For many months, in addition to running Hilton | Asmus Contemporary, launching Hilton | Asmus Foto, curating nonstop rock 'n' roll photography exhibitions and designing an online store, I have quietly been working in the wee hours of the night (or morning) on a body of paintings that will be featured in a solo exhibition at Galerie Qu Art the end of October. You would think I had enough to do, but I had been putting off this fine invitation from my gallery in Brussels for the past two years, deferring always to another show or event at The Gallery. My European agent finally called me earlier this year to say, "Arica, you cannot let me down. Europalia Arts Festival will be featuring the country you were born in this year and you must, really, you must prepare an exhibition of paintings for this biennale. Do not let me down!"
I was born in the Year of the Dog which means we are very loyal and are "dogged" in our desires to accomplish and make sure we do NOT let anyone down when we make a promise. Many of you know that I have been known to be a "workaholic." But really, I'm not. I do love to play. I just can't do that until I know I have accomplished whatever goal it is that I have set for myself. Or for others. Which means that sleep deprivation has been big part of this journey to create a body of work that would be worthy of my first solo exhibition on the European continent. And in one of my favorite cities, Brussels.
It took me a while to get my act in gear. There was always another show to curate, another opening reception, another press release to write, another artist to meet with, the gallery website to update, another client to send information to. Always another. I felt guilty if I took any time for my own works because I did not want in any way to conflict or compete with any of the artists we represent. So I would keep my works in the background and begin painting around 9 or 10 at night until one, two, three and last week until five in the morning. I admit, I have been keeping vampire hours. But I look at the bright side, when I go to Brussels for my show the end of this month, I won't have nearly as bad jet lag as I would have if I kept what people would describe as "normal" hours.
It took me a long time to actually write about this experience. But today, my dear friend, Gail Mancuso ( of Chicago Synchronicity fame), offered to photograph the paintings for my exhibition catalog and was extremely patient while I noticed a small spot here and a small spot there that needed a few touch ups with my brush. Seeing her photograph the finished paintings was a giant relief and a confirmation that I finally accomplished my goal.
After my preview reception on Friday, I will not see them in Chicago again. Monday, the works will be off to Brussels. I have never had difficulty parting with my paintings, because it is a beautiful connection with the collector and most often, we become good friends. The people who collect my work are usually people who are looking for a quiet sanctuary in their art. Being an artist has been a rich experience. But now, the paintings will go to a place and a people that I do not know....yet. I wonder how that will feel? I guess I should brush up on my French!
I do believe that it will be a wonderful new adventure because of the gallery representing me. Established in 2001, Qu Art specializes in modern and contemporary sculptures. I will be one of the few painters they represent. Dr. Pick Keobandith, Director of Qu Art in Brussels, has been working in the field of Modern and Contemporary Art for 25 years. She has garnered the support of a network of museums and galleries who have ultimately become partners and friends through joint collaborations. The gallery has offices in Brussels, Paris and Suzhou. Pick is one of the most brilliant gallerists I have ever met with placing her artist's works in museum throughout Europe and China. Since she first saw my work, she has asked me to create a body of work that she can exhibit in her gallery. I am so excited, proud, honored.
This collection was inspired by my ongoing fascination and respect for water and the environment which has been an integral part of my life and work for quite some time. I created a series of paintings infused with recycled plastic water bottles that I actually drank from! As an artist, I feel the need to address issues in the world through my art and writings that will bring attention to and hopefully bring awareness to people who do not know about a particular subject, such as the outrageous problem we have created with the billions of pounds of plastic weighing down our oceans. Plastic does decompose eventually in the oceans, however toxins are released during this decomposition process that kills birds, fish and mammals. When ingested, plastic does not decompose in the bodies of the animals. It has been said that humanity's plastic footprint is more dangerous than it's carbon footprint. Pretty sad that we consider ourselves an evolved nation and are destroying our environment with lack of thought to where our debris is going.
