Drawing in Twin Peaks
“We are like flies crawling across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: we cannot see what angels and gods lie underneath the threshold of our perceptions. We do not live in reality: we live in our paradigms, our habituated perceptions, our illusions; the illusions we share through culture we call reality, but the true historical reality of our condition is invisible to us.”
~ William Irwin Thompson (Evil and World Order)
Through drawing we can see things that are otherwise invisible, and David Lynch literally draws us a picture in The Return! I want to take a deep look at his drawing and two others — Mr. C’s and Dougie’s. I’ll use art theorists Gerald Vizenor and John Berger, a Native and a non-Native American, to help situate these drawings within the context of their sources, within the larger history of art, and within an appreciation of drawing’s inherent magic powers.
I like to imagine Twin Peaks as a parody and an epic poem, filled with what Vizenor calls “tropes of transmotion with a sense of survivance over victimry.” Vizenor uses his term transmotion to describe a “spirited” quality of motion in Native American literature and ledger drawings, and considering how much Lynch and Frost riff on Native American culture, we might find transmotion in the stories and drawings of Twin Peaks. I also suspect we’ll find some extraordinary temporalities, or what Berger calls “tenses,” in these drawings.
Drawing in Temporal Dimensions
In A World Through Lines, John Berger describes how drawings communicate by using different temporal dimensions or tenses. Present tense drawings are of what we see in front of us — a nude model, a landscape, anything in our waking world. Conditional tense drawings, on the other hand, record ideas and dreams about what could be, should be, and would be. Berger’s example: two people from different language backgrounds at a restaurant communicating on a napkin when they can’t find the words. There is improvisation and laughing. The third type, past tense, are sketches from memory, which is a different kind of dreaming and a different kind of present moment experience. Through this third type of drawing artists can, according to Berger, exorcize a memory like it’s a demon — “in order to take an image out of the mind, once and for all, and put it on paper.” Berger says the imagery can be anything — a bug, a bomb, “sweet, sad, frightening, attractive, or cruel” — but each has its own way of being “unbearable.”
Some drawings contain all three tenses at once, which triggers a new temporal dimension, a new level of communication, a fourth tense — maybe similar to the “fourth person” or “fourth voice” Vizenor describes appearing in Native American stories and drawings with transmotion.
Drawing lines is easy, but creating a good drawing is so hard “it makes you crazy.” Visual artist Amy Sillman: “You have to negotiate surface, tone, silhouette, line, space, zone, layer, scale, speed, and mass while interacting with a meta-surface of meaning, text, sign, language, intention, concept, and history.” Indian warriors imprisoned at the short-lived Fort Marion, from 1875 to 1878, created exquisite colored pencil drawings of their dreams, with the line quality and compositions a European or Asian artist would need years of formal education to accomplish. New and Old visions and details were now achievable through new materials, namely the German colored pencils and dutch paper ledgers. For these new materials we can thank warden Richard Henry Pratt (of “Kill the Indian, save the man” fame) and his experimental pedagogy, inspired by a native woman: Ho-Chunk/Winnebago master artist, activist, and graphic designer Angel De Cora! Pratt went on to hire De Cora for the art program at his “successful,” and evil, Carlisle Indian Industrial School. How many of those students were raped and murdered? Military schools may have been worse than the Catholic ones, if you can believe it.
Vizenor says transmotion is “a spirited and visionary sense of natural motion,” and it specifically comes up while discussing these traumatized Indian warrior ledger drawings. So let’s view some of them next to the drawings made in Twin Peaks and see what happens.
Mr. C’s Drawing on an Ace of Spades
New Owl Cave symbol? A portrait of the frug? Bob’s dream of his mother? A reminder of Dr. Amp’s shovel? An object Lynch just found at a cafe in Death Vally? Here is Mr. C’s Destroyer drawn like a clown on an ace of spades. He carefully covered the entire spade except for maybe the tiny point at the bottom. “Made in China” is semi-successfully scratched out: drawing can be an act of removing, destroying, erasing (see Postcommodity’s 2015 Repellant Fence). The “A” recalls Alpha, the Beginning, but also tiny text. Bob is with Mr. C right now, and we know Bob loves tiny text (or was that Leland’s thing?). This may be a three-way collaboration: the scratches could be from the drugged-out mother. We saw an open safety pin and a deck of cards on her table. Is she another one of Mr. C’s spies? Is she a tulpa? A lodge entity? She sort of spoke backwards, and appears to have “one foot in another world.” Was she an early attempt at a family for Dougie? Were the drugs found in Mr. C’s car for her? We don’t know. It’s left totally blank, blacked out like this creature’s face, or like a portrait sculpted by Brancusi. So much of Twin Peaks feels edited out, and that’s one reason it’s so good. Like a 4-D Kanizsa triangle, the openings Lynch and Frost leave in Twin Peaks evoke phantoms, illusory contours, subjective edges, gestalt reification, and the viewer gets to complete the story with their own miraculous, bright, radiant dreaming minds.
