Monday, November 23, 2009

Ajanta and traveler's edge

When I was in grad school working on my MFA in studio art, I took several Buddhist art history courses. Pictured above is the Ajanta Caves which I studied and have been craving to go to for years. Finally, Ken and I will make this destination. It is about nine hours away from Mumbai by train. The complex is shaped in the form of a giant horseshoe and there are twenty-nine caves to visit. This is a World Heritage Site; a remote destination where monks conducted their practices and it dates back to the second century.

In the Buddhist and Jain temples, you start at one end of the temple and circumambulate to each cell of Buddhist icons or idols. By the time you make the journey around the periphery of the temple to each station, you become immersed with the Buddha mind or in other words you delve into a spirit of meditation and enrapture.

My past travels have afforded me to see great Jain temples most notably up north in the Rajasthan area, in particular the cities of Udaipur and Jaisalmer. The Jains feel that every little particle of life is precious and some wear masks to avoid doing harm to any organisms that they may breathe. Men are known to give up their entire possessions at the end of their life, leave the family (very similar to the life of Buddha) and seek a spiritual life without the worldly pursuits. Their temples are amazing; carved with marble pillars intricately fused with astounding minutiae of Indian daily life.

I remember coming back to Anchorage in 2006 from our first travels to India and it felt so good to sit on a couch! Much of the trip was uncomfortable because of the air and poverty; I hope to shed these preconceptions and immerse into Indian reality. To judge a country on one visit would be unfair; am still drawn to the Hindu mythologies and mystical sages. We depart for Mumabi in less than two weeks and for another time I will be able to experience another part of this subcontinent and drink in the many delights mixed with it's insanities.

Monday, November 16, 2009

divine standards

Above is pictured The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Giovanni Bernini. This image is often featured as an opening introduction to my art course that I teach at UAA. We discuss what we see and we reflect on what is going on. Saint Teresa was a mystic nun who saw visions. An angel is seen plunging her with an arrow, over and over again filling her with the love of God. This sends Saint Teresa in a state of ecstasy; her face almost orgasmic with pleasure and pain. It was completed in 1647-1652 during the start of the Baroque period and it is housed at the Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. This is what high art should be, a transcendence of spirit; a statement that stands on it's own.

What is today's standards? In the Oxford Dictionary, they describe standards as a required or specified level of excellence. I am not sure if the word standard fits into our 21st century; I often deny it and easily cast it out and it has become a warped, manipulated concept.

When I show art images, I identify certain works of art as obtaining an excellence and integrity in craft, a tediousness of detail and execution into the final outcome of a masterpiece that lives throughout time, a creation from the divine.

Students can visually see this work and identify it as something quite unique and special. I present this art work as a recognition of a time that we have lost in our own century - a standard of excellence. It is this level of exquisite fineness that takes us to another level. There is no need for any definition, no explanation required. It exists with an intense aura of power and it is perfect.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

crass America

This past week-end I was sleeping and woke up to an intermittant dog barking. I laid in bed thinking it would go away; perhaps a moose had sauterned by and the dog was agitated or maybe it was outside a little too long waiting to come into the house? The barking went on and on into the early morning. I let it go and dismissed it thinking it was a one time incident. Sunday night, Ken and I both woke up to the same dog barking, not only at 1 a.m., but it continued on throughout the night. It was still barking in the morning but I had to get to class and so I let it go again. I arrived home and the needy animal was still going on. I went out to investigate finding that it was indeed our neighbor's dog. Peeking through the fence I caught sight of the lanky lab named Beau; noticeably upset that someone had forgotten him. I went home and came back leaving a note on their door.

Later on that day, this guy was walking Beau and I rushed out of my home to ask him what was going on with the commotion; only to be answered in a nasty tone of denial - not even an apology or acknowledgement of the reality of the matter. The owners were out of town and it was their son who was taking care of dog. Well, I replied in a huff, angry and uptight tone and told him to take care of his dog; that he was being neglectful and it was cruel behavior leaving the poor animal out all night in the cold temps.

I thought over my behavior, how I had lost my temper and how upset I became. Now I don't hear a peep from the neighbors yard. Yesterday, I became part of crass America.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

on being arbitrary

There are always pluses and minuses to where you live and then there is the gray area, the arbitrariness of life. Driving yesterday on the Glen Highway I wondered why I was here, what was my focus to living in this state. At that moment, the landscape turned into a surreal out of the body experience and I lightly fretted. As an intuitive thinker though, I go by my gut and it has gotten me into trouble several times in the past; have grown wiser because of some impulsive choices but fortunately I have a knack of reinventing myself. I took Alaska and reshaped it into a workable environment and it succeeds to some degree and on the other hand it doesn't. I make quality artworks but my expressions are often too heady, too contemporary and esoteric. On the other hand I have become more socially conscious in the community as an entrepreneur and educator. I have continued to stay here because of my attachment to nature and to my marriage. In some ways, it has given me great insight and perspective not only about the land, but about the nature of people. I miss intense culture of big cities, the banquet variety of choices, but I don't miss the pretentiousness nor the politics. Anchorage has another set of politics, it is transparent and malleable but deep and disarming too; it surprises me and catches me off guard. It works for now and perhaps that is the present.