In the last condo building I lived in, the building engineer told me that the same waste management trucks who pick up the regular trash also picked up the recycling trash. He laughed and told me that once we put our recycling bags in the trash room, we relinquished our knowledge of where they end up. And it is not the recycling centers. I, of course, was appalled and decided to do something about it. I searched and searched for a recycling company in Chicago until I found one that actually does recycle plastic. It took quite a bit of sleuthing, I must say. You would think that it would be easy, but it wasn't. I finally found a wonderful Canadian-based company called Antek Madison. And then, a wonderful friend and client surprised me a few weeks ago. I had asked him to recycle my large plastic bags full of plastic water bottles because his company made plastic bottle caps for ketchup. Lots of Fiji and Ice Mountain waters that I had ingested. He took them in the back of his car and a few months later, he brought me a gift of my bottles ground into little pieces. You can see them in the paintings this Friday. Otherwise, you will have to fly to Brussels. :-)
So now, I prepare for the preview of the exhibition in Chicago before they journey to their new home. More to come about this journey in the followings days and weeks.....
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
Orion can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It is the most noticeable of all constellations. The three stars of Orion’s Belt are visible midway between Orion’s two brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel. Once you locate the Belt stars, you can also locate the Orion Nebula, also known as M42, a stellar nursery where new stars are being born. It is a vast region of star formation. Take a look below at the video published in the NY TIMES about the "Birth of A Star."
SCIENCE - OUT THERE Birth of a Star
BY Jason Drakeford, Jonathan Corum and Dennis Overbye | Dec. 18, 2014 | 2:49
In galactic nurseries like the Orion Nebula, clouds of gas and dust mingle, birthing new stars and planetary systems. The ALMA radio telescope made a recent observation of possible planets being born.
We might be stardust, Joni Mitchell sang of Woodstock in 1969, echoing what was already a half-century of hard-headed astronomical truth. But astronomers have struggled to understand just exactly how stardust goes from being cosmic smog, littering the lanes of the galaxy, to planets and people.
Recently, however, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, an international radio telescope in the high desert of Chile, obtained what might be the best picture yet of dust in the act of turning into planets.
It shows a young star named HL Tauri, about 450 light-years from here and thus in the constellation of Taurus. The star is surrounded by a glowing disk of dust and gas about 22 billion miles across — about four times the size of Neptune’s orbit, which bounds the realm of official planets in our own solar system ever since the outlier Pluto was bounced from the fraternity of planets.
Most significant, the disk is scored with dark rings or grooves, like a record or the rings of Saturn.
That, the ALMA astronomers who took the picture say, is most likely the signature of a new planetary system in the making. As clumps of dust accumulate and grow into planets at various distances from the star, they gobble up the dust near them, scouring clear paths around the star and leaving a pattern of bright and dark rings, explained Catherine Vlahakis, an ALMA astronomer.
The ALMA picture represents only the end of the beginning of a long cycle of birth and death for stars and planets.
It begins in galactic nurseries like the Orion nebula, where Christmas-colored clouds of gas and dust mingle primordial elements left over from the Big Bang with the ashes of more recent stars that have died and exploded. Rumbled by explosions and raked by radiation and winds from new stars, the clouds collapse under their own weight.
The result is a cosmic baby boom. Space in Orion is littered with small globs of gas and dust, harboring baby stars and their planets in the making. Stellar tadpoles, if you like, in a cloudy pond.
It can take a million years or so for clouds as massive as the Sun to collapse to the dimensions of a solar system. As they shrink, their centers spin up into swirling maelstroms, protostars surrounded by protoplanetary dust.
If the cloud is big enough, gravity will eventually compress it to the point that it is hot enough to ignite thermonuclear reactions — a star is born and begins to burn its way out of its birth bag.
At the same time, radiation from powerful stars nearby is eating away the cocoon from the outside, setting up a deadly race. Too much radiation from the outside will burn off not only the cocoon but the disk around the new star as well, leaving it naked and alone, without the potential for planets. Luckily that didn’t happen here.
If the disk survives, irregularities in it can grow — first by electrical forces as particles randomly collide and stick, then by gravity as clumps attract one another and sweep their orbits clean like the dark grooves of HL Tauri.
Astronomers estimate that HL Tauri is only a million years old, a blink in the long lifetime of a star. In an email Dr. Vlahakis said that stars this young had not been expected to have planets big enough to gouge grooves in their planetary disks so soon. “This suggests that planet formation might happen faster than previously thought,” she said.