By leaving the story open, Lynch and Frost induce a special kind of brightness in us. The “phantom edge phenomena” (seeing information that is not actually there) might happen because the brain has been trained to view the break in lines as an object that could pose a potential threat. With lack of additional information, the brain errs on the side of safety and perceives the space as a relevant object. This illusion is an example of the constructive or generative aspect of perception. For a deep look at reification and “closure,” see Finding Out About Filling-In: A guide to perceptual completion for visual science and the philosophy of perception by Evan Thompson (William Irwin Thompson’s son!), Luiz Pessoa, and Alva Noë, who also wrote Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness.
The opposite of “filling in” is the Troxler effect of “fading out,” and it’s equally metaphoric. If the vague information we perceive remains unchanged for too long, it disappears.
Animals draw. The scratches on Mr. C’s card point to Drugged-out mother, but also to bird scratches (Waldo!), the scratches found on Laura, and, behind all these, to cave bear scratches found on the shadowy walls at the edge of history. We see evidence of human-made scratches on top of bear scratches in Werner Herzog’s film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011). Did the bears teach us to draw? Did the birds teach us to sing?
Conquest. There is violence and blood surrounding the appearance of Mr. C’s drawing. We see this card right before he mercilessly blows Daria’s brains out, and then we watch a hammered Sarah Palmer in her disgusting living room watch footage of lions mercilessly killing a buffalo.
Let us zoom out for a moment to take in a larger picture. Drawings come before words in art history. We begin with scratches — pure pattern, pure abstraction — what we find in the 70,000 year-old Blombos petroglyphs and ochre drawings in South Africa; what we see in the 30,000 year-old lions brilliantly cross-hatched on the darkest walls of Chauvet Cave. Let’s not forget that animal fat, in the paint and lamp-light, facilitated the making of the images, the seeing of the images, and other cultural advances.
But wait, we were dancing and singing and speaking in pictures before we could draw them, right? Maybe not. Infants, before they can speak, know how to draw. Scribbling may be a necessary step into language and symbolic thought; it’s a protolanguage, ursprache, a “neurobiological impulse.” Scribbling may be the basis for all human notational systems, upon which self-reflection, or self-organization, depend (see scribble hypothesis). It’s a momentous leap, picking up that stick or rock, making a line, or filling something in. It’s about transformation and impermanence, but it’s also about creating something that stays: a trace, a signature, a scratch. There is identity magic in it.
Mr. C’s dream drawing in Part 2: The Stars Turn And A Time Presents Itself is a trip across 70,000 years of art history, from scratches to ink blots to digital print. It’s also a trip across 25 years of Twin Peaks. The last time we saw an altered playing card like this was at the end of Season Two. Pulling a card, a spade, from his jacket pocket at the opening of Season 3 may be Mr. C’s way of saying, “Btw, I’m the new Windom Earle.” Hell, he probably lifted Earle’s pack with Bob in the Waiting Room.
Furthermore, at the end of this episode the Chromatics perform their song “Shadow.”
The owl-cave/owl-ring symbol in Mr. C’s drawing is no longer just an owl: it’s the mother, the Experiment, Judy, Laura, what Mr. C, Cooper, and what BOB “wants.” It’s his double, his placenta, his missing With. What tense is it? Was it drawn from a direct experience he had, perhaps after taking drugs with One-one-nine mom? Or is this an idea, a dream he has of what the entity looks like, could look like, should look like? Or is it the third type, drawn from memory? In which case it’s probably BOB’s memory of his mother. “This is what I want.” When we get confused about Mr. C’s motivations, we should remember that he is probably also serving BOB.
