The Coyotel Church is an apostate art movement founded by Steven Johnson Leyba, Steve Hapy and an enclave of other outlaw artists. Seven years ago, The Trickster’s Bible was published and Coyote was again loosed upon the world under the guise of art, controversy, flesh, text and paint. I recently spoke with Steven Johnson Leyba and Steve Hapy about the church and its goals.
Aonie Anfa: What does COYOTEL mean to you personally? How do you balance Spirit, art, yet also seemingly push an agenda as an apostate or fringe art movement? How are you able to keep your artistic integrity and vision honed?
Steven Johnson Leyba: Coyotel is creativity over compliance. It means my imagination over the dominant cultural consumer, entertainment and propaganda control grids, as it should be with every living being. It’s an affront, a war waged against the prescribed culture traps that seek to script our lives. The basic philosophy behind Coyotel is “The Seven Ways of Coyote”
1. Do not trust those that do not create, those that buy their creativity from the media, the advertiser, the corporation, the church or the state. Put all resources in those that promote and propagate your personal creativity.
2. Nothing can be more powerful than one’s imagination. It is your instinct and right; never doubt this.
3. Use your power of creativity against the power and authority of compliance; they have waged a war on you and they will continue to enslave you with it if you remain passive.
4. The only power is the power of creating, we all can create because we are the creator; always create.
5. We have become a civilization fueled by logic and consumption of consumer goods. In the process we have sacrificed our instincts, our ability to trust ourselves and our ability to create; we must find our way back, we must create our way forward.
6. The age of reason has lost its purpose and our ability to be creative has been discouraged, trivialized, suppressed and stolen from us. We can no longer listen or trust the people of authority that tell us our creativity is childish, impractical, insignificant and unnecessary. Make a mockery of them and always laugh. Humor can create; humor will destroy!
7. These people of authority confuse their positions with power but the only power they have is the power we give them; turn your back on them and create your own way.
It’s my physicality and whole being expressed in action. Just as breathing, eating, shitting and fucking is human. My art is an extension of my spirit in it’s totality, my human spirit. The highest expression of one’s human spirit is creating. We are the Creator. It’s beyond art, religion and party politics. It’s an art movement that doesn’t need art, only creativity. Art is the artifact of the ritual of creation. The artist is not as important as the art yet the act of creation is more important than both.
My greatest success is my influence and my art is sent out to the world to push the agenda that we all must remain creative and create constantly. The difference between me and many other cultural leaders is I show examples constantly and publish our philosophy and encourage others to speak of what Coyotel means to them and to manifest it in the world through their creations. In Coyotel there may be contradictions because each of us are on our own path, THE GREAT NO PATH.
There are no cookie-cutter Coyotelists. I am a truth seeker and help others to also be or become truth seekers and truth speakers. On many levels, this is a threat to society because society is often times a threat to our lives, who we are and the human spirit. If you are not creative, you are not truly alive. You are enslaved. The true message of all Trickster stories of all origins is to STAY AWAKE, to not let anyone put those blinders on you. It is about expressing our very being and not being told every second how to feel, what to think, what to do and how to be. Everyone can do this everyone is a creator. Not everyone is an artist, but everyone is a creator.
Coyotel is as much a Human Spirit potential movement as it is an art or anti-dogmatic movement. Many things help keep my vision honed and my integrity alive, by always creating and always engaging and collaborating with others. It keeps the dialogue vital and the creative rituals fluid. Coyotel isn’t about convincing others, it’s about constant creation and a never-ending engagement of the ever elusive discovery of truth. I feel like an explorer and I have the enthusiasm and wonder about the world I had when I was a child. The only difference is that now I am fighting a constant war against those who seek to destroy passion, drive and creativity.
Steve Hapy: I’ve always been drawn to Trickster stories, such as the Coyote stories of various North American Indian tribes. This is where the Coyotel name comes from. Rather than preaching a moral code, they serve to educate us about human psychology through entertainment, and offer warnings about potential consequences.They provoke thought, as opposed to the dogmas of the Abrahamic religions, which were designed for mass mind control and thereby the deadening of the spirit.
