A work of art is like a mirror which reflects what people bring to it as they engage with it. Capable of offering many levels of interpretation and engagement; art is a vocabulary for expressing the subjective self and enabling interior conversations on that level. As a visionary artist working with emotionally charged and spiritual themes and subjects, I’ve been fortunate to have found a dedicated audience to whom my work speaks. Many seek meaning on an imaginal journey that blends the human experience with enspirited nature.
People have brought all kinds of insights and connections to my work that would never have occurred to me. I feel honored that my creative work, which is a material expression of my own spiritual journey, can be incorporated by others on theirs. Below are descriptions of how my work in general, and specific works in particular, have impacted others in ways they’ve chosen to share with me.
(My interpretation of “Melek Ta’us” in particular has evoked so many responses that I have listed them before writings about other works. For more about the genesis of this work, go to “HOW MY IMAGE OF MELEK TAUS CAME TO BE: The Official Story, Part One”)
Writings about me:
“Paul B. Rucker is one of the forerunners of an emerging movement in American art which combines myths, visions, and dreams with images from the natural world to produce what is sometimes called neo-Pagan visionary art. Although his work frequently expresses energetic joy… his paintings often reveal a dark edge that conveys fear, danger, and terror. Kali leers out of the canvas, challenging us to face her destructive power; Dionysus writhes towards the viewer, inviting him to join in the danger of release and self-abnegation…. Rucker’s style is constantly evolving toward ever more complex scenes, groups, and themes, without ignoring or leaving behind his original visions of mystery and energy, like that of a brave and precocious child who has been inadvertently introduced to wonders that delight and frighten him and that he is determined to fathom.”
–James A. Runnels, collector (Bloomington, MN)
“Rucker’s art could be described as colorful bursts of insight into the mind of a creative genius that has connections to forces outside of the physical world….”
–Michelle Peterson, Vida y Sabor, March 30, 2004 (Minneapolis, MN)
“To me, your style hoovers between my two favorite styles: Impressionism and Orientalism. Like Orientalism, your colors are bold, vibrant, almost pulsating with energy, and the lines are clear, direct, and striking. But like the Impressionists (and completely unlike the Orientalists) our images are filtered through emotions and meaning– none of the almost photographic quality of Orientalism. Your work is so effective that viewers do not require the ‘back-story’ to be drawn into the image and find something as a result.”
–Ryn Melberg, collector (Hoboken, NJ)
“What impresses me about Paul is his great dedication to his work. This dedication goes beyond technique and discipline. He researches his subjects very deeply, learning everything he can about not only the subject at hand but the culture that surrounds it as well. But his earnest study goes well beyond dedication, his is a great passion and a true devotion. If you take even a quick look at his paintings I think you will find this passion is immediate and quite powerful. This is beauty that is at once eerie and sincere.”
–Anaar, Feri priest and ritual dancer (Bay Area, CA)
“If our eyes could see in another dimension or reality it might resemble your paintings– the colors and details more separated, brighter, vibrant. What is invisible to our regular sight becomes heightened.”
“Beautiful dream colors… powerful and inspirational… a sense of mysticism evoked from your paintings… beautiful nakedness… This exhibit was like one I have never seen before– it caught my eye and I was drawn in by its beauty….”
–(From various guestbooks at exhibitions)
“I have known Paul B. Rucker for about 30 years, and I have seen his artwork evolve into an expression of emotion that causes me to pause and reflect. As I look at one of his originals on my wall, it evokes a response of deep feelings. Contemplating his art work resembles a meditative experience: somehow, Paul’s creations give color to the humming I feel in my heart.”
–Dr. Mark Langenfeld, collector, Psy.D. (Foxboro, WI)
Writings about “Melek Ta’us“
“I saw and fell in love with this [Melek Ta’us] image years ago. This image is on many a private altar as a meditational focus as well as a gorgeous piece of art. The power, pleasure, danger and gnosis in the eyes of this splendid being just radiate from the picture. It’s been a case of a single image and its influence spreading far beyond the artist himself… Paul really hooked into something on this one. Beautiful.”
