artist

Resilience

Resilience: Profiles in Resilience Series AIDS2020

It’s been a long time since I had the opportunity to create a piece just because. In late April of this year, I was asked to participate in the International AIDS Society’s Conference – AIDS2020 by creating a piece for their “Profiles in Resilience”  series that would have been on display at the conference. The conference is held at different locales around the world and was to be hosted in Oakland, California this Jully. However, due to the arrival of Coivd-19 on the world scene, the conference will now be hosted virtually. My piece will now be included in a virtual gallery. 

For those of you who may not know, I have spent the last 11 years working in the HIV/AIDS arena and have had the privilege of attending a few of the conferences (nationally and internationally) and am thankful for the opportunity.

The concept for the series was novel and exciting. Each artist was provided with a brief Bio and quote from a local HIV/AIDS activist and asked to conceptualize an image based upon the information provided. The particular activist I was paired with I also know personally which made the project even more exciting for me. The universe definitely knows how to navigate with serendipity and humor! 

My conception for the project was based upon an image I have created previously, but with some additional changes and twists. I really enjoyed having the opportunity and the time to contribute to such a worthwhile cause. I enjoyed working with the IAS creative team and am honored to have been selected for inclusion.  

The quote for the piece read, “Don’t grow weary in well doing. In due season we will reap if we don’t give up. We will find a cure for HIV and the world will be better for it.”

I wanted to depict the hope and faith I have encountered among many those whom I know and love that have been living with this virus on a daily basis. Their resilience, optimism, and determination have inspired me to be a better person and work harder to provide the needed services and support that helps them to survive and thrive-  while we wait and work toward a cure. They are my friends and I am grateful to have been accepted into their community!

The ribbon is the symbolic AIDS ribbon that has been a longstanding symbol of the movement. The sun above the figure is indicative of hope in the dawning of a new day without HIV/AIDS. The flowers and tall grasses beneath the figure symbolize the growth and flourishing of this community despite, stigma, and discrimination. The figure stands with his arms outstretched, and head tilted up toward the sun as the breath of life blows over and through him.  

Moga Yoga

All three of these images are the newest additions to my ongoing series on yoga, the “Asana Series”. Asana is Sanskrit for “pose” or “posture”. The model for these images was the yogini Maureen Mlller. Check her out on Instagram @mogayoga

Full Lotus – Padamasana
from the “Asana Series”

You may recall that I created a similar image of this pose in acrylic paints about four months ago. Although watercolor is a very different medium with its own character, I still wanted to create interest between the two depictions. In order to do so, I used a more dynamic point of perspective, a slightly different color palette, and simplified the background.   

Half Moon
Ardha Chandrasana

from the “Asana Series”

I find Half-Moon to be a very interesting and dynamic pose. I wanted to find a perspective point that would stress that dynamism while still giving one a good view of Maureen’s entire figure. The symbolic shape used in this image is a combination between a fractal pattern and a more biometric amoeba-like shape. 

Goddess Pose  
Utkata Konasana

from the “Asana Series” 

In this image, I wanted to give a sense of Maureen’s nobility and power. She truly embodies the energy and wisdom of the Goddes and I really wanted to imbue the image with similar quaities.  

OTHER NEWS
As some of you may have heard via social media, I am in the process of recovering from Covid-19. I am still not sure how I contracted the virus and don’t know of anyone else in my networks of association who has contracted it. 
As of this post, I am in my tenth week of recovery and am still not completely well. It has been a long and frightful journey. I was blessed to not be ill enough to need hospitalization, but there were times when I was convinced that I might die alone in my new home. Thanks be to God that I am alive and on the mend!! At present, I am undergoing testing to ascertain if there has been any permanent damage to my brain or other internal organs. Please keep my recovery in your prayers.

Please take this virus seriously and do all you can to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy!

   

Garland Pose

Garland Pose – Malasana
from the “Asana Series” 

Garland pose is another addition to my ongoing series on yoga. The model for this image was the yogi Rondy of Rondyoga.com

The colors I chose for this image are based upon the asana’s connection to the lower chakras: the root chakra (red), the sacral chakra (orange), and the solar plexus chakra (yellow). Garland is a rooting pose which more deeply connects one to mother earth and her life-giving energies. 

The unalome to the right of the figure is a Buddhist symbol which symbolizes the journey to enlightenment as symbolized in the geometric shape at the top of the symbol.

For those of you who don’t know, I began the series in July of last year in conjunction with the yogini’s and yogi who teach at the Black to Yoga here in Oakland. 