In the culture of my Anishinabe ancestry, our cultural hero is also our trickster – Nanaboozhoo. His mother was human and his father is the spirit of the western direction, who was basically a deadbeat dad. Nanaboozhoo has supernatural abilities, such as shape-shifting into various animal, vegetable, or mineral forms, but also inherited the all-too-human traits of being too clever and ego-driven for his own good, but at exaggerated levels. His stories help us see that even the bravest and most noble of humans are still humbled by our humanity.
Anishinabe spiritual teachings and cultural ceremonies are also deeply tied to Nanaboozhoo. I didn’t grow up hearing these stories, and only began hearing of them in my early 20s, but when I did my sense of alienation I’d carried through my life until then was lifted. I’d finally re-connected and it made sense. Whether it was Christian doctrine or the materialism of western science that was born out of the Christian hatred of the living world, I was always told that I was crazy for feeling any connection with or respect for non-human lifeforms and elements.
My artistic drive, political activism, spiritual life, and overall world-view all began to flourish through this re-connection. I started to feel a drive to utilize my artwork as part of this personal war against the spirit-killing anti-life forces of the western society. Eventually I discovered the artwork and performances of Leyba, and felt transfixed by it, because I could see that war happening through him, and he had already asserted himself powerfully in that direction. With us both being on the same basic page, Coyotel seemed to naturally spring to life and evolve along with the efforts of our many other participants.
AA: Were you artistically trained(classes, college, art school) or was the raw urge to create always there and you simply made a way despite inexperience?
SJL: Yes. When I was in High School in Arkansas, my senior year in 1985 I got a scholarship to Memphis College of Art, but wanted to get out of the south. So my father, Crazy Bennie, paid for me to go to this small mom and pop commercial art school in Central Point Oregon called “Pacific College of Art.” There my work and how I dressed almost got me expelled. I learned techniques and more discipline.
I had a teacher named Hal Maddox who taught me what art actually was and opened the doors that never closed after that. He said, “It takes two artists to do a work of art. One to do the work and another to hit the other over the head when it is finished.” The school was in a small hick Oregon town. Hal took me to see someone he said was a “real artist.” I think his name was “Otto” and this guy was a recluse who painted thousands of boats in an expressionist style of his own. He was the first driven artist I ever met. It was then I knew what Mr. Maddox meant by real art. He taught me more than any technique any other teacher ever taught me in that school. After 2 years, Hal encouraged me to go to a better school.
I moved back to California and went to C.C.A.C. California College of Arts and Crafts, which is C.C.A. now. I was an illustration major but the school was a fine art school. It was fun, but skill was not encouraged and figurative art was not respected. One teacher had me draw with my feet. I wanted to learn the human form and to express ideas and was not into “art for art’s sake” which was the mantra then. I then transferred to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, a commercial school. By the first mid-semester review, my work was a bit of a contention and the reviewers said “your ability is there but your taste is not” and “You don’t have to be so blatant, you can show horror without showing blood and violence.” I wanted to depict harsh realities, not be the N.C. Wyeth of horror illustration. They tried to knock down this nail but could not.
My saving grace was getting the teacher Barron Storey one of the most incredible artists and thinkers I have ever met. He is famous not only for his teaching and works but for having famous students. He has influenced many greats, including Dave McKean of Sandman graphic novel fame. Keep in mind I left CCAC, a fine art school where skill was looked down on, to go to a commercial school where skill was stressed but individual thoughts and expression were not always embraced. Barron was the free radical that I needed to continue my schooling. Barron thinks and draws and paints as good as any master and he encouraged radical thinking and taught experimental illustration. It was there he showed me the lost and found technique of layering drawings and xeroxes and painting over to obliterate then pulling out the images. So I developed my technique from his and had it pretty much mastered before I left the Academy for the real world of New York City, where I forged out an illustration career. I was working for Marvel and doing editorial illustrations for The Advocate, High Society, as well as erotic illustrations for the porn magazines like Leg Show, Honcho and Big Butt. Partially because of Barron who was also famous for his journal sketchbooks I started making books.