–Diana Walker, artist, witch, Retribution Paladin and Office Lady (San Francisco, CA)
“First Seen on a Magazine Cover”
“I first encountered the artistic works of Paul B. Rucker in the winter of 1995 on the cover of Green Egg magazine. His piece, “Melek Ta’us: The Peacock Angel” that graced the cover that season made an instant connection with me in ways that have continued to unfold even now all these years later. His depiction of this often misunderstood divinity evoked the sense of inspiration, pride, sensuality, and majesty that is the hallmark of this being that the practitioners of the Feri tradition often call “the Blue God”. I remember being drawn into His intense gaze and having it stir within me a sense of power, arousal, and mystery… and at once I became inspired to create art of my own as a devotional to this magnificent being. Since that time I have followed Paul’s work and have never ceased to be amazed at his tremendous talent at expressing the personal gnosis he shares with his subjects, while remaining true to traditional myth, symbol, and iconography. He is truly a walker between the worlds, in addition to being a formidable artist.”
—Storm Faerywolf, artist, warlock, Feri teacher (Walnut Creek, CA)
“A Dream of Melek Ta’us”
“One night (back in the mid 80s) I had a dream in which a very beautiful young man with deep blue skin, kind of wild black curly hair, entrancing eyes, wearing serpents, and having great wings of peacock eye feathers presented himself before me. He walked up close to me, till he was right in front of me. He then said, build me an altar. I said okay, what do you want on it?
He named off some items: peacock feathers, a brass image of a peacock, a painted fan and a bell, and said that was enough to begin with, but that in time there would be more items. While he told me this I was getting dizzier and dizzier, not the sort that brings nausea but more the sort that comes from a really intense kiss from someone you find very attractive. When I finally asked him his name, he leaned in close to my ear, and said I am Malek Taus.
With that I woke up. The dream was very very vivid. I had to call a friend later that day to find out who this Deity was. I didn’t know the name, but I was informed that he was from the Yezidi people of northern Iraq, and there he was jokingly called the Devil. She then informed me that he was also the God of Initiation in the Feri Tradition.
I ended up setting up a small altar for him as he had instructed to see where it would lead. At our next meeting my circle was calling upon Cernunnos, but we had a very unexpected visitor. I became possessed by Malek Taus. When I came out of the trance, I was holding his feathers, and fan instead of the blade and wand which I had started out with. One of our members was an initiate of the Feri Tradition, and he knew exactly who it was. The god kissed him and it left a mark, burned on to his skin. It took a couple of days to fade.
This was the beginning of my working with Malek Taus, I was forever trying to explain to others what I saw when I could see him, but it wasn’t till I saw the cover of the Green Egg with your painting on it that I could succeed at that explanation. I nearly fainted upon seeing the cover of the magazine, because it was exactly what I had seen in my dream about 10 years previous. Since your painting has been published, I am able to simply show people the picture. I have a copy of it on my shrine to him in my temple room.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my experience with him and your art work. I find you to be truly inspired, and am grateful for your vision and insight.
–Dominic Elemirion, historical re-enactor and metaphysical practitioner (San Francisco, CA)
“Melek Ta’us Tattooed on His Back”
” I guess it was about 14 years ago… it’s been that long? oy…. and a boyfriend had the postcard sized version on his wall. I was totally drawn to the image. I always had a plan for my tattoos, and He just fit in perfectly. The darkness in the painting was the perfect representation of night I was looking for. The image of Melek Himself totally sold me on it. I had to have it on my back. Something about the eyes told me that if I didn’t I’d regret it. So I made myself a copy and off I went. I sat for 7 1/2 hrs to get the outline done. The girl who did it was still pretty new and apparently went a little deep. The lines bled a bit and it hurt like hell.
About a year later I moved to Seattle and met up with a great artist and after a few of his pieces I had him tackle Melek. He relined the body and coloured him in for me. That took about 6 hrs, and came out great. No pain, and as a matter of fact, when he was doing the body of Melek, I fell asleep in the chair. I had meditated myself into a blue trance and just drifted right off. Unfortunately, he moved and I could never find anyone I’d trust enough to finish it off. A few years later I moved to Portland and met someone who did amazing peacock feathers and so I had him start on the wings for me. He freehanded the outline of the wings, all wispy and soft, looks just like the edge of peacock feathers. and only took 3 hrs.