Astronomers have recently estimated that there are at least as many planets in the Milky Way as there are stars. What is happening here has happened billions of times already in the galaxy. The putative planets of HL Tauri have millions or billions of years to make something more of themselves. Life got lucky once in the Milky Way — what are the odds it could happen again?
My introduction to artist Marco Nereo Rotelli began with a poem I wrote on a mirror, the last line of which read, “A dream is a dream, only when unfulfilled.” As the artist in residence at Northwestern University, he was transforming the stone walls of the Charles Deering Library into pages of living poetry. Marco invited me to participate by writing a poem and curating the poets for the installation, the theme of which was, "Saving Trees." The seed of friendship was planted.
The installation at Northwestern was only the prelude to a monumental project Marco was planning that following summer at the Field Museum of Natural History. Once again, he asked me to collaborate and curate a multi-cultural, multi-national group of poets for an ephemeral installation of light and sound. This time, the theme was Dante Alighieri’s INFERNO, from the DIVINA COMMEDIA.
The issues Dante addressed nearly 800 years ago were the same we face today: politics, love, war, and how our choices to live our lives can guide us through and beyond the ninth circle of Hell. Using the various cantos Marco recommended we use as a guide, I realized we had to address the human spirit in such a way that touched upon the psyche, with an alchemy of memory, light, sound, tears and fears in concert with the theme of Inferno.
DIVINA NATURA conveyed the connection between past and present as the poets (we ended up with a collage of Arabic, Greek, French, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and of course, Italian) exhibited the bounty of their life experience and solidarity with one another through Dante’s works. From the most profound love poems, to the poetry of pain, suffering, limbo, and loss, each poet navigated his or her way through Inferno, staying true to Dante’s meaning of the original title, Commedia.
Thomas Haskell Simpson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Italian and actor, introduced the program with a reading from Robert Pinsky’s “ABC,” beginning with the line “Anybody can die, evidently. Few go happily, irradiating joy, love, knowledge.”
Touching upon Canto I, Reginald Gibbons "From a Paper Boat (excerpt)" began with, "Now is a time for endings--of the year, the decade, the century. Now opposites will struggle with more ferocity."
"I don’t even belong in this poem." wrote Chana Zelig, in English and Hebrew, "And yet, I am Beatrice who urges you to journey," as she addressed the limbo of her forbears with Dante's Muses: Beatrice, Santa Lucia and the Virgin Mary from Canto II.
Invoking Dante from Canto XXIV, Syrian-born, Osama Esber, meditated upon civil war ravaging his land, "in a country where Divine Revelations visited in bullets and blades."
Elise Pachen navigated through the tragic love story of Paolo and Francesca in Canto V, "Paolo my love my husband's brother forever bound we circle round."
In her poem, I Ask the Impossible, Ana Castillo wrote, "Love me as you relish your loneliness, the anticipation of your death, mysteries of the flesh, as it tears and mends."
Greek poet, Lia Siomou asked her deceased husband to, "Take me, on the old boat that softly traverses the cool Lake waters to the shore across."
Marco selected Canto XXXIII for me, a dark story about corruption, greed, murder and betrayal, offering a challenge and a gift to explore the inner workings of how the mind can find a way out the prison we create for ourselves. "Reach into the womb of healing waters, and sleep….sleep…Until a pulse returns…And a cry announces life." In the same direction, Giuseppe Conte's poem eloquently sings "Like a comet of ice, the soul revolves on its orbit, returns to the kingdom of the water."
In the end, the poets not only succeeded, but exceeded, the limits imposed upon them by the Divine Nature of Marco Nereo Rotelli’s concept of uniting poetry, music and light onto an architectural wonder overlooking a Great Lake on a stormy night. The evening’s predicted torrential rains subsided just before the poets took the stage, as the images seared their imprint on the museum, a monument inspired by ancient Greek temples, into the annals of Chicago history.
I am indebted to such poetic luminaries as Ana Castillo, Giuseppe Conte, Osama Esber, Reginald Gibbons, Elise Paschen, Lia Siomou, Chana Zelig and former poet laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky. And my deepest gratitude to Thomas Haskell Simpson for his perfect recital of Canto XIII, where Dante explained to the Duke of Verona in Canto XIII that a commedia is a work representing a story with a happy ending.
