting has its own spiritual essence, its own sacred story to tell, says Bearcloud—a mystical experience embedded on canvas that symbolically communicates the importance of living in harmony with the Earth. Paintings in a separate section of the gallery connect with ancient mysteries found in the starglyphs of crop circles and in sacred structures in the far reaches of the universe that have influenced the purpose and construction of the pyramids and the evolution of sentient beings. (These discoveries are described and illustrated in Bearcloud’s book 7 Fires, which is available in the gallery.) Ultimately, the greatest experience that viewers of Bearcloud’s art can have is to experience what they see “from a heart place.”
What I believe to be true is that the Earth has all the stories of spirit that exist. They can be found in nature if one has the eyes to see and the ears to hear. - Bearcloud
“What I believe to be true is that the Earth has all the stories of spirit that exist,” says Bearcloud. “They can be found in nature if one has the eyes to see and the ears to hear. It’s a language that has been forgotten [because] people have gotten disconnected from the Earth. Some people are waking up to that again. And when they walk through my gallery, they can be tremendously impacted by what they see. So doors of understanding begin to open up, and they can see greater, bigger, deeper and with more truth into the things of spirit that are important to them.” Often the particular painting that seems to call to a person is the very one that is in sync with that person’s spiritual journey at that particular point in time.
How does Bearcloud have the capacity to make the invisible, visible? To shine the light of his own spiritual understanding in a way that can empower others? Bearcloud believes he received a gift from the Creator at birth to be able to see into the mystery of things—whether the mystery is in a coal of a fire or in a crack in a rock. “Sometimes I can look at the ground and see the universe,” he says.
Bearcloud’s profound connection to his Native American roots and ceremonies—those of the Ni-U-kon-ska nation (“Children of the Middle Waters”) has nurtured and expanded that gift. “I paint my images as they are gifted to me through Spirit,” he says.
“Pieces of visions will come to me in ceremonies. Maybe on a road trip I will see a mountain, and I’ll think, ‘That’s the type of mountain I am feeling in my circle.’ So I’ll incorporate it into a vision. I have the ability to hold on to that vision unchanged over time, and I can morph it over time too. My painting Thunder Mountain has 13 ravens in it that represent 13 moon cycles and the magic that goes with each moon. One day these ravens came up over my shoulder, went into the sky, spun in a circle and fixed against the skyscape. And that’s where I put them in the painting. Sometimes I will collect visions for years. Then one day I’ll say, ‘There’s the painting,’ and I am ready to paint it.”
When a vision of a painting is complete, Bearcloud begins a cycle of ceremonies first to release that vision and then to reestablish it in a more fluid form so that spirit can become a co-creative force in his work. “I will do ceremonies for a painting that could take up to a year. What I am really doing is attaining the spiritual understanding of the story I am trying to tell, that is passing through me. I am getting at things that are beyond the paint.” When the painting is finished, a poem comes, followed by a story that describes its origin. All these elements appear together in the Bearcloud Gallery, offering viewers a multi-dimensional way to understand what is before them.
Bearcloud, who has been painting since he was twelve, is recognized as a master artist. This accolade honors Bearcloud’s artistic attainment—a luminous level of accomplishment that all artists seek but few achieve. Bearcloud, a self-taught artist, draws inspiration from nature and the paintings of Thomas Moran and other members of the Hudson River School. “When I was 16, I went into the local art store [in Amarillo, Texas]. On the wall of the store, there was an 8 x 10-foot painting with a massive frame going around it. I couldn’t believe how impressive this painter was. It made all the difference in the world to me because it was the first time I had actually seen an artist capture the spirit of the Earth. Moran became my mentor, the one whom I studied, the one whom I followed. I looked at the painting for hours and came back on other days. I was so disappointed when one day it was gone.” Today, Bearcloud owns a print of Moran’s Children of the Mountain, which still continues to inspire him.
When asked about his personal philosophy, Bearcloud says he lives by the motto “I will be like the water, lower than all things and stronger than the stone.” He exudes this humility in his manner, speech, and thought: “If someone says they like my work, I hear it as if for the first time, and it comes as a surprise to me,” he says. Although Bearcloud may be surprised by the impact of his art, people who connect with his paintings are not. They say they feel blessed.
Story by Sylvia Somerville | Photos provided by Bearcloud Gallery
For more information on the Bearloud Gallery, visit: www.bearcloudgallery.com