I still need to get the wings coloured in and will probably just get the whole thing relined and touched up. One thing I noticed, after getting the wing lines done, is that they’re right on my lats, so flexing and bending my back the right way makes them look like they’re flapping. Quite a nice little effect, especially when spinning fire poi.
It wasn’t until years later that I did some research on Melek and that’s when everything just kind of fell into place for me. Once I learned about him it just made perfect sense why I’d be so drawn to Him. Blue has always been my colour, and not just any blue, but electric pulsating vibrant with life and energy blue. Blue was always my center, my protection, it only makes sense that The Keeper of the Blue Flame would attract me.
Since I’ve gotten Him, I’ve met SO many people who knew/know more about Him than me and it’s allowed me to find what I was always searching for, but didn’t know how to find. Without this beacon on my body, I’d never have had the experiences that I’ve had. Including what a few people saw and believed to be the possession of my body by Melek. Damn, he just takes hold and rides your soul like a train in the dark. It’s really hard to ground after he’s been playing around.”
–Anthony Bridle/Fairy X, artist and living work of art! (Vancouver Island, B.C.)
“I Dreamed You First, then You Walked into My Shop”
“One recent winter night as I was sleeping my spirit wandered down to the boat on the River of Blood.* [*The “River of Blood” (Ancestry) and the “River of Tears” (Collective Emotion) are two primal rivers thought in certain traditions to flow in the Other World of dreams and Faerie.]
Usually when I go I take someone I know from the waking world but for some reason this time I went alone. However while I was there I met a beautiful ecstatic being. He had the most beautiful eyes, the softest feel, and smelled like the most magnificent flowers. We spent a lot of time swimming in one another’s energy and communicating in a silent telepathic manner. It was one of the most unconditional loving sweet divine experience I had encountered on the boat. Usually when I am there I serve as a guide for the ones I take there as they wade through the trenches of their darkest shadows (or I am wading myself) but this time was different.
The next morning I still vividly remembered most of the dream. Some of the details were faded but the sweetness and the feeling of him still surrounded me as if I could feel his essence still with me as I went about my day. The dream was so specific that I was kinda in my own daze thinking about it. As I walked into my store I can hardly believe my eyes.
There standing in my store talking to my husband was the being from my dream. Different slightly in form but the same. Same eyes, same smell, and I could feel his loving spirit beaming from across the room. I was so shocked to see him I think I stopped breathing– every thought and language skill fell from my mind as I was recalling every detail from the dream, now seeing it in the flesh before me.
I walked up to you not having any idea what to say but it was as if on some level you knew. You showed me your art which were all remeniscent of the beings that I meet and work with on the river. Not only that but just 3 days before I was telling my priestess friend about the visions I was having. She said “oh that sounds like your describing Melek, you must be connecting to the Feri.” I really didn’t know what she was talking about so she google imaged the word Melek and showed me a picture. So I was astonished when you showed me your work and I realized that your Melek was the one I had just been looking at days before. In all your work were images representing some of the wisdom you had passed on to me the night before.
I think I probably came across like a flake because I was really so blown away I really had no idea what to say to you, but I really felt like although not much was said in verbal language that we heard each other anyway.
We bought several prints from you to sell in our store. I put the Dionysus one on my ceiling above my bed. In my dream you communicated to me that part of my role in the middle world is to create masks and sculptures capturing the essence of the beings from the riverboat/dreamtime so that people who have forgotten will remember and awaken when they see them and begin to do what they have come here to do. In the Dionysus painting, it is as if you are there holding the mask as a reminder.
For a long time I thought my dreams and visions were all a fantasy until I found the Cosmic Tribe tarot deck that was so like my visions that I knew that there must be others that connect with this same place. I started reading from that deck and more of the magic from my dream world started to integrate into my waking world. I was reveling in it but at some point the melding of the worlds was so intense that I became afraid. So I hid from it for a while and avoided going to the river, falling into a kind of lost sadness. Then I felt a sweetness calling me back and so I went but this time alone.
I wanted to tell you this in the store that day but the words escaped me: Thank you my friend. Thank you for guiding me back and bathing me in your healing loving wings and reminding me of my purpose. I truly love you from the bottom of my heart and words can not express my gratitude for your presence, love, and guidance. Blessed be!”
