Early one brisk morning while sipping tea in the California sun gazing at the beautiful golden landscape that lay before me, I noticed tiny sparkles dancing about in my peripheral vision. Turning my head towards that flitting light revealed the source as a dewy spider web sparkling in the sunlight. Looking closely, I saw that at each web intersection sat a jewel-like water drop reflecting the environment and all the other “jewel” droplets within itself.
I was captivated momentarily; my mind was blown by this vision of infinite interconnectedness. An understanding that all beings and things are connected came over me, and a knowing that often things are more connected than we realize.
Shortly after this enlightenment I became aware of the ancient Buddhist creation metaphor, “Indra’s Web” (also known as “Indra’s Jewels” or “Indra’s Pearls”) as described by this quote by Sir Charles Elliot:
“In the Heaven of Indra*, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact IS everything else.”
Historical hand-made decorative arts and contemporary inspirations experienced from living many a place as an Artist in Residence over the past several years in Philadelphia, California, China, and Ohio weave themselves together with Indra’s net in this multi-media installation titled “Interwebbing”.
My never ending drive to combine many media including ceramics, fabric, pattern, print, vibrant color, and reflective surfaces together into dynamic installations of still life arrangements that harmoniously reflect further highlights the inter-relatedness of all dimensions and things. Such combinations visually and energetically speak about growth, nature, place, metaphysics/alchemy, compassion, and issues of being a human(itarian) in these twilight zone times of our lives.
Vinyl stickers of hearts, faceted gemstones, waterdrops, flourishes, butterflies, and hand mudra symbols decorate mirrors and large format digital prints of California landscapes, objects found in studio settings, and porcelain flowers made during my Blanc de Chine Artist Residency in Dehua, Fujian Provence, China (the tea growing region at the beginning of the Silk Road where the purest porcelain clay is found and where the renown monk Bodhidharma introduced Buddhism to China). Photographic images of places and pieces from past experiences are brought into the present space/time to be reflected on physically and mentally.
In February 2020 the first pieces (large pastel drawings on newsprint) for “Interwebbing” were drawn in my live/meditate/make space on the second floor directly above the large Buddha sculpture in the Zendo below in Cloud Hall at Green Gulch Zen Center, Green Dragon Temple in Northern California where I was a resident pursuing the next level of my formal spiritual practice (before the pandemic sent me back to my native land of Ohio). This is a truly special and uniquely energetic place located in a national park and Muir Beach where people from all over the world visit and meditate together.
While back in Ohio I spent the pandemic time sewing pieces of fabric together creating a large patchwork quilt and working on bringing all individual parts of “Interwebbing” to realization in tandem with the continuation my formal Zen meditation practice and dharma studies with TreeLeaf Zendo in Japan via daily Zoom sessions.
The Akron Soul Train Artist Residency has allowed me to focus and finish the works as well as produce a complementary large format digital print series of my patchwork textile pieces with remarkable results that opened a new pathway for presenting my photographic imagery. For that I am extremely thankful.
*In Hinduism Indra is celebrated as the deity that rules the heavens in the sky and rain. He is known for destroying the symbolic evil that obstructs human prosperity and happiness by bringing cleansing rains and sunshine.
Pieces with in the Installation:
Jewels of Perfect Wisdom Quilt:
This patchworked panel is two separate quilt patterns spliced together to create the visual representation of the OM sound. One quilt pattern is the “crazy quilt” pattern popular in the late 1800’s to turn of the century and was usually composed of small pieces of fabric from clothing & bedding saved for long periods of time. Many fabrics have personal significance and meaning. The other pattern is “Bargello”, meaning flame in Italian which produces a beautiful moving pattern.
Centering piece- Arrangement of Porcelain Flowers:
As a meditation practitioner for about 15 years and formal Zen student for the past 5 years the idea of making a centerpiece of pure white porcelain flowers that mimic nature and inspired by Ikebana is very appealing. In China when visiting the museums of ceramic art and technique, I saw literally all the visitors stop to marvel at and take photographs with the large vases of porcelain flowers on display. I too took pics and printed them to hang on my wall, the printed flower images became mandalas.
Gem stoned Paintings:
These images sprung out of visions had during mediations of fantastic, otherworldly landscapes blooming with flowers and floating abstract shapes of pattern, color, and sparkle. The paintings were made in the same manner that I create ceramic pieces and strive to achieve similar effects.
Works on Paper: Pastel and Cut Paper Drawings:
These drawings are of large portrait heads found on Tibetan Tanka deities; goddesses of green, red, blue, and white dripping necklaces composed of skulls and heads (as in the goddess Kali).
Large format Digital Prints:
Images taken during my travels and Artist Residencies over the past 5 years collaged on the gallery walls with mirrors and a select vocabulary of vinyl sticker designs related to the concept of the installation.
One series of large format prints originated from a high resolution direct scan of a 10” x 12” section of a patchwork textile panel incrementally blown up and digitized.