Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Beautiful Bodies: Mermaids

I've always loved mermaids.  I associate them with a desire to surrender to the ocean of life and as reminders that we have the power to dive deep and communicate with the undercurrents of the psyche and bring the wisdom gained back to the surface of our awareness.

A great book about Mami Wata is this one titled Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and its Diasporas by Henry John Drewal

While I was in grad school in California I took a drive down to Stanford to see an exhibit about Mami Wata, a water spirit popular in African diasporas spiritualities who is portrayed as a mermaid.   The exhibit contained traditional and modern artistic offerings about her and the culture around her worship.  The exhibit had a variety of artwork including video installations, dedicated altars, abstract sculptural pieces and woven banners.  It was very beautiful and stirring and helped me to appreciate how intimately the mermaid can touch people's hearts.

One of the first larger designs I made when beginning my Beautiful Bodies series was a mermaid. Over the years Ive painted this design over and over and eventually worked out three different mermaid poses I liked working with.  I've even done a few versions of a larger banner painting with all three floating together surrounded by little fishy friends.

Here is a photo history of my mermaid skeleton paintings:

This is my first mermaid painting

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holistic Health Spotlight: New Orleans 2015 Dream Caravan

One of the beautiful gifts of art is that it gives us a platform to express our dreams.  I believe that we are all striving to return to a state of love.  The dream realm is one place you can go to for guidance on how to navigate between the hearts true home and the practical reality of our mundane lives.  Dreams help us to see our natural power which frees up our expressive ability in life.

This past weekend I was lucky to volunteer at the New Orleans Dream Caravan, a convention of dream workers, healers, spiritual artists and dreamers of all sorts.  I went to informative panels and lectures, touched all the sparkly things on the vendor tables and enjoyed the chill and grounding vibe of the event.  I even got to see a bit of Monica McIntyre strumming dreamily on her cello.

One of the talks I went to was called “The Dream and Kabbalah”.  The speaker, Rodger Kamentez, talked of the how Kabbalah, a branch of Jewish mysticism, teaches a vision of the universe as an ongoing creative process that encompasses everything that lives and dies.  The Torah, one of the main books of the Kabbalah belief system, says that the universe was created specifically in a way to revel the heart of wisdom.

In Kabbalah the dream space is navigated through the three dimensions of space, time and soul.  Mr Kamentez shared that dreams give us an image of where our soul is and how it is feeling.  Dreaming, he said, is a place where we get to participate in creation as this space encourages us to grow and evolve our earthly relationship with our soul.  I walked away from this talk with an greater understanding of how dreams teach us to live with awareness.

Another panel I attended was called the “Environmental Imagination of New Orleans” which involved some architects and city planners, a fantasy fiction writer and an activist. The conversation was complex and challenging as New Orleans often has dream-like delusions of the reality of living within its ever-threatened water management infrastructure.  My biggest take away from this talk is that the people dreaming up New Orleans future are privileged and not considerate of the minority population which builds and maintains the “dream of New Orleans culture”.  Land is a scarce and disappearing commodity and if we want to ensure an environment where everyone can dream of the future we need a balanced economic reality.

As I walked towards home and away from this day of communal communion with the art of dreaming I felt peaceful and happy.  I had a satchel of herbs with which to make a tea to stimulate lucid dreaming from the Wild Seed Collective, who also had a lovely selection of poetry zines and art altars.  I enjoyed getting to mingle with the people from the New Orleans School for Esoteric Arts and almost got a tiny book of shadows from Fleur de Libris Books.  I passed on getting an aura photo and joining in on the tea ceremony in the back yard but I enjoyed the playful mystical ambiance they added to the event.

Much gratitude for Kezia Vida and all who helped put on this great event.  Im excited to  dream of what next years caravan will unveil…

I got this lovely necklace which had a quartz crystal and a living terrarium!!
I have to feed it water every few weeks.  It makes me feel sooo magical.

Artistic Inspiration: Seldnec Ossuary

"Bodies always speak to us in the language of love." - Robin Rose Bennett, The Gift of Herbal Medicine

I haven't yet written on this blog about why I chose to create paintings of skeletons with hearts.  When I decided to start selling art on a fence in the french quarter of Nola I was also taking an anatomy class as part of the process of getting my massage license transferred to Louisiana.  Drawing helps me to learn so I started making these little skeleton paintings to reinforce my studying.