–Luna Lynn Frey, visionary and co-owner of Cosmic Delights (Madison, WI)
Writings about Kali:
“The richness of Paul’s vision and the precision of his technique conveys the experience of Kali Ma as I have seen Her.”
(“When I helped my friend Raven Moonshadow to die, I went with him to a place where he was taken into the lap of Kali Ma. I went as far as I could while he went all the way. I saw her jeweled toenails… This painting evokes for me the encounter I had when I traveled with Raven towards the Other Side. I think I would find it a comforting sight when I am facing my own demise.” (from Ruminations on Death, Dying and Afterlife posted on The Wild Hunt Blog, May 29, 2008)
–M. Macha NightMare, Witch at Large (San Rafael, CA)
“The Earth Rang Like a Bell: A Kali Vision”
“My online avatar is a detail from “Kali“, a most remarkable painting that was purchased by me with my tax return in ’98.
It was painted by Paul B. Rucker (he always insisted on that B), a young artist living in New Orleans at the time I met him. He was both visually and aurally handicapped, but possessed of a remarkable degree of physical beauty, (and thus life’s path was made smooth for him in a way unavailable to those much less gifted with “attractiveness.”)– but I digress.
The painting is, or was, entitled “Kali Bhairavi”, or “Kali the Terrifier”, and I now address Her as “Smashan Kali” (or “Graveyard Kali”). Back in 1997, I spotted the painting on the cover of “Green Egg”magazine (now defunct) and decided then and there what I wanted to do with my recent financial windfall.
When I saw this picture, I knew it was meant to be mine. It is a curious fact that I attended Starwood Festival (the one in upstate N.Y.) at the urging of a friend for the first time a short time after acquiring this painting, and there met an American man who was a “tulku lama” from a Bhutanese tradition, who spontaneously and on the spot gave me official Tantric initiation after I mentioned to him about a number of curious encounters I had had with Hindu Deity-Forms (and this one in particular).
The painting is what I do my meditations in front of; it is the centerpiece of my temple! The yantra at the heart of it is very useful, actually, it is upon that that I focus when I wish to connect with the Kali energy. The following is a partial recounting of the most POWERFUL of all my Kali meditations….
I had been meditating on what I had seen in the December 2004 issue of Vogue magazine that day… an article on AIDS in India, with a photo of a skeletal Indian boy, Dilli Babu, sitting like a tiny sadhu all alone, a halo of red around his pathetic, wasted little head, dying slowly and painfully in the last stages of AIDS, with his suffering juxtaposed against the most vain and self-indulgent wallow of useless overpriced vanity goods destined for the rich and privileged of the world.
Most sickening of all was a Guess ad shot of Paris Hilton, lounging in luxuried excess next to a pool with her dog between her legs, and smirking at the camera, legs spread wide. It was too much. After contemplating the silent horrendous suffering of innocent little Dilli Babu and thousands of children like him, this disgusting depiction tore it for me; I could read no further. A wave of anger, shame, guilt, and nausea at my belonging to a humanity that would countenance such evil to occur washed over me. I went to my meditation in this state of mind. As I lit the spirit lamp before Ganesha, I called upon God to witness this outrage, that such evil should be allowed to exist any longer, and wept there at the Mother’s feet for the suffering of a child I had never known.
I felt the Temple form about me as my Kundalini began to rise: I sat there in my meditation seat, gripped the arms of my throne and began my Invocation:
” I am She, the Bornless Spirit, having Sight in the Feet, strong as the Immortal Fire! I am She, the Truth! I am She Who hate that evil should be wrought in the world! I am She Who lightningeth and thundereth! I am She from Whom is the Power of Life upon Earth! I am She whose Mouth ever Flameth! I am She, the Begetter and Manifestor unto the Light! “I am She, the Grace of the World! THE HEART GIRT WITH A SERPENT IS MY NAME!!!!”
As I sat there, calling on the Power, I felt a great and terrible primal rage well up against all those who violate the Dharma, who pervert the sacrament of sex for their selfish ends, who fulfill their appetites at the expense of others and pay no heed to the dreadful consequences, and at the climax of the Invocation, I felt myself lifted up high over the earth, looking down at the great peninsula of India. From that land I saw the immense form of Dakshineswar Kali arise, and our eyes met….