My first book was My Stinking Ass and before I left California, there was the big controversy over photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and his extremely explicit sexual works, which included anal fisting. Everyone, especially those who didn’t see the work, were outraged and screaming “what if the children see this?” All over the news in 1989 was the National Endowment for the Arts, obscenity and abuse, as well as some taking issue with many of the artists getting grants. Politicians and Christians were pretty pissed off. I was excited that finally human sexuality was being taken back from the corporate advertisers, religious fascists, political opportunists and banal pornographers. It was a very exciting and charged time for me. I was painting my ass fetish work on my time and illustrating Clive Barker commercially.
I was in my early twenties and had a successful illustration career. The irony being I was one of the only illustrators from the Academy of Art that not only had a career as an illustrator straight out of art school, but a working illustrator in New York City. I continued to do my handmade books in New York and was getting more work showing them to art directors than my portfolio. My second book was SEX & VIOLENCE. The sex art scandals of the 80’s bled into the 90’s and I had all sorts of inspiration. Including my uncle Joe, who was Brooke Shields number one fan and he had several copies of everything she was ever in…he did these huge collages. My books became my critique on lame puritan modern American body paranoia as well as an exploration of my own sexuality and my own view on politics. I am working on my 15th hand made book now WE ARE ALL INDIANS NOW the last book was WAR RAW TRUTH and before that one was MONSANTO my death curse on the Monsanto Corporation. My books are most certainly autobiographical and part of my sexuality. I call myself an “Art-a -sexual” but most of all my books are my education. They are life and art learned as I am living it.
SH: The urge to create has always been there with me. I remember being in pre-school and excitedly discovering that I could draw on the wall with my painted blocks. Later as a child, I would draw and collage scenes of Halloween themes, like haunted houses and graveyards and I would keep taping the pages together until it was one, long Halloween-world landscape. In elementary school, I gravitated toward being friends with other kids who were into drawing, and we mostly focused on battle scenes of World War II, Star Wars, and the Starblazers series. I also recall hand-drawing and stapling together comic books, and one was of an apocalyptic war involving an alien invasion, where even the villains of the Earth such as King Kong and the misunderstood Spider-man joined forces to stave off collective doom.
I continued to mainly draw until I entered college. As a result of taking art courses, I discovered my love for painting, mainly in oil and acrylic. It was also at this time that I began learning more about Native American history, the more modern day political struggles of Native peoples throughout the US, and the cultural/spiritual traditions of my own Anishinabe ancestry. This increasingly became the focus of my artwork. I don’t have an art degree and didn’t go to art school, but since I had many college level art courses, I cant really say I’m “self-taught”. I’ve also learned quite a few techniques from interacting with other artists, in particular my Coyotel collaborations with Leyba.
AA: What is one of the biggest uproars or controversies that one of your pieces caused? Have you been banned from galleries? Was there a specific piece or theme that you feel really got under a gallery owner’s skin? Did any resulting controversy destroy the meaning of the piece for you, or negatively shift how you view your own Art?
SJL: My biggest controversy is #10 of the top San Francisco sex scandals of all time over “The Apache Whiskey Rite” In 1997, for a political and sexual performance I did at the political consultant Jack Davis’ 50th Birthday party. This was front page New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, London Times. I also read from the Declaration of Independence and cursed the politicians, the sheriff, the DA and of course the 49er football team.
Too much money is given to sports, while creative programs are cut or eliminated. We are living in a time where personal expression is not encouraged. Instead it is laughed at, mocked and suppressed. Rather than dwelling on the shock of me being sodomized during a political performance with a strap on Jack Daniel’s bottle, some took a more violent affront to my work. I had 2 attempts on my life because of that act, right on the streets of San Francisco. One sports fan was reaching for a bat out of his duffel bag to fuck me and I convinced him I wasn’t “that guy.” Another in a van tried to run me over at a cross walk. Keep in mind I was using the tools I was taught in a shock culture. “Shock and Awe” is a well used military term, as well as modern media term. Why shouldn’t every artist use every tool? The only difference is I want to use it to wake people up and the system wants to use it to keep them asleep. I was beaming the news back at the media makers and holding the mirror up. Many of my so-called controversies are over art that directly forces dialogue about things that matter.
