The Portal

Introduction to The Portal, 2020 Artist Support Grant appreciation video. Shown: The Female Stone in progress and 1/10th scale model.

Are You Ready to Join the Adventure?

What do you see in the texture of these stones?

As you walk between the two prehistoric stones of The Portal painting installation, you will become part of the work – each participant the Hero of their own unique Journey.

The Pipers stones are a pair of outliers near the Hurlers Stone Circles on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England. Legend says that they were musicians entertaining the nearby hurley players, and all were turned to stone for conducting their revelries on a Sunday. I am depicting the fronts of these stones on two 90″x40″ canvases and will install them approximately six feet apart on custom kiosks. While this placement was inspired by the actual site, considering the importance of social distancing during the pandemic, placing the paintings six feet apart now takes on new meaning.

To begin your adventure, I invite you to explore the front surfaces of these stones to discover your guiding theme for your personal adventure by utilizing pareidolia – the brain’s tendency to see patterns within chaotic natural textures.

Scale model, The Portal painting installation, front view. Folded digital photographs with oil on panel study ©2019-2021

Due to the figural forms I saw in their shapes, the stone on the left is titled the Female Stone, while on the right is the Male Stone. These stones echo many contemporary dualities – some starkly clashing, others merging. This installation represents my personal thoughts on equality and empowerment through an intersectional feminist lens as well as holism and the critical importance of authenticity and individuality. As I have developed these works, I feel that they also call into question my having assigned gender to these prehistoric stones based on appearance. As a staunch ally of the LGBTQ community, I also invite conversation on the right to gender identification rather than assignment.

The Female Stone, in progress, from The Portal painting installation; 90″x40″, oil on linen with water from the site in the primer layers. The Pipers standing stones near the Hurlers stone circles, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England ©2013-2022
The Male Stone, in progress, from The Portal painting installation; 90″x40″, oil on linen with water from the site in the primer layers. The Pipers standing stones near the Hurlers stone circles, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England ©2013-2022

Recessed on the inside of the Female Stone’s kiosk, I will install Scars, 20″x20″. In this visionary self-portrait, I detail an engraved cross present on the actual standing stone layered with my birthmark from being born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, though this painting speaks more of emotional scars than physical ones. In this, the most deeply personal work I have ever executed, I explore the necessity of authenticity: my intention is for this work to speak of being a round peg in a square hole – it fits but is inauthentic – and a desire to break free of the expectations imposed by others.

Scars, central panel detail from The Portal painting installation, 20″x20″ oil on panel with water from the site in the gesso primer layers. The Pipers standing stones near the Hurlers stone circles, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England

As viewers pass between the stones just as they would do in Cornwall, I aim to illustrate the shift in awareness or perception that such an initiatory experience can provoke. At the horizon of this sacred landscape is Stowe’s Hill, a location of archeological importance as home to several Neolithic and Bronze Age sites as well as the famous natural granite formation, the Cheesewring. Unlike sites such as Stonehenge that were built to align with celestial phenomena such as the Solstice sunrise, The Pipers were built in a cardinal alignment with what was the North Star at that time – Alpha Draconis or Thuban, resulting in a view of Stowe’s Hill between them. A horizontal diptych consisting of two 40″x90″ panels showing this distant sacred hill will hang on the wall beyond, representing a goal or destination. By crafting this component as a two-part image that works as one visual unit, I want this horizontal diptych to subtly symbolize the unification of Feminine and Masculine that were separate opposing forces at the start of the installation.

No Peeking!

On the reverse of the kiosks, I will depict my visionary impressions of the glowing energy fields of the backs of the stones, inspired in part by images in Kirlian photography. I reveal the energetic auras of the stones on the reverse so that they are viewed only after crossing between the kiosks as a symbolic threshold leading to an energetic shift. Hard rock transforms into a directional force – strong yet ephemeral; felt, but not always seen. To depict the value of holism for those who pass between them, the Female Stone transforms into Feminine Energy and the Male Stone becomes Masculine Energy, achieving the melding or balance of both.

Feminine Energy, detail, from The Portal painting installation. This panel 90″ x 40″ x 2″, oil on cradled panel with water from the site in the initial three primer layers. The Pipers standing stones near the Hurlers stone circles, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England copyright 2022 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

To best represent the energy of the backs of the stones, I am using almost all transparent pigments. As I wiped into the paint with my rag, I left a thin layer behind to create a luminous glow on the oil primer. I am also applying the paint in a vigorous, free, energetic manner, having broken out of the box from Scars.

I based these stones on my own height, only to discover later that the Female Stone is indeed also 5′10″. As with the holy wells I paint, I included water collected from the site in the acrylic dispersion primer layers of the canvases.  

Continue the Adventure

After moving through the installation, participants may continue their adventure by first selecting a smooth stone gathered from another liminal place, the shore, as a symbol of their experience. Visitors may either keep the stone as a token for meditation and further reflection or continue their adventure by returning it to the beaches of Topsail Island, NC.

Please add your experience of this installation to The Portal Journeys book located in the gallery and post your story as a comment on The Portal Journeys blog post, which is coming soon. You may also contribute your experience by drawing symbols or other images in the book with the watercolor pencils provided. Share your experience by using the hashtag #MyPortalJourney on Twitter (@AFunderburkArt) and Instagram (@AmyFunderburkArtist).

Become a Portal Supporter!

I am currently seeking further funding for The Portal, so if you would like to get involved, there are many ways you can lend your support to the development of this project. To allude to a popular platform for creatives, you can “buy me a cup of tea” via Venmo or email me (Amy (at) AmyFunderburkArtist (dot) com) to inquire about the purchase of existing work. Due to the pandemic, the price of wood skyrocketed up an unprecedented 400%, so any level of support or social media share is greatly appreciated, and no cup of tea is too small.

Thank you in advance for helping me to bring this large-scale project to life!

This project is funded in part by the North Carolina Arts Council (a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and ArtsGreensboro. In 2019, I was honored with a Duke Energy Regional Artist Project Grant by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and in 2020-21, I received an Artist Support Grant from the three organizations. I am very appreciative for their generous support to help me realize my vision.