Gordon Cole’s Drawing
It looks like Deputy Director Gordon Cole is having a little drawing session. He’s got a glass of wine, a black marker, bug detector, and a few sheets of white paper clipped together oddly. He wants to keep the stack together, but look: the corner of a torn page, or pages. Strange, but also suggestive — a remaining corner indicates missing pieces. Is this his second or third attempt at something? It’s significant that this drawing happens right before Cole is visited by Lynch’s best scene from FWWM — when Laura completely breaks down on Donna’s doorstep — and this is when we hear Sarah’s distant voice calling out “Laura” from the pilot.
“Donna, are you…are you my beh…are you my best friend?”
She is crying and laughing at the same time. Gordon Cole never saw that breakdown, nor heard Sara Palmer’s voice in the pilot, so in this moment he is what, transported into Donna’s body, seeing Laura from her perspective? We get a reminder of the missing Donna. Cole is also transported into our experience, for we both receive, without warning, a prophetic vision and audio hallucination from David Lynch himself. Sarah Palmer’s voice from the pilot alongside Laura’s suffering face will appear once again — at the very end of Part 18.
The hand is reaching for the antlers, but then it remembers that antlers are cumbersome and a waste of energy. They are like rapidly growing tumors that feed off the poor animal’s body. Deer gladly shed them after the velvet dies. Maybe the Fireman, or maybe Gordan Cole, wants the deer antler velvet — a performance-enhancing supplement, a symbol for something else empowering (see Doping with Deer Antlers).
Cole’s antlers look like roots, trees, fire, and lightning. We see an arm, the Giant’s maybe? The Arm!?! Another symbol of loss. We see the Evolution of the Arm in those branchy antlers — twins growing from a hybrid entity with spots. Is it a log? The antlers look like roots, while the feet look like high heel shoes, like Audrey, Tammy, like the French prostitute, but also like Black Hawk’s eagle-horse destroyer. The creature’s spots are dark eyes that beg to be connected.
The creature’s right antler is in front of its left, which is physically impossible, unless it’s looking in the other direction and what we thought was its snout is an ear or large growth coming out its head. But no, it’s more likely just an intentional strangeness, like one of M. C. Escher’s impossible objects. It could have also just been an honest mistake/message from the chaos gods.
Cole’s drawing may have been rehearsed — we only see him put the finishing touch on the hand before there is a knock at the door. Maybe Cole, in the story, was using drawing magic to “reach” into the future. We know Cooper used esoteric practices for divining answers (see season one episode 2: Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer). We know cultures all over the world use drawing magic to, if not foresee the future, affect it. This analysis argues that Cole’s drawing foresees/initiates Andy’s meeting with the Fireman — the tail points to Andy, the spots point to Lucy, and the dots and trees connect to the Bookhouse Boys symbol. Is Cole practicing a kind of sigil magic? Is Lynch? Maybe this is a coded drawing of an unseen aspect of Part 18, the Giant’s final move against Judy. Or is it for Judy? When the hand touches the antlers, all the lights go out. Then like a video game we return to the red room — back to starting positions, back to mute and slow motion re-enactments. Lynch literally just used youtube footage of Cooper’s dream from 1991 to stage the reenactment in 2016.
So much of Twin Peaks is the result of something subconscious. The story behind the pilot is a great example: Lynch and Frost say even they didn’t know who killed Laura Palmer until writing episode three, but after watching the pilot you can tell it was always Leland. Bob was there, too, remember? A happy accident — the stagehand caught in a mirror behind Sarah’s perfect scream marking the end of the pilot (the first Twin Peaks film). Lynch loved it so much he wrote Bob into the story. Lynch’s reflection is also caught in the pilot, perhaps foreseeing Gordon Cole, the Dreamer. It’s like they learned from the pilot what to do next, which is a really fun way to work, and to draw. “If you already know exactly what will happen, then what’s the fun in making it?” Artworks encourage improvisation and Whitehead’s “creative advance into novelty.” They can tell us things, tell us what to do next. Maybe Lynch will use this drawing made in Season Three to figure out what to do in Season Four, and we will look back at this anew.
A hand moves, and the fire’s whirling takes different shapes,
Triangles, squares: all things change when we do.