Other News

My new website launches next month!
I will have a new website platform that will be launching in the first week of February. There will be a completely new look and a variety of enhanced features that will make it easier to navigate the site and to place orders.  

My new site will allow you to order paper and giclee prints, metal prints..choose your own frames, and have the whole order shipped and ready to hang!

*All of these features will necessitate a raise in my prices so if you want something at the lower price point place your order before February 1st!!

Upcoming Shows

Art of the African Diaspora Show
This show has a main location and several satellite Open Studios so you will be able to see my work at several venues 

Main Show: Richmond Art Center
2540 Barrett Ave, Richmond, CA 94804


Opening Saturday, January 25, 2020
-Awardees Discussion 12:30 – 2
-Opening Reception 2 – 5

Open Studios: Oakstop 17
1721 Broadway #201, Oakland, CA 94612

March 6 & 7, 2020
-First Friday, March 6th  5pm – 10pm
-Open Viewing Saturday, March 7th  11 – 5
-Artist Talks: Saturday, March 14, 2020  2 – 4*
*doors open at 11 and close at 5


Unbound Roots: SOMArts
This show runs March 9 – April 19, 2020


Be on the lookout for more Updates!

Forearm Stand

Forearm Stand: Pincha Mayurasana

This acrylic piece is the last of my works depicting the yogini Zen. I began the painting at a live painting session last month with the hosts of Black to Yoga. I had already completed the smaller watercolors depicted in my last newsletter and had them on display at the event. 

I was able to get all of the basic tones into the background and the figure during the live painting session. The work flowed and I felt a sense of ease with the energy of the day which always makes everything easier. As an artist, these are the moments we live for.

It took another week and a half before I could complete the entire painting, and another week to get it properly scanned and ready for presentation. 

The swirling shape to the right of the figure is called a unalome. Unalomes represent the spiritual path toward enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition. The spiraling shapes symbolize the inevitable twists and turns of life – while the straight lines remind us of the harmony one experiences during moments of enlightenment. 

**To purchase prints click here

The ‘Asana” Series: Zen Yoga Triple

Fear is a funny thing. It can manifest itself in so many ways that we often mistake it for something completely different. Oftentimes, it uses other emotions or activities as a veneer in order to mask its true identity. Anger, procrastination, OCD, controlling behaviors, rigidity, constant pleasure-seeking…have all been veneers for various fears I was holding onto but afraid to face. 

In this case, it was my seeming inability to sit down and begin the preparation work for these images. Initially, I had written it off as being too busy with other things. When that excuse was no longer working I then went into various machinations involving my using the time to gather more ideas and usher in a creative flow. One day I was sorting through some acrylic paints inventorying what I needed to replace and I accidentally picked up one of my watercolor vials and a rush of anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks. Beneath it was the palpable sensation of fear.  

The fear was a wake=up call and a reminder. It let me know exactly “why” I hadn’t been working the sketches for this series because I was afraid to get started because I was afraid to fail. I was afraid to dive in because I haven’t used watercolors in over a year and I wasn’t sure if I could get back into the medium and produce anything value. As any artist will tell you, watercolor is an extremely difficult medium and most painters try their best to stay away from it. Although watercolor has been my preferred medium since college, it does take time and failures to really master and I had been focusing on developing my acrylic skills while trying to complete my “Chakra” series.  

This sudden realization and the subsequent acknowledgment of my fear broke its power over me and allowed me to not only admit it, but more importantly to face-it and thereby release its energy from being. This was release was the catalyst for my steps to begin delving into the bread and butter of this new series. These 3 initial images are not as polished as some of my previous endeavors but they are powerful representatives of a return to watercolor. Stay tuned for my three in this series as you be privy to the transformations that will occur as the series progresses.

These three images feature the lovely and extremely athletic yogini Zen Forbes of “In with Zen” Yoga. 

Pincha Mayurasna – Forearm Stand

Salamba Shirshasana – Head Stand

Virabhadrasana II – Warrior II

**To purchase prints click here

My new series has begun!

My new “Asana” series has officially begun!

The image depicted above is the first piece to be completed in my new Asana series. The last time I reached out, I spoke about my intention to begin collaborating with the Yoginis who have formed the entity Black to Yoga – Maureen Miller, Kirsten Rogers, and Zenovia Forbes. 

This initial reaching out led to the completion of three sessions of photos shoots. I shot loads of reference photos for the coming series and completed some sketches for layouts. The images are HOT, and I have been so inspired that I could hardly wait to begin painting! 