I saw Her raise Her great hooked blade and bringing it crashing down upon the Indian Ocean, sending a shockwave in all directions; the earth seemed to ring like a great bell and the intensity of it nearly sent me spinning… it was very strange, to be at one with that Cosmic Anger and yet be myself at the same time… I felt like Arjuna confronted with the Vision of the Destroyer in the Bhagavad-Gita, and yet I was one with the Vision itself… it was those words that kept me safe, echoing in my heart during the climax of that dreadful vision….
“But the worlds also behold Thy fearful mighty Form, with many mouths and eyes, with many bellies, thighs and feet, frightening with terrible teeth; they tremble in fear, and I also tremble… When I see Thy vast Form reaching the sky, burning with many colours, with wide open mouths, with vast flaming eyes, my heart shakes in terror; my power is gone and gone is my peace, O Mother!… The flames of Thy mouths devour all the worlds. Thy glory fills the whole universe. But how terrible Thy splendours burn!…”
It was this memory of the Vision of Arjuna, that I believe saved me from being swept away to madness… I can barely describe the feeling, or what I saw, but I could feel a horrendous pressure right back of my eyes the size of a soccer ball, and I thought my head was going to burst! I felt protective presences hovering around me, and it was these that guided me safely back to physical reality; I was in no condition to do it for myself…
I sat there in my temple for a long time, thinking, after the meditation was done, so long, in fact, my companion had to come down and knock on the door and ask if I was OK and was I going to spend the night there? I said nothing to him about it, I just thought it was simply a particularly vivid and active session, nor did I really want to bring any memory of what I had experienced back just yet!
But the next day, when I signed on to the Internet to check my e-mail, there it was: at the time that the vision had occurred, a tremendous earthquake had shaken the Far East and the epicenter of that earthquake was the very place I had seen Kali’s blade strike!
Plus, a headline I saw later on that day describing the earthquake caught my eye: “The earth RANG LIKE A BELL…”
To conclude, I have no doubt that the rage and anger I was feeling is what was the catalyst of the experience. I will always wonder, however, if it was just a “coincidence” ; did I “just happen” to be meditating at the time the earthquake happened, or did the meditation cause the earthquake?
When I saw on a map that the epicenter was at the very place that I “saw” Her knife strike down upon, I was glad I was sitting down, because I almost FAINTED….
–Lilith M., collector (Toronto, ON)
Writings about Other Images:
“Epiphany… is quintessential Paul B. Rucker. Vibrant. Passionate. Committed.”
–Ryn Melberg, collector (Hoboken, NJ)
“The Divine Twins are both beautiful and powerful. Paul has captured the transformative magic that is available to us all when we embrace our disparate parts: Light bursts forth, and we are cradled in a canopy of stars.” (Thorn is the owner of “The Divine Twins” original and writes in Kissing the Limitless that “Feri Tradition Craft works with the Twins as bird and snake, earth and air, bright and shadow. They are all that is within us, mirroring, reflecting and then embracing… Brothers and opposites, they struggle themselves back to love. Their love forms the radiant Peacock, a new being made from the reforming of the separated All-that-is.”
–T. Thorn Coyle, author of Kissing the Limitless: Deep Magic and the Great Work of Transforming Yourself and the World (Bay Area, CA)
“When I first saw this image I was awestruck by the dark vivid power it portrayed. As a society we don’t associate dark feminine power with celebration and compassion, but with fear. In my spiritual walk I have found just the opposite to be true, and was astonished to see it soulfully captured in this artistic medium.
I immediately wanted to possess it, but was sure I could not afford it. Paul and I came to terms on a price I could pay, and in so doing I have had experiences that will transform my life forever. The painting hangs in a nexus of spiritual power in my home and acts as a doorway to the deep protective mysteries of the feminine to all who see it.”
–Cara Geist, priestess and collector
“Mother Nature: the Ultimate Artist”
“While living In New Orleans and working at the Voodoo Museum, I met Paul Rucker after he and a friend took a cemetery tour (the ‘must-do’ thing in New Orleans) with myself as the guide. It became apparent that we had many interests in common, especially when I elucidated at some length on the life of Marie Laveau, THE most famous Voodoo Queen of all time.