I get banned or “canceled” from exhibits all the time. Thousands of pieces. It’s very hard to keep track. I see it as not only a personal attack, but as a mark against freedom of expression of which they say we have. Making concessions is not only a slippery slope, but impossible. Once I intentionally did a piece for a show at the Korean Embassy in New York City, “War Crimes and Women” and I did a piece about both Wounded Knee massacres. “Wounded Knee” had no sexual images and no intentionally provocative symbols other than two upside down United States flags. It was to honor the American Indian people murdered in 1890 by the U.S. Army and to honor the warriors that stood up to the government in 1972. I did this piece without graphic images and it hung for a month in the embassy in 1992. Yet when I showed it at a Native American exhibit at the Kimo theater in Albuquerque New Mexico in 1997 (three months before the Apache Whiskey Rite controversy) it became a huge scandal. The AP ran articles all over the US and the Albuquerque journal made it a front page story.
What happened is that Mayor Chavez of Albuquerque thought veterans would be “offended” by my flag painting. Several ironies took place. One was that it was a painting to honor American Indian warrior Vets. Many of the people at Wounded Knee siege in 1972 were veterans of Vietnam. Second, I was asked to remove the painting from by the theater curator, as it was a “city owned gallery/theater and not a privately owned one.” I then said, “If I was to take it down, I will mention Kimo theater every time I am asked about censorship.” The curator’s solution was to imprison the painting with a wall in front of it, so people going to the bathroom wouldn’t have to see it. When all the news crews showed up, and after the Feds had someone photograph everyone coming in and out of the theater, I posed in handcuffs in front of the huge 9ft x 14ft’ canvas. I told them “This isn’t about me, it’s about my brothers and sisters who are in prisons”. The exhibit was part of a fundraiser for Native American prisoners’ spiritual rights. I provoke and I seek attention like any artist, celebrity, or politician, the only difference is that I don’t need your money or your vote. I only want to have a dialogue in public about things that I think matter.
That was the 90’s. Today, censorship is more insidious and sneaky. The censors do all they can to avoid the term “CENSORSHIP”. Recently, a Coyotel book, which was a compilation from artists, musicians and scientist Howard Bloom, called The Trickster’s Koran was censored by Lulu online self-publishing and is a anti-censorship book. The Trickster’s Koran is a fierce declaration of creativity and an action against a world of fascist trends, censorship, and oppression. It picks up where The Trickster’s Bible left off, revealing a “Third Way” where people can be empowered to be creative agents in their own lives. This volume reflects our ability to turn convention upside down to reveal how ridiculous all cultures are, so that we never forget our instincts and never become slaves to dead ideas and beliefs used as modern control systems. You are the creator, so create! Rather than have our hopes, dreams, sexuality and imaginations sold back to us by corporate culture, celebrity culture, the church, or the state, it shows us “to create is spiritual”. To create is part of the “human spirit”. A book of Art and Life in action, suitable for anyone interested in applied survival and creativity in an uncertain 21st Century. A never-ending book in it’s third incarnation with new insights and elaborations of The Coyotel Way and The Trickster’s Bible.
Lulu.com first sent me an e-mail saying said that I had removed the book and that if I went to the link I could “re-activate it” I went there to see what happened and it was gone. Removed, deleted, banned, censored and ERASED. I sent an e-mail and they responded with “somebody complained” and that is the world we live in globally. If someone “complains” they will be erased and removed. To top it off they said, “We are not making a judgment.” Apparently, completely wiping out a book and it’s ISBN number is not making a judgment! That is the face of the Transnational corporate fascism the whole world is dealing with at the moment. I am speaking with lawyers now, but have no idea what will happen.
