Benjamin Higbee is an artist who approaches his work with a deep sense of the importance of process in developing the finished work for printing. It begins with sketches and custom created digital design elements that are scanned into the computer and assembled into a ‘Comp’. This is printed out at full size in black and white and used as a template over which he inks a revised drawing on Vellum. The refined drawing on vellum is scanned and digitally edited and converted into a vector file. After tweaking, the image is imported into Photoshop and digitally painted. It is then printed in color on 100% cotton rag paper and hand painted with acrylic paint and pigmented oil glazes to a finished state. It is then photographed or scanned and digitally merged with the original digitally painted version. This is then considered the master digital file from which the print edition comes.

The result is an image that is rich in pattern and movement, with a visual relationship to woodcuts though appearing to be made of shapes with dimension that interact with a light source. Patterns coalesce into forms and the forms are given shape by light playing on the patterns.

The inspiration for the imagery is developed by researching each zodiac sign, it’s rich mythological symbols, and combining them together into a composition that reflects the characteristics described by the sign.  Plants, trees, minerals, colors and design elements associated with each sign are included in the composition. Some patterns and background elements are inspired by works in the history of art and are utilized as elements in the composition to create a connection with the past.  In Pisces, for example, the top half of the work is a body of water reflecting light over a pattern inspired by William Morris. Water is a symbol for emotion and the emotional connection with the past becomes translated as symbolic imagery.

Symbols we identify with (in a work of Art) and the meaning we ascribe to them is a deeply personal experience. That experience is molded by culture and the network of subcultures we find affinity with. It is a fascinating thing to stretch back beyond the time we live in and discover the sources of symbols and begin to see a lineage, a connection with the archaic past and see it alive and well in the now, while subtly transformed, often times nearly invisible to the point we have become blind to it. An example of this is the cross. It means certain things to present day Christians and Catholics but if one were to transport back in time to Druidic England, before any influence by Christians, you would find the Celtic Cross. It predates the Christian cross by millennia. It was a symbol of the cardinal points, the four directions, the path of the earth around the sun, forming the 360 degrees of a full year, the four seasons, and was entirely Pagan.  This simply means that symbols are inherited, absorbed and transformed in their meaning over time. It is the symbol and it’s connection to us in the present that tethers us all to a forgotten past in which sacred notions about the linearity of time begin to dissolve.

The Zodiac is a reminder of an important way of seeing, one in which cycles of time, a great circle of life, the recurrence of  phenomena, revolutionizes the way we see our past. We could consider the end of our civilization as the birth of a new one. A previous civilization passes on it’s symbols, while many lives and many years serve to rebuild new meaning over it’s ashes. We might say of such a period: that it descended into the ‘Dark Ages’, wallowing in the ruins of collapsed magnificent edifices of once-great temples and had lost the systemic structure of knowledge that had once driven the populace to reach the apex of accomplishment. But that apex is only a blip on a much larger cycle of time in which the bar had been set much higher by a previous civilization, and on and on into the previous ages. We consider ourselves today to be the apex of all civilizations and it is this arrogant notion that history provides a plethora of mockery for.