We were/are both artists fascinated by myths, & alternative belief systems, amidst other subjects. This included the Tarot, which I have been reading for quite some time and from which I draw a good deal of inspiration. (I am now in the process of designing my own deck, the aspiration of every reader).
When I saw his paintings, I was dazzled by the combination of color with symbols. I was very impressed with especially his having Sophia Loren as the model for the Empress, Trump III. Talk about an inspired choice! The Empress represents feminine grace, generosity, fertility, beauty and blessings. She is the ultimate Mother in the deck. Who better than Sophia!? Wish I’d thought of that! Hence we became friends and enjoyed many a happy discussion about our mutual interests as artists. For example, we mutually decided that Mother Nature was the ultimate artist as She had the time, the budget and studio space to experiment without restraint!
When Paul was preparing to move to the West Coast, he gave me the painting of the Empress, knowing how much I loved it and how much the imagery meant to me. He hoped that in the process, I would receive the blessings of the Empress. What incredible generosity! This says much about Paul’s character.
A good deal has happened since then, not the least of which was Hurricane Katrina, forcing me to leave New Orleans. As I write this, I am residing in New York City. Thanks to the Internet, I have stayed in touch with Paul. Bravo to us all!
–Leslie Lowe née Veronica Powers, artist, Vodou priestess, and tour guide (NY, NY)
“We Told the Peri’s Story and She Appeared”
“My spiritual brother, Frank, and I have developed a sort of oral tradition. We have created a cast of characters about which we tell stories, passing the primary storyteller role back and forth. Some of those characters (many of them, really) seem to have taken on a life of their own, from tales to amuse ourselves to actual mythology. Peri is one such character, who went from being a gypsy to a Goddess in the course of our tales.
So the first time we walked into the store, which I think was still Goddess Gallery then, we each saw the painting and thought, “it’s Peri!” Then each of us in turn allowed our eyes to drift to the tag, and read “The Peri” by Paul B. Rucker. We had no image of her before, just the image in our minds.
Funny how we both so clearly saw the same thing, but then, that happens often. Either my brother and I are that psychically connected, or these characters do exist apart from us–probably a bit of both… anyway, we immediately bought one of the prints but having a chance to own the original was not to be missed. She is more than a painting to us. She is a true representation of the Divine. Thank you, Paul. Blessings!”
–Wynne Tegyn, collector (Portland, OR)
“The Divine Androgyne really gets around”
“To begin with, I was excited to hear from Paul that The Divine Androgyne picture was being considered for the cover of a book on Queer Spirituality. [Cassell’s Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit, 1997.] Soon after, he found out that it was going to be used as the back cover image. Still great news. As an aspiring writer, I think maybe it’s even better to get a picture of myself on the back cover of a book, since that’s where the author’s picture usually goes.
Later, visiting Berkeley, CA, for the first time on a trip to the SF Bay area, I was walking around with a young Canadian guy I’d met at the Green Tortoise Hostel. Berkeley is a place rich in bookstores and I love browsing through bookstores. I was skimming over the featured books display at a large well-known independent bookstore (the name now escapes me), when I spied a familiar large multicolored volume. I turned to my friend; “Hey, I’m in this book!”
I went on to tell him about how I knew Paul Rucker and modeled for the image that had become so popular, first on the front cover of a Pagan magazine (Mezlim), then in prints, and finally the back of this book: “Yes, I was the model. I just shaved since then and left my extra arms back at home.”
My Canadian friend was duly impressed.
I was also curious about something else; this was a display of books connected to author signings at the store. I nabbed the nearest store clerk to find out the details. He said I’d just missed the signing event, but one of the book’s co-authors, Randy Connor, worked right there at the bookstore and he’d be in later that very afternoon. Needless to say, I came back and met Mr. Connor, who reported another interesting little sighting of the image: on the wall of an Episcopal Bishop’s office [Dignity— an organization for LGBTQI Catholics] in Washington D.C.!”
–Riawa Smith, painter’s model for the picture (Minneapolis, MN)