At the same time, I am dealing with “complaints” and censorship at home. I live in an artist building in Everett, Washington, ArtSpace Everett lofts. Two of my canvases, “Alchemical Transsexual”, have been on display in the main entrance of the building. This area is for artists in the building to display whatever they choose. It is a non-curated free exhibition space. Well, several mothers complained because they didn’t want their children to see the naked bodies I had painted, so they “complained” to the management. Rules in the building are there must be five written complaints with the name of the complainer on it before the work goes down. No one has filled out a form. One mom started to, but didn’t want the label of “censor”, so she tore up the official complaint. She was having a birthday party for her daughters and didn’t want to have discussions about my art with other parents. She had two people cover the “nasty bits” (the genitalia) with the balloons. When I went down to film the balloons in front of my paintings one of the balloon art cops said, “I’m not playing that game.”
So now there is gossip behind my back in my building, but the positive side is the work is not coming down til the show is over, and people in the building are discussing it, and the nature of art and censorship in general. A dialogue is happening in the building that wouldn’t have otherwise. However, in this time we live in, people think they can censor a person’s art and do it in a way that is not censorship. To me, that is not only wrong but corrupt. What is the difference between maple leaves over genitals and balloons? It’s sad when an artist censors another person’s art then says, “I am against censorship.” It is insane when someone can make a book and it’s ISBN number disappear without a trace. It makes book burnings seem like a joke. The Trickster’s Koran had been on the print to order site for over a year, and last year it was accepted by the Library of Congress. People have been trying to disappear my art all my life. This is part of my life and part of being a warrior. I don’t do this for mere attention. I feel we have to move past censorship to evolve. All censorship is against all life. Many people believe that the social contract in society is that we have to believe the collective lies or it will all fall apart. I feel if that is the case, then it should all fall apart. Viva La Evolution!
SH: At this point, I would say it would be the corporate censorship of The Trickster’s Koran, which I contributed to. I still have no idea what exactly caused the company to delete the book and stop publishing it, but something about it was apparently that upsetting to them. I think it’s interesting, and perhaps telling, that the company never gave any specific examples of offensive material.
Aside from that, I think it’s funny that with all the upside down US flags I’ve painted and all my public tirades about western civilization, the one piece I’ve had controversy over was a painting of a megis (cowry) shell with two hands raised up to it. I was asked if the painting could be used as a t-shirt image for an indigenous women’s film festival. Before production, someone became outraged that the hand images would be located near the chest of the wearer. That’s what I was told. Seriously. What I would consider to be one of my most innocuous pieces was refused because someone felt it alluded to hands touching breasts. The hands would likely not have been printed in full size or covering the breast area. What was even more amusing to me was that the original painting was done in honor of Anishinabe women. I used the colors ceremonially associated with women, and one of the teachings about the megis shell given to me by a woman elder is that, among many other things, the form of the megis is representative of female vulva. The form is also representative of the eyes, mouth, and other body parts that are no more or less sacred. There is an honoring of sexual function as part of life, so it’s nothing to be all obsessed and freaked out about. I still find that incident confounding and something interesting to think about.
AA: Is there a set palette or texture that you work with, or theme that continues to make an appearance in your work? Do you use any system of correspondences or ceremonial materials?
SJL: The only set palette I use is blood. Usually my blood over the acrylic after the initial collage. The texture I use on all PAINings (I call them “PAINings” not just because of pain from blood loss but the deep emotions and pain I feel while creating the pieces) is clear gel over the initial collage. The collage is my under-painting and the gel gets rid of the collage edges. I trowel the clear acrylic with a ruler sporadically so I get a random texture. It is not unlike cement troweling, only I make it erratic so there is random texture that I later highlight. My work is neither simply “collage” nor is it merely “painting” it is neither painting or collage, yet it’s both. I have taken influence from many schools of magic. Shamanism, O.T.O, LaVey, Peter Carrol, Austin Osmand Spare, Genesis P-Orridge and so much more. I am a self styled in the black arts. I do sigil magic in the way Spare and Genesis do it.