The first word, “Ah,” blossomed into all others.
Each of them is true.
According to Vizenor, transmotion is “unmissable” in native stories, as unmissable as regular motion — a hand moves, a curtain waves, birds fly, men dance; and while these examples of motion touch our ordinary senses and our ordinary minds, transmotion goes beyond the waking senses altogether, to motions and emotions and cosmic gestures; to ancestral memories and animal totems; to ceremonial dances; to motions plugged into currents beyond the individual’s body.
Irony and parody signal transmotion. “The most memorable native stories are ironic, and the scenes of natural motion are sometimes parodies. Native ceremonial clowns, cultural and communal teases are ironic because the original sources are not rubric sacraments, and never certain, and the spirit, imagination, and hearsay of the moment are never the same in the continuous imaginative recount of stories.” Scenes are ironic by the selection of names and what Visenor calls “teaser words.” Let’s Rock.
“The definitions of words are inconclusive, no more precise than tropes, and the connotations of words are deferred to yet another situation and literary act of writers and readers.”
Vizenor describes a typical ledger drawing: “The warriors and their horses are pictured in motion, the artistic transmotion of native sovereignty. The scenes and motion were of memories and consciousness, not poses and motion simulations. The transmotion of ledger art is a creative connection to the motion of horses depicted in winter counts and heraldic hide paintings. The hides and shields are visionary.”
In Twin Peaks, the horse leaps off the screen and into the new poem, and then back down into Sarah’s dream, into the Palmer house, and into the imagery of the woodsman walking into the dark desert of New Mexico. Is he the white horse? Is he the creature’s dream who lives inside of Sarah? The horse’s sound, like the scream, is a color Lynch likes to use to paint his picture of America.
Tangentially, the native art collective Postcommodity uses the image of a dead horse and some dogs standing over it at the end of their 2017 multimedia installation about the US-Mexico border, “Coyotaje.” The photograph is called Es más alcanzable de lo que se imaginaban (It’s More Achievable Than Imagined). The exhibition notes inform us that dogs were present in the Americas and integrated into indigenous societies for many thousands of years before the introduction of horses by the Spanish. David Markus: “Insofar as the horse serves as a symbol of colonialism, the image may be read as one of perseverance and decolonization.”
Pictured above is a group-induced memory of a delegation of high-ranking Kiowa men who visited a u.s. government agent at Fort Sill, c. 1870. The first figure, carrying a decorated otter-skin bag, has a distinct painting of a bison head on his chin. A figure near the center is wearing what appears to be a u.s. military dress coat with a saber and scabbard at his hip. He and three other members of the group hold eagle feather fans. Sometimes fans are magical devices used by shamans to scoop up souls and place them back into bodies. Sometimes they are used with smoke and dance to heal. They are also identity markers/ego makers, like the phallic Maya manikin scepters, or tattoos, head-dresses, and gorgets used by Native Americans.
Ledger drawings were story-telling devices, and some were kept secret and safe, like a diary. They have a subversive history of also being associated with scripture and public records kept at a church or courthouse. The fact that native prisoners of war overwrote the ‘official’ records with their own polychromatic, visionary dream drawings indicates larger realities.
Dougie’s puberty drawings
We can all draw. Babies without direction pick up crayons and just go for it. Press play and the brain makes decisions before you even know it. Scribbles come from, and communicate with, a very primal, reptilian level in us, and also probably with a mystical level. When we draw we are immediately ushered into a creative nondual flow state (Csíkszentmihályi’s term), where the drawer, the pencil, and the drawing become “one taste.” In that moving river of creative expression, one can hear the faint screams of people suffering in the distance.
Dougie’s drawing in Twin Peaks may be used as a metaphor for the mysteries of the show itself. What appears naive is actually fully matured — neotenous, like a drawing by Picasso, or like an aged Chihuahua who looks like a wolf fetus. To an initiate, what seems like primitive scratches are in fact pathways to truth, to star charts, to history, and in this case, to uncovering a grand conspiracy.
“You have to wake up. Wake up. Don’t die. Don’t’ die. Don’t’ die.” Dougie hears this before a tiny light from another world guides his hand through the drawing — overwriting the official insurance documents like Plains Indian ledger art. And look at how he holds his pencil. This drawing took effort. We see the self-imposed resistance straps of a Matthew Barney Drawing Restraint. We hear music from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This drawing truly was a physical accomplishment.