"Falling In Love" is the design I used on my first Beautiful Bodies painting
One artistic inspiration for my love of skeletons in art came when I was 20 years old and got to visit Prague.  My mom’s people come from the Czech Republic, outside of Prague in the Bohemian region of the country, and this caused me to really appreciate having been able to experience something of this area of the world first hand.  The friend I was traveling with and I took a day trip too see the Seldnec ossuary which is a small church covered in decorative things made out of bones. 

A photo I took at the Seldnec Ossuary from the year 2000 

p. 119, Seldnec Ossuary, The Empire of Death

p. 123, Seldnec Ossuary, The Empire of Death

 In old graveyards people would rent a temporary internment space and after a certain numbers of years their remains would be moved into the ossuary and sometimes the monks would make sculptural things out of the bones.  I was so intrigued and inspired by the boldness of using actual bits of people artistically and the stunning geometry of what emerged from these macabre crafting projects. 

Sites of other ossuaries from the inside cover of The Empire of Death

Sites of other ossuaries from the back cover of The Empire of Death
There are churches like this all over the world.  Unsurprisingly they were often built on top of sacred sites where people would go to commune with their ancestors.   In The Empire of Death Paul Koudounaris says that ”In western culture, the line separating the living and the dead underwent a fundamental shift during the Enlightenment.  The triumph of modern concepts of individualism and the exaltation of private ownership over older concepts of corporateness and community further changed our attitudes toward death.  As Baudrillard explained, we have undergone an evolution in which, "little by little, the dead cease to exist."" p. 13  

The Empire of Death by Paul Koudounaris, 2011
Creating skeleton art feels like a way to continue a connection to my genetic and spiritual ancestors.  The skeleton design that I use was something I starting painting during my MFA program at CIIS.  While I was working on my Rivers series I did a large painting of a cave with an underground river.  I wanted it to represent the metaphorical river Styx, which the dead pass over in greek mythology, so I added a little skeleton standing in a boat rowing to the opposite shore.

River Styx, acrylic on raw canvas, 7.5' x 4', 2011
At the time when I was deciding what to make to sell in the French Quarter I knew wanted to offer art which had a healing aura and inspired empathy.  The combination of a little skeleton with her heart seemed to be the perfect vehicle for this exploration.  When I used to sit on Pirates Alley, which runs along the side of St. Louis Cathedral, I would imagine my display of Beautiful Bodies to be an echo of that ossuary I had once visited.

p. 118, Seldnec Ossuary, The Empire of Death
I called the series Beautiful Bodies because I wanted to affirm that beauty is bone deep and is something we carry within us always.  I began with a few simple gestures and over the next year or so developed around 20 iconic images.  During the last year I have been attempting to broaden the landscape each character lives in by giving them a larger canvas size with backgrounds of bright color washes and nature scenes.

Here are a selection of some of my Beautiful Bodies paintings:

My first version of Cosmic Meditation

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beautiful Bodes: See With Your Heart

Since I decided to only share one post about my Goddess Abstraction project that opened up space for another topic in my blogging practice.  Ive decided to write a monthly overview of the different themes that have come up in my Beautiful Bodies series.  I have been doing them for three years now and its been interesting to see how my designs and themes have grown and changed.

I figured I would start off with a post about the piece I often call my thesis:  See With Your Heart.  I feel like a metaphor for my work as a street artist is to be someone who hands out hearts to the world.  This piece most embodies this impulse.

If there is anything I actively want people to get out of my work it is to remember that their heart is there and that it has a special way of seeing the world.  The idea of seeing with your heart to me champions empathy, compassion and listening to those around us.  Its not something that gets enough attention in modern mainstream culture and the healer in me wants to shout this from the mountaintop.  Instead I paint it.  Over and over again.  I sell it, say thank you and paint another one.  And it feels real good each time.

In case you need it today, here is your reminder see with your the form of a journey through my photographic history of some of my paintings featuring "See With Your Heart".

The first one I ever painted.  It lives on the wall in my studio.  2012
This is the second version I painted.  2012 
I used it in one of the sigs I made for my display.  2012
A version with a third eye....maybe See With Your Inner Heart. 2013



One day a lady asked me to draw something on her purse. 2014

See with your fluer-de-lis. 2014