Mediterranean meal for Ani Afshar closing luncheon
On May 25th, Ani Afshar's marvelous exhibition at Hilton | Asmus Contemporary came to a close. We celebrated the closing with a gourmet feast of Mediterranean food, inspired by Ani's birth city of Istanbul.
Istanbul is one of the oldest and historically important cities in the world. Ancient Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul, is a city of over 15 million inhabitants today. It is the only city in the world that rests on two continents, Europe and Asia. It is the bridge between east and west, the end of the Silk Road.
I was going to write about how wonderful it was to exhibit Ani Afshar's works in our gallery. I was going to tell you that WEAVING GARDENS CASTING SHADOWS was an overwhelming success! Her intricate weavings and tulle constructions were not only admired, but purchased by a number of collectors all over the country. Just after Ani's exhibition closed on May 25th, we opened another particularly beautiful exhibition of the geometric and architecturally inspired paintings by architect, JOHN WELWYN CLARK, REFLECTIONS: THE FUNCTiON OF FORM. The exhibition was yet another tour de force with over 200 people in attendance. It seemed that Ani's lyrical desert landscapes, rivers, trees made of stones, beads, silk and mohair yarn, took another form in John Clark's acrylic paintings on canvas. Clark's focus is mostly on water and reflections from an architect's viewpoint. Ani's focus is nature with tactile materials. But the connection remains. Both are expressing nature and the minutest details of earth and sky in a lyrical form. One with yarn, silky fabrics and found objects, the other searching for the smallest common denominator of form with a brush and paint. Maybe I will tell you a little bit more about John Clark's work before I digress.
John W. Clark "NINE MANDALAS"
Clark's NINE MANDALAS is a study in sacred geometry, the circle in the square. Like Johannes Kepler, Clark's works symbolizes the geometric underpinnings of the cosmos which has beguiled scientists for centuries. It was believed that sacred geometry has its roots in the study of nature. Geometric ratios and figures were often employed in the design of the ancient Egyptian pyramids, Greek and Roman architecture and the Medieval cathedrals in Europe. Indian and Himalayan spiritual communities often constructed temples and fortifications on design plans of mandalas.
A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol representing the universe in Buddhism and Hinduism. The basic form of mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point exhibiting radial balance. Today, Mandala has become a term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe from a spiritual perspective.
On May 31st, the night of John Clark's opening, when wine was pouring into crystal glasses and food was abundant for our guests, there was another exhibition going on in another part of the world. A dramatic, history making exhibition of courage by a group of environmentally conscious people. A peaceful group of ecologically minded architects, lawyers, students, artists, poets, entrepreneurs, sat inside a park, Gezi Park in Istanbul. They were doing yoga, holding up protest signs, asking their government not to demolish a historically significant park, one of the few remaining green spaces left in the city of Istanbul. With an astounding turn of events we watched helplessly on Facebook and Twitter as a government and police force went wild on a group of people doing what is a highly evolved thing, trying to save 600 trees.
"When we speak of Nature it is wrong to forget that we are ourselves a part of Nature. We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe." (Henri Matisse)
You are probably wondering why I am discussing politics and world affairs on an art blog when I should only talk about beautiful things. I will tell you. BECAUSE WITHOUT ART THERE WOULD BE NO HISTORY. ART HAS MEANING. John Clark's and Ani Afshar's works are about nature and the nature of nature. The protestors in Gezi Park were asking to save those trees that are part of our DNA. We are all connected, to earth, water, sky, stars. I write about that all the time. In my poetry, in my paintings. We may all have different styles, but we are all trying to achieve an expression of who we are. AND it was an interesting parallel to a project (coincidental?) I worked on earlier this year with an artist at Northwestern University.
Charles Deering Library, Northwestern University
Last March, artist MARCO NEREO ROTELLI illuminated the CHARLES DEERING LIBRARY at Northwestern University with light projections of poetry. The theme was "saving trees." The poetry and art installation addressed this particular topic because Northwestern decided to cut down many of the trees on their campus. The artist asked the poets (I being one of them) to write a poem about what trees meant to us. I wrote about an oak tree. It was a profound experience that brought tears of joy to everyone's eyes who were either watching or participants in the installation.
On May 31st, we saw a group of citizens trying to do the same thing, saving a park full of trees that are important to the lifestyle and culture of a city where green space is disappearing due to a rapidly growing economy. Unfortunately, for them, it was not the peaceful tears of joy that we experienced, it was pepper spray and gas tears of shock, disbelief, astonishment and pain. I saw a post on Facebook that said, how would we feel if the government built a shopping center in Central Park or Grant Park? It hit home, because I live across the street from Grant Park and moved to my condo specifically because I wanted to see the lake and the park every morning when I wake up.
We do not know what the outcome will be for these courageous people who risked their lives to do something that will make the world a better place. They want to live in a world where freedom of expression is rewarded rather than punished. Don't we all? In America, we are so used to being able to speak our minds about anything we choose. The rest of the world doesn't have the same freedom of expression. We can only watch from a distance, write posts on the internet and try to reach people from all over the world to support these right minded individuals and hope they are able to achieve a peaceful resolution to this overwhelming problem of authoritarianism. We can help by sending their message to the world when journalists and news stations are handcuffed by the government to report what is truly happening. So while we are exhibiting art that touches the human spirit, I want to pay my respects to the human spirit that cries for freedom of expression and strives to protect our environment.
Marco Nereo Rotelli's Field Museum llumination
Which leads me to the lastest project I will touch upon. On June 24th, Marco Nereo Rotelli will return to Chicago to illuminate yet another monumental building, the FIELD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. This time the theme is Dante Alighieri's Inferno. Marco gave me Canto XXXIII as a guide.
It was a challenge to be inspired by a story about the Ninth Circle of Hell: murder, betrayal, ego, domination and greed. Especially for someone who just wants to write about love, spirituality and human interconnectedness with the universe!
After I read the canto (actually I had to read it quite a few times to undertand it!) I realized the human nature of politics has not changed since the 13th century, although, I do believe there are more highly evolved people in the world today thanks to the age of information. Artists & poets are always trying to shed light to the flaws and frailties of human beings. But being immersed in hell for the time of reading and writing my poem was a challenging endeavor. I ended up finding my way up from the depths of hell to light and life, but it was not an easy journey. Now that I look back, the poem I ended up writing was a foreshadowing of the events of Gezi Park. I wish it wasn't, but it really is. I hope that those evolved beings in Istanbul will find their way out of their Inferno. I will post my poem and talk more about the meaning in my next post.
In the meantime, stop by HILTON | ASMUS CONTEMPORARY. JOHN WELWYN CLARK'S exhibition REFLECTIONS: THE FUNCTION OF FORM will run through July 23rd.
MARCO NEREO ROTELLI's exhibition of paintings & drawings inspired by poetry and the FIELD MUSEUM installation will open at the gallery on FRIDAY, JUNE 28.
But first, put MONDAY, JUNE 24th on your calendar to see the poetry, music and light installation at the FIELD MUSEUM. It starts at 9:30 in the evening, as soon as it gets dark. I will be there to tell you more about how I was able to write my way out of the Ninth Circle of Hell.....More details to follow......