There are myriad reasons people “take lines for a walk.” Throughout human history we see drawing as identifying, tagging, marking, tattooing, mapping; drawing as calling, praying, seeing better; drawing as destruction, as crossing out, as propaganda, signage, mnemonic device, literature, treaties; drawing as sigil magic, medicine, myth-maker, prophesy, trap, exorcism, automatism — surrealist automatic drawing. We see Reiki healing symbols drawn in the air above a patient, and Navajo healing symbols drawn on the ground below them. We find drawings as a mere physical feat, such as the cliff-face puberty drawings of Luiseño women in southern California. We might ask, are they drawings of rattlesnakes, phalluses, ladders, moons, the Milky Way, or are they symbols for electricity? But when we worry about “iconographic meaning,” we miss the primary meaning, the bodily “kinesthetic meaning,” as Christopher Tilley puts it. We miss the fact that the artist had to fast for three days, travel to the site, make the paint, mark their own exhausted bodies, then climb the boulder’s dangerous face with the paint. Who cares what they drew! The drawing is proof that such a transformational journey took place. The red paint is left on the young woman’s body for weeks, and on the stone wall forever.
In Dougie’s drawing we should be reminded of California puberty drawings, but also of visionary drawings of altered states of consciousness (ASCs), drawing as thinking, as a form of thinking, and as a practice of giving up and letting go. Dougie accomplishes this drawing with the help of Mike and the information on the insurance forms.
Left: Wo Haw, 1877, Between Two Worlds, self portrait in graphite and crayon on paper. Both animals are breathing visions into Wo Haw’s face, suggesting that dream imagery may come from the more-than human environment, from places beyond the dreamer’s control. Right: Major Briggs draws a similar composition.
Drawing is a great way to synthesize information — I’m thinking of Cooper’s sketch on the napkin of the two tattoos in season two. Drawings, and works of art in general, often tie cultures together. Hawk’s living map and Major Briggs’s tiny landscape are used as a way to connect Twin Peaks to indigenous sources. These “hybrid objects” facilitate Frost and Lynch’s need to play Indian. We see playing Indian in Boy Scouts, The Mankind Project, Cherokee Syndrome — it goes back to the Boston Tea Party. We see non-natives wear beads and feathers and name their streets, towns, cities, states, cars, helicopters, and film festivals after the cultures they destroyed. We see Ben Horn’s son Johnny literally play Indian Chief while he bangs his head again and again against a doll house.
Twin Peaks is deeply American, playing Indian-American, so of course it is tied to native art and literature (see Joshua David Bellin’s Demon of the Continent: Indians and the Shaping of America Literature, or Toni Morrison’s look at African American influences in Playing In The Dark). Alicia Cox summarized it well: “To make America/Americans white, American nationalist artists retold other people’s stories, but made themselves the stars… It’s a form of appropriation utilized to justify or naturalize European presence and dominance here.”
Drawing as dancing
The experience of making a drawing is very different from the experience of seeing one. Take paper and pen and see creation happen right before your eyes! Meet chaos, and take it for a walk. Drawings can change direction at the speed of thought. There is a trace of you, a fingerprint, that pours out of your pen and onto the page. If you are drawing what you are seeing, then the line is a record of where your mind has been. Relax the line, relax the mind.
Drawing is like traveling, but it’s also a kind of dancing. Alanna Thain inspires me. She traces outbursts of dancing in Twin Peaks in order to “think otherwise” about the show’s narrative sense-making. “[D]ance doubles sense (as rational forms of knowledge such as causality) with sensation (how characters are seized by affects and physical expression in ways that exceed what they can rationally be said to know, sometimes even by emotions that do not properly belong to them).” This doubling produces a temporal stretching — which Thain marks “heterochronicity,” that exposes “other modes of knowing and perceiving.” Heterochronicity may relate to Vezenor’s transmotion. “[D]ance in Twin Peaks gives us a pedagogy of perception that is distinct from the show’s procedural problem solving; that is to say, they suspend narrative unfolding to ask us to notice what else is happening, to teach us to see otherwise.” I think drawing in Twin Peaks functions in a similar way.
To help us see otherwise.