The great precessional year begins in Leo, 13000 years ago.  This date marks the end of the most recent Ice Age. It is also the date that many scholars such as Robert M. Schoch are now roughly ascribing to the date of the construction of the Sphynx in Giza, Egypt, (more accurately 7-9000 BC, but within the Age of Leo), rewriting the official dates ascribed by Egyptologists. In the Egyptians’ own historical records, carved in the temple of Edfu, is the story of Zep Tepi, ‘the first time’, in which the remnants of a destroyed people brought the Egyptians high civilization. They taught them how to build, carve stone, brew beer. These people were from another place, far from the humble beginnings of Nile river tribes. They  rallied them into the first incarnation of empire in what they described as “The First Time”, 9000 years before the first Pharaohs. The first time since what? The first time after what? The first time for what? It is a curious thing to consider that it may have been the first time after the Ice age,  the first time in the precessional year, the Age of Leo, when globally, the promise of civilization began crawling out of the deep freeze that had lasted  26,000 plus years, ending 13,000 years ago.  It has been 39000 years in total  to this moment, and 52000 years since the very outset of the trend toward the last ice age began (This is a matter for further scientific study). It is a long time of forgetting, a past so far beyond memory it is known to us only in myth and legend. But there is evidence of a global civilization actively navigating all oceans, connected by technologies we can only dream of, requiring no combustion, prior to the maximum glaciation of the last ice age. It is written of in the Mahabharata of Ancient India, the first few chapters of Genesis in the Bible,  on Sumerian tablets, in Greek and Nordic myths, in the writing of Plato, the ancient land called ‘Lemuria’, Atlantis, and evidenced by new archaeological finds 150 to 400 feet deep off the coast of Western India, Yona Guni Island, Japan, under mounds of sand in Turkey at a place called Gobekle Tepi, in the high altitudes of Bolivia at Lake Titicaca, a site called Puma Punku, and in the layerings of Incan stonework, the deepest foundations of which even Incans themselves credit a previous civilization for having built.  These examples describe the concept of cyclic time and the relevance of it’s idea to us, of seasons of the earth in it’s great precessional year of 12 ages, each one 2150 years, from which the Zodiac itself was born, and each and every one of us born within it, that spinning sphere of Earth transiting the sun in a shallow elliptical orbit, with a slight wobble that takes 26000 years to precess. According to the Zodiac we all are born in the age of Pisces and are witnessing the transition to the age of Aquarius. It is a tumultuous and interesting time to live. And what of our spiraling toward ever increasing novelty toward a singularity? Lets save that for later.

From Wikipedia : 

“Consensus approach to the astrological ages

Though so many issues are contentious or disputed, there are two aspects of the astrological ages that have virtually unanimous consensus—firstly, the link of the astrological ages to the axial precession of the Earth and commonly referred to as precession of the equinoxes;[12] secondly, that, due to the nature of the precession of the equinoxes, the progression of the ages proceeds in reverse direction through the zodiacal signs.[13] Normally, during the course of the astrological year, commencing around 21 March at the vernal equinox, the Sun moves through the zodiacal signs commencing with Aries, then TaurusGeminiCancerLeoVirgoLibraScorpioSagittariusCapricornAquarius and, finally, Pisces. After Pisces the Sun enters Aries and commences the cycle all over again. However, the astrological ages proceed in the reverse direction. Therefore, after the Age of Pisces, the next age is the Age of Aquarius, followed by the Age of Capricorn, and so on.

There is a third aspect of the astrological ages that has very wide consensus amongst astrologers. Though astrologers cannot agree upon the year, century or millennium for the start of any age, they generally agree upon the core historical events associated with the recent Ages since the start of the Holocene Epoch. For example, the Age of Leo with massive global warming that resulted in the deglaciation of Earth at the end of the last Ice Age, Age of Cancer with domestication and the Biblical Flood; the Age of Gemini is associated with the invention of writing, the Age of Taurus with Ancient Egypt and its massive pyramids, the Aries age with the Iron Age and the Age of Pisces with Christianity. Astrologers claim that each zodiacal sign has associated archetypes, which are often referred to traditionally as ‘rulerships’. For example, Gemini rules the hands, dexterity and communication and draws upon all these archetypes to produce the first written word in the Age of Gemini, specifically in SumerMesopotamia.”

And so the zodiac is our map of the stars and their position can roughly be charted through the seasons by using the zodiac, telling us where we are, when we are, and amazingly, what we are. And that is pretty amazing. And even more amazing than that is how amazing YOU are. Go be yourself in all your divinely bestowed majesty and make the world a better place from your having been in it.  CREATE!

Thanks for visiting!

Benjamin Higbee

and the SoZodiac team