My works of art are all Workings. There is lots of sex magic in my Sexpressionist paintings. My Sexgoblin series is one I have been doing for over 16 years. They are round portraits on canvas. Oil over acrylic with lace, blood and often times glass beads. I use the image of the model, as well as close ups of their genitalia at different angles. My intent is to use their sex energy and mine in the workings and almost always there are an abundance of sigils. I realize your average person thinks this is shocking, even those with porn addictions. There is nothing shocking, shameful or wrong with the human anatomy. Genitals are part of our bodies. Get over it and get used to it! I see this as an intimacy, actually. The model is willing to give, in exchange for a contemporary and honest portrait.
See, the history of portrait art is mostly a lie. A history of artists conspiring with the models to depict in a false way some ideal beauty. I am not interested in that. I am interested in the totality of that person. I do not take art direction. If someone comes to me to have their Sexgoblin made, they must trust me. You can see the whole process in the interaction. The taking of the intimate photos for the piece, my tearing their bodies in the creation, blacking out their eyes, all of that is part of the sex magic. My 2nd series of “POORtraits” (this term came from Genisis P-Orridge and I took it literally, as I tend to paint the traits that most would want to hide) became “Alchemical POORtraits”. They are usually head and shoulders and start with the model’s picture in black and white, then I paint the color in. I also use blood sometimes, or their hair. Sometimes I use my hair as well. I also use many ancient alchemical symbols, including the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. It is the diagram of the lower being reaching for the higher. Basically, I am painting my subjects as the gods they are or are becoming.
SH: I’ve mostly been working with acrylics on canvas, but recently Ive been using more collage and image transfers. I used to paint in oil, but stopped because of the fumes from the associated chemicals. I sometimes use spray paint, though. As far as imagery goes, I often use iconic symbols from Anishinabe culture that either come from stories or my personal spiritual life. Often those overlap. Ive become more involved in using these images in conjunction with those of modern industrial catastrophe, to reflect the persistence of life and spirit in the face of western death-culture.
AA: How has your art shifted since COYOTEL started? How has it digressed, evolved, and maintained a direction through traumatic life events? What made you feel the need to do a third cycle of COYOTEL and not scrap it? Has it evolved for you beyond a book and painting? How does this fit within the philosophy of the Coyotel Church?
SJL: Coyotel is Coyote with an “L.” I realize that many people are symbol illiterate, though they are bombarded by symbols 24-7. Coyote is a Trickster figure in North American Indian stories. I wanted a modern word that would describe Coyote in action. I wanted the symbol, the archetype and the metaphors of those ancient trickster stories to resonate with individuals and be applied in their lives. A reclamation of what has been used against the human race for generations by governments, advertisers, psychiatrists, public relations “experts” and other systems of control.
My vision was and still is to reclaim what is rightfully ours. We want to do what Coyote has done in stories, not unlike Prometheus to take the fire and knowledge away from the fascists and give it to the people. You see, my vision is not dogma. It’s invoking vision and the instinctual powers we all have. We created our own epic, our own story, with the writing of Seven Ways of the Coyote. I am proud at the influence it has had and it has pushed me to remain politically active in the world. Also, it encouraged me to go after the big topics, like combating the Monsanto Corporation and their genetic manipulations of our food source with art, as well as with performances with USAF. USAF is my old band, the United Satanic Apache Front. You can hear our Death Curse on Monsanto, anti-GMO music and rants here.
We are also tackling terrorism, eco-terrorism, green speak and other global politics with Composer Marly Preston as PROJECT #9. You can hear our debut album in it’s entirety, along with Marly’s other project GQ Automatic here.
Coyotel has given context to make all the modes of creation manifest. I have created my own culture. I have also created a platform for others that I feel have something important to say. Creators I feel need to be heard. We need to hear from people that engage us with issues that matter. I refuse to live in a world of only Madonna, Spielberg, Lady Gaga, Obama and the United Nations. In my first movie “What Is Art?” I asked 84 artists what is art and what is TRUE ART. I have received many threats because of this. Some compare me to Hitler for suggesting there are things that TRUE ART has that other works of art do not have.
