A spider delicately taps the open air, sending vibrations instantly understood by a human lingering close by. In response, the ribcage releases a series of vibrations, and a meaningful exchange unfolds.
This is the dream that inspired interdisciplinary artist Matt Marble to write a track on his most recent album, The Living Mirror, where he plays the guitar by tapping on it, just to “dwell in that communicative texture.”
“I went to art school and music school, though I was drawn to mystery,” Marble says.“Intuition was my guide, but nobody talks about intuition in school. So I was hungry for that discourse, and the more I searched for it, the more I found it in these esoteric traditions.”
Marble can claim many accomplishments, including the Wondering Stars exhibition at Greensboro Project Space and the book Buddhist Bubblegum: Esotericism in the Creative Process of Arthur Russell, which was hailed by the New York Times as “groundbreaking work.” A five-year resident of Greensboro with a PhD in music composition from Princeton University, Marble’s experience being “intuitive, introverted, and sensitive” in environments that hardly nurture emotions inform his artistic practices.
Eso being Greek for “within,” esotericism categorizes a broad range of movements and ideas developed over many centuries which focus on accessing truths of the mind and spirit. The teachings were global secrets that only a select few had access to for far too long. Now, with recent data showing about 5 billion people around the world use the internet, information that was once hidden has made its way into all aspects of popular culture. “These are the most developed, advanced, intelligent, experiential methods and language for talking about intuitive experience,” Marble says. “They’re how meditation and all these practices to hone intuitive presence and awareness developed.”
Intuition is highly present in dreams, where scenarios that do not follow a linear, coherent pattern often play out. Marble believes that the universal act of interpreting ambiguous dreams can strengthen a person’s intuition and insight, and even lead to creative revelations.
“Dreams are the connecting link,” Marble says. “And the symbols associated with those dreams provide ways of translating them into different media.”
Shortly before the pandemic, a depressed Marble had a dream that changed his life: He was bitten by a black rattlesnake and told by a nurse that he needed to take care of himself. Then at sunrise the next morning, he rose full of energy and went outside for a walk, where he met an older man who asked Marble to pray with him in the middle of the street.
“Though I normally wouldn’t, I said okay,” Marble recalls. “It’s almost like that act sealed the dream, and it made me feel like I needed to pay attention to it. I struggled for another month or two and then snapped out of it. I quit smoking and drinking on the same day and then decided to make art with alcohol instead of drinking it.”
The ensuing collection of alcohol ink eggs, which look like vibrant, textured teardrops, is called Starseeds and is featured on Marble’s website. Exploring his relationship to “color and form through meditations,” each egg is a distilled union of intense thought and emotion.
These Starseeds inspired his 2021 Wondering Stars exhibition which explored visual art, music, and poetry and introduced his dream system to the public. In the beginning of the pandemic, Marble created 81 symbols based on what he had been experiencing in his dreams for years. Everyday he meditates on one of the symbols, and that system is where all of his music, art and poetry flows from.
Ultimately, Marble’s dreamwork is a tool, or a vehicle he hopes will get him closer to an unburdened moment where something powerful can bloom, an ideal known as the Mystery.
“A lot of what I do in my life and in my art is try to offer the alternative that’s deprivileged in our society, so to me that includes celebrating the Mystery, nurturing the Mystery, leaving a space for something unknowable,” he says.
Like the language of the spider or the intentions of the rattlesnake, sometimes not knowing allows feeling to take over.
Matt Marble’s visual work can be found on his website, but his book is available to buy through Coolgrove Press and his recent album of instrumental guitar music, The Living Mirror, can be purchased via Echodelick Records or Ramble Records.
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