Saturday, December 17, 2011

The People dance in the sky

Zenna Henderson's "People" were gifted with numerous psychic and telekinetic abilities, including levitation. When they were among themselves, with no humans present, they could use their abilities freely. One free moment was on their annual festival "Gathering Day," where all the People who were settled in the American southwest could meet together quietly without being persecuted by the ordinary humans. Then they would levitate together, dance in the sky, and share memories of their lost extraterrestrial home. One thing they managed to bring along with them from the Home were glowing flowers and fruits, which these folk are wearing as garlands.

The "People" were kind and good to an eerie level, and in a way this was part of their alien-ness. They were not brutal or corrupt, although a few of them were ultimately changed by their Earth experiences. During the time I was illustrating the "People" stories in the late 1970s, I was struggling with religious matters and the Henderson stories resonated with me deeply. It occurred to me that perhaps the "People" had somehow been born unfallen, that is, without original sin, and thus had retained their "angelic" powers and abilities which were stripped from us by the Fall. I knew that Zenna Henderson was a devout Christian and I dared to write her a letter asking about the idea of an unfallen People. Amazingly, she wrote back to me, with a mild comment that perhaps it might be true. That letter may still be in my files somewhere. Zenna, like the other pioneers of fantasy and science fiction, is long gone back to the Home.

For this picture series, I used references from utopian communities, hippie gatherings, and early 20th century Western rural people. Henderson's work was a major influence on my own fantasy writing and art back then, but not any more these days. This picture was sold to an unreliable person who didn't pay me for a year, though she finally managed to. It's one of the few of my artworks I wish I could retrieve.

"Gathering Day" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 10" x 14", spring 1978. The image has been heavily restored in Photoshop.

P.S. Please don't lecture me about how awful the idea of "Original Sin" is. I see it demonstrated every day.

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