I made a TRUE ART LIST. I wanted artists to speak of why they are passionate and what they think is real art. There is a huge world taboo with that because “everybody is an artist” right? Wrong! Not everybody is an artist, but everybody should create. You can watch the entire film for free here
Coyotel is a word in usage amongst some groups, just as in some art schools the term “Leybaesque” is used. As I said earlier, cultural influence is an achievement that I am very proud of. Influence, not dictation of fashions, techniques and dogmas. We were sick of artists writing or having someone write their “Artists Statements” We have brought back the “Artists Manifesto”. Why should creators shut up and beg for any bone thrown our way while governments, politicians and serial killers have their manifestos? Those are some of the ways it has evolved and I am proud Coyotel has not been assimilated into obnoxious main stream culture like Satanism has. Coyotel is still vital. You can see it has become it’s own culture and what we call “Coyotel Cultural Corrections” which are certain creations designed to criticize and mock certain aspects of banal, mainstream culture.
The Coyotel Church is the first church of Creation. You are the creator! You must create your way. It is the great No Path. We see creating as a spiritual act. The act of creating is intensely spiritual. Anyone who creates anything at all knows this. It isn’t discussed so it’s not intellectually known by many. Emotionally we know when art is being created, even if we forget after it has been created. Some have called it the “First Church of Art” and in some ways it is…yet actually it isn’t because the act of creating is what we are about. In that way it is not like a traditional new religion or movement because we don’t have rules or dogma. We have rituals that have been done and are documented, but those are from members. One must create their own rituals. CREATE is the basis of our Church. We are not going to tell you what to do, but you better do it!
To me, the most traumatic thing was how the first wave of Coyotel ended. It ended with two members walking away after realizing how much work and attention the Coyotel Church was getting and after our publications started selling. Unfortunately, they had to end with drama. They could have politely walked but because Coyotel was bigger than all of us. They just could not take the burden. When you become a symbol, you become a thing and that is what they felt they had become. I feel global society makes us all a thing. I say be the thing they cannot contain and control.
We were running Coyotel Press, but we had to dissolve that because it was a legal publishing company owned by myself and two members. I am writing about this fallout in my next memoir WE ARE ALL INDIANS NOW. Most of what I write in it will appear in my hand made book of the same title. Magus Steve Hapy and I decided not to scrap it. We have our publications on print to order so that we can get back to creation, as that is our driving philosophy. We felt our work should speak for itself. When Coyotel Press dissolved, one partner wanted to kill all the books, even The Trickster’s Bible. I said I would not let that happen. It will now go to court, because Coyotel is bigger than you or me. Coyotel means a lot to many people…it has a life of it’s own now. The third cycle of Coyotel manifested with powerhouse Adam Cooper-Terán, who quickly blew our minds. He became my best friend and co-collaborator. My second movie was done with him. We take on not only art destroyers but the Monsanto corporation. This film is already showing at film festivals. It was Magus Adam and Magus Jeanelle Mastema who helped Hapy and I bring it to the next level. The next Coyotel generation has made the Third Coyotel Cycle a reality.
SH: The Coyotel Church is a spiritually driven art movement that doesn’t accept followers. I think the genie is out of the bottle now and there is no turning back. Even if we all consciously declared Coyotel to be over for whatever reason, it would continue regardless because it’s so ingrained in our being. It will continue evolving. Those of us who have been involved with the Coyotel Church have been through some very traumatic periods with the loss of family, friends, and relationships. We’ve worked through those moments collectively and individually via Coyotel projects. The horrific loss of one of our most amazing friends, Hollie Stevens, was one of those times. I’ve lost count of the number of memorial pieces we’ve done collectively and who was specifically involved to what degree on each of them, but expressing our grief through honoring her in our work just felt like the natural response. It’s difficult to gauge how much this helped us through the grief process, but it felt natural and necessary. I think that sums up a lot of what the Coyotel Church is about: artistic action driven by what feels natural and necessary.