In a recent interview, Marco eloquently stated, “The mind of every man, every poet, is looking toward heaven.” I can say that working with an artist like Marco Nereo Rotelli might have been a dream, but no longer.
Grazie Mille a Marco Nereo Rotelli!
24 June 2013
FIRE, oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches
On Friday, January 11, Hilton | Asmus Contemporary hosted PART II of BODY & SOUL. More than 300 guests flowed through the gallery viewing my paintings and the bronze and honed metal sculptures by two other Turkish artists, Cetin Ates and Belgin Yucelen, and ethereal jewelry creations by Tammy Kohl, whose thought-provoking works were intermingled with mine.
That evening was a powerful experience for me. A lovely lady, whom I won't name, proceeded to tell me that I had it all wrong with the naming of one of MY paintings. FIRE. She told me I should change the name to "Monet's Waterlilies" or simply "WATERLILIES." "Really," I replied, incredulous that she should see a waterlily in a painting clearly of water with fire. My hero, JMW Turner, painted fire on water with such luminosity that I paled when she told me she didn't see my fire on water. I failed. She doesn't see the flames rising from the water. All she sees is a waterlily in the center of the painting. She said she didn't like my title at all. I told her I would think about it.
Later that week, I thought about it. No one had ever told me that I should change a title of one of my paintings. How could they possibly know what is in my mind and heart when I lovingly apply the first brushstrokes to a canvas. But then again, do I really know? So often, I begin a painting with an idea in mind and later it transforms into something totally unexpected. Maybe I was painting waterlilies subconsciously instead of fire?
WATERLILIES, oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches
The more I thought about, the more I decided to research this spiritually symbolic flower. This is the flower that grows from darkness and mud, reaching towards the light. Once I was visiting an abby in Southern Illinois with my friend, Joe. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon so I decided to sit in the beautiful flower garden with a lily pond. Over the hour I sat there, mesmerized, I watched a waterlily rise from below the surface of the water to a full bloomed flower. It was one of those magical moments of nature, like when you see a video on fast forward.
The more I learned about waterlilies (also known as Lotus Flower) the more I became enthralled by them. Its scientific name is Nymphaea, from the Greek word 'nymph', which according to Greek mythology means a "supernatural feminine being who inhabits water bodies like springs."
This powerful and ancient image symbolizes harmony, spiritual illumination, unlimited potential and rebirth. It is also a symbol of all that is true, good and beautiful, representing good fortune, peace and enlightenment. It has become a symbol for awakening to the spiritual reality of life. As the lotus flower grows from the mud into an object of great beauty, people can also grow and change into something more beautiful, more pure. So the symbol represents the struggle of life at its most basic form, for people who are able to overcome and rise above all challenges.
According to an Indian legend, the waterlily was once a star. It fell from the sky on the water and changed into a flower. WIth my previous show, "WHERE STARS ARE BORN," I thought this legend was apropos.
The more I realized the symbolic meaning of a waterlily, the more I began to see what this very insightful woman saw in my painting. All the elements were there. The water, the light and the pink and golden hues of the flowers. Dark in the bottom, lighter towards the top, illuminated by a flame. The elements of the sun are fire. So maybe I was partially there with my title. I had not realized the true potential of my painting. I only saw what I wanted to see. Isn't that how many of us are? We don't always look at our own lives, our friends, our families, our partners or situations in a whole light. We see only parts. Only when we open our eyes, our hearts and minds, can we truly see what is there.
So thank you, Nancy, for helping me to see my painting in its entirety. Move over, Monet. I have officially changed the title to "WATERLILIES."
BODY & SOUL - Opening reception 12/12/12 at HILTON | ASMUS CONTEMPORARY (in collaboration with Jennifer Norback Fine Art)
WHAT IS SOUL?
Webster's dictionary describes the soul as:
1: the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life
2: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe
3: a person's total self
4 : a person's moral and emotional nature or sense of identity
5: Anima (a current of air, wind, breath, the vital principle, life), sometimes equivalent to animus ("mind"), from Proto-Indo-European *Ane ("to breathe, blow")
6: spiritual or moral force : fervor
7: In theology, the soul is further defined as that part of the individual which partakes of divinity and often is considered to survive the death of the body.
