top of page



The Boat of Eternal Return is thirty feet long and the cello head is nine feet high from base

"Boats are like Shamans – they move between worlds.
Being of neither world, they glide over the taut membranes
that separate The Opposites."  - Stephanie Rayner


floating black bier, 13 pair of moose ribs, DNA sequencing gels from the Human Genome Project

"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a long time."    - Andre Gide

In the making of this artwork, Stephanie Rayner considers her experiences similar to those of Odysseus:  


"A boat, a fourteen-year journey, and the keeping of a promise.  With every Odyssey the individual summons, monsters, temptation, distractions and fears.  To move thought these, while trying to keep faith in the process and in one's self, inevitably merges the evolution of the artwork with one's own being."


Prow of boat with enlarged carved thumbprint on keel

Looking into interior - prow of boat

Prow Internal (3)_edited.jpg

Prow interior - Mare pelvis 

Top view

Detail - floating black bier - thirteen pair of moose ribs

Boat of Eternal Return 

Boats are like Shamans – they move between worlds

Being of neither world

they glide over the taut membranes that separate

The Opposites


Throughout time and disparate cultures it is the boat

that has provided mytho-religious passage across the

dark straits that

separate the living from the dead


Being gently rocked by water attends one’s beginning

and one’s end

the wake stirring the membrane edges of what was 

and what is to be


People ask, ”The rib boat, how did it come to you? “


In the beginning, all creation starts, I believe, with a small still point      

Infinitely small

enormous with potential

Then, a blink of an eye, and one can only grope half-


along the red shift ripples left by that

expanding energy


For me, ripples from Eternal Return lead back to a


half horror, half fairytale…


Hair as black as ravens

lips as red as blood

skin as white as snow


In a January, twenty years ago, I was taken to the

necropolis pit in a wilderness park

There, out of the crystalline snow, arched great racks of

ribs — red

with ragged flags of flesh drooping between the white of


Black trees ringed the pit

tall and massed with ravens as thick on the limbs

as leaves


It is from this pit

That the boat’s thirteen pair of moose ribs come


A ripple moves across the black water of a small lake

It is

a perfect circle

set in the center of a dense forest

so the wind rarely makes the dark water sparkle

The lake is one

of only two of its kind in the world


There is no shore


It is a cylinder of frigid water, tinged with tannin, eighty

feet deep

The lake bottom is so cold the eons of leaves that have

fallen in its water do not rot  Without decay or the

stirring of wind, the water contains so little oxygen that

it will not support life


It is my father’s small lake – and the long slim boat his

Inuit kayak

And it is here, in the lake’s warmer surface water, I

learn to swim

I am allowed to flash around in the thin skin boat

with the painted double paddle, as long as I trail behind

a black inner tube tied to me by

a long rope


My father says that if I drown he can pull up my body

by this rope so it will not spoil the lake for others

He calls it a lifeline


To me, at seven years, this perfect black circle is a deep,

darkly abiding, unblinking eye looking back

at God

Some days I try to do the same, lying flat in the kayak

all but my head enshrouded by its canopy

eyes open wide

while far below, deep down in the dark water

my lifeline



This is where the kayak part of the boat may have come



I place the hard black circle to my eye socket, open my

eye, and look into gray mist


My artworks deal with science and spirituality, and so I

have been granted access to one of many labs working

worldwide on

The Human Genome Project


I begin turning the knob on the massive electron


and see nothing but grey mist – and then

I begin to fall

through the rabbit hole of smaller and smaller

past wisps of darker gray


down, down…


coming up to a piece of black screen

to the screen

through a hole in the screen

     down, down…


and then, very deep down

there it is--

A tiny black rope of



The DNA sequencing gels

in the black bier

floating between the ribs of the boat

come from the kindness of a geneticist 

working on the Genome Project



I have heard of a Japanese religious ritual that involves

the cutting down of a mature plum tree just before it is

about to blossom

It is then taken to a shrine

and venerated 

for opening 

into full blossom even as 

it dies

It is the coming together of opposites


Creation and Death



Geneticists have not found a gene

for the spirit that infused Mozart’s dying body as he


The Requiem


Though, by strange coincidence, every set of DNA has


Exact number of lines needed to write music


The music on the DNA sequencing gels

on the bottom of the boat’s black bier

is a copy of The Requiem score as the dying Mozart

wrote it:

staffs, adagio, treble clefs . . . and notes

row upon row of pits and black pools

all with lifelines attached


The Requiem is a great work of art

And great works of art, I believe

come from the far side of what I will call The River

the collective unconscious

the world soul

There is no time, no gender, nor any one culture in this


It flows with the distillate of what it is to be human

It is not always beautiful


it is always powerful



I have wondered if art and creativity are a balance to

the great weight that is the knowing of our own


If so

spirit levels are needed


And if all things come into the world bringing

the balance of their opposite, is it then the same boat

now returning from its

dark crossing

moving like a loom’s shuttle

between opposite shores

that weaves with its recurring rippled wave

a matrix for Art?


What I do know is that all Art is the language the soul




It speaks louder than death


has always been

humanity’s lifeline



But, where the source for the spirit that moves the boat

comes from – that I do not know


To that spirit

I bow my head  



                                                        Stephanie Rayner   2015




Boat blessed by Buddhist nuns 




13 pair of moose ribs
A five foot long black bier
An old black ruler cut at random intersected by pairs of dice. DNA sequencing gels from The Human Genome Project

A copy of the score (written in Mozart’s hand) of The Requiem is overlaid on the DNA gels in black archival ink
A carved oversized cello head
An oversized cello fret board
A cello stringcatcher
Two cello bows
Hand worked glass bones/pegs in the cello head

Fingerprints are carved as the “eyes” of the boat

on both sides of the keel/beak at the prow
Pine lap strakes
Tulip poplar
Guanaco coccyx
A mare pelvis
A spirit level

bottom of page