So how does an artist visually define SOUL? That was the challenge when I began the exploration and connections of SOUL, combined with and exclusive of, BODY, for my December exhibition at Hilton | Asmus Contemporary. I have always painted, whether on canvas or in my poetry, an interconnection between the human being and the universe, as in my series, WHERE STARS ARE BORN. That was the beginning of a lifelong search for the origins of life, my own, and in general. So where is the link between the elements that comprise a nebula, those clouds of dust and gases in the galaxies far, far away from our earth AND the human SOUL We know that without the creation and destruction of stars, we would not physically exist. What is the underlying relationship between that realm of spirit and the physical aspects of the world we live in? Can we quantify SOUL?
In many mythological, religious, philosophical, and psychological traditions, SOUL is considered incorporeal (meaning, without a body) and, in many conceptions, the immortal essence of a person, living thing, or object. In ancient Greece, AIR was considered to be incorporeal (movement) as opposed to EARTH (solid). The Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, attributed "soul" (anima) to all organisms but taught that only humans are immortal, as in #6 of the Webster definition above. Other religions teach that all organisms, not only humans, such as animals, plants, rivers, mountains and natural phenomena possess souls. This latter belief is called animism, where there is no separation between the spiritual and physical world. And then there was Carl Jung, who described the anima and animus as elements of the collective unconscious, a psychic awareness that exists by an accumulation of experience by preceding generations.
ONE DAY LIKE RAIN II, 48" x 48"
So what does this all mean to me? Is the soul a manifestation of the essence of life? Does it materialize from the mind process? Or is it a separate "thing" that exists in our bodies that the ancient Egyptian Goddess Ma'at can weigh on her scales of truth and justice when a person dies.
I have always believed in the centers of the body that collect and distribute energy. I believe that we, as physical beings are more than a collection of atoms, molecules and cells. We have a brain that is stimulated by thought. But how is thought actually manifested in our brain? And what about the process of the heart? Many of us "think" with our hearts, or often with our "gut." We have the ability to distill feelings and thoughts through various organs of our bodies. Where and how does that apply to SOUL? Can we differentiate how the ultimate nature of our spirit interrelates with our bodies? These are questions that have perplexed me for years.
When I think of SOUL, I cannot help but think of the word, LOVE. To me, LOVE is the connector of everything, the link to life, so to speak. In my poetry and paintings, each is infused with that recognition, in connection with the earth, the air, the stars and beyond. Perhaps I subscribe to the philosphy of Animism. All aspects of the elements that comprise the universe permeate through my works. As far as I am concerned, searching for Soul is searching for Love. Contrary to popular belief, I believe LOVE is the "grounding" force in life. So many people think of love as a weakness, not a strength, as an ethereal, transient, figment of one's imagination. Very much like SOUL that people think of as an ethereal, elusive, mist of some sort that is separate from the body. I think the chemistry between LOVE and SOUL is unmistakable, interchangeable. If we believe in a faith-based definition of Soul, then Love is inexorably intertwined with that concept and thus, the Body becomes the vessel for the intermingling of these various dimensions of consciousness.
Later, I will delve into the arenas of Quantum Mechanics and String Theory, the belief in other dimensions and parallel universes, but that is Part II of the BODY & SOUL series. For now, I am trying to explore how SOUL manifests through our minds and bodies in relation to the elements, the universe, our emotions, our brains, and in our hearts. Color, form, words and symbols are the only way I can visually express this world of phenomena (from the Greek verb ‘phanein’, to show, shine, appear, to be manifest, or manifest itself.) A human being, seeking to manifest light in a tangible form that speaks to the mind of another human being.
I have always believed that our job in this lifetime is to find joy in every aspect of our lives. When we talk about SOUL, I believe all we need is this fundamental objective: BE LOVE. Once we can actually train ourselves to love everything and everyone, even our enemies :-) we learn that we can transcend our lives to a state of lightness, a feeling of the eternal. When we are in love, we are in life. I truly believe that those who are unable to love, are unable to live a life of satisfaction. So what really is SOUL?
One of my favorite mystic/philosophers of my land, the 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi, put it best:
"All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place I'll be completely sober.
Meanwhile, I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
But who is it now in my ear, who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes?
What is soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home!"
--Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks
from "The Illuminated Rumi"