The inspiration for the series hit me about 10 years ago. I had only recently been introduced to yoga by a former partner and I was amazed at how much my limited knowledge and intermittent practice had already begun to have a profound effect on me. At my partner’s suggestion, I borrowed her copy of “Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar and then began sketching images of various poses I found in some photographic journals on yoga. Some weeks later, in the midst of a sketch it suddenly struck me, “Why aren’t you producing your own images and interpretations of these poses?” and from that moment on,  the fire began to burn. 

As any creative will testify, inspiration is more often than not- a fickle, fleeting, elusive thing. Just like a cat, it rarely comes just because you call it. The lightning of inspiration does strike but you never really know where or when. Hence the reason most of us rush to strike while the iron is hot. But this fire has been burning for almost 10 years!

Every time I wanted to begin working on the images, circumstances always appeared to block my way. I often spoke about it to yoga students and instructors who entered my studio – and some even offered to model for me. But for some reason, the timing and the offers just didn’t feel right. Something in my spirit would not find ease with those opportunities. but I still kept feeling inspired to work on the series. 

However, there is something to be said for waiting.  The deep inner knowing within us always makes its desires known at the perfect time if we are willing to patiently wait, watch, and listen. I now understand the reason(s) for the delay. My heart was in the right place, my intentions were noble and sound, but I lacked the knowledge, sufficient development in my own yoga practice, and internal maturity needed to pursue this project in a manner that would do it justice. Some things can only be learned and developed through trial and experience and I was simply not yet ready. We often don’t know what we don’t yet know.  Thanks be to Spirit for growth, maturity, and waiting!   

This is the first image in the acrylic images of the Asana series (there will be a much larger watercolor series as well). It is a 30 x 30 – inch acrylic image that was begun live during my first attempt at live painting! The image was initiated at “Yoga After Dark” a monthly event conducted by Black to Yoga. I will be the resident “live painter” at these events for the next 3-4 months so come check me out sometime soon. 

The initiated live painting with model Kirsten Rogers

The completed live painting with model Kirsten Rogers

Coda: There is Only Love


FINAL CHAPTER EXCERPT   

The publishing process for my book is moving along much faster than anticipated. The editing phase is almost complete. The final phase, publication should be well underway by mid-January. Look out for opportunities to place your order very soon. Below are a few selected excerpts from the concluding chapter, Coda: There is Only Love.

When We Pray VIII: There is only Love

 

When I began to download the initial inspiration for “When We Pray,” I had no idea that a series would follow. The initial inspiration came forth just as many others have during my daily practice of prayer and meditation.  I was sitting quietly, peacefully, feeling the warm and then cool pattern of my breath when I became of aware of a very distinct sense of presence all around me. It was not a sudden awareness but a slow, steady, building which seemed to reveal itself progressively as it became increasingly more distinct all around me. I’m not sure how long the process took, but it was a slow and deliberate revelation that became increasingly more palpable. I felt no fear, only an evermore confident sense of comfort, ease, and genuine care and concern for the issues I was offering up for divine assistance. I somehow instinctively knew that my inner voice was heard, that spirit was listening and was also compassionately concerned. As I poured forth my concerns, there was a gentle but firm sense of being held, or of being wrapped by divine hands and arms. That I was being stroked and soothed as a mother would her slumbering child. At the same time, I felt as if I was also shielded and supported. Then it suddenly dawned upon me that I was in God’s hands and that this was the place I had occupied every time I prayed, but I had only now become aware of it. This realization of being in enveloped within the hands of the divine resulted in the initial image of the series…

…As we are lifted-up by love we also lift and are lifted by others. This active web of relations lies at the heart of love and forces us to confront humanity’s dominant conceptualization of love. We conceptualize love as a noun, but love is and ever shall be a verb. Because love, like creativity, requires manifestation. Love must be made visible, or it is not authentic love. All our conceptualizing and imaginings about love are simply much ado about nothing unless they become expressed in the form of concrete actions expressed in daily life. These expressions undergird our need to “make” love, “fall in” love, “give” love, “welcome” love and actively experience it in all the myriad ways it can be given and received…

…From a metaphysical perspective love never ends. But it is often born, dies, and is resurrected within the context of our material human experience. If we would simply take the time to look within, listen to our souls, and set free the love already within us, we would surprisingly find more of it everywhere we look. But we often travel through life crippled and completely lacking the very thing we crave so desperately. Love is free for the taking if we would just open ourselves to receive it. So, let love flow to you and through you. Love has no beginning or end because love is all there is.

MY NEW COURSE
I have now begun the initial preparations for the creation of an online course that will expand upon and supplement the material presented in When We Pray. The course should be completed and ready for enrollment by the 2nd week of January. 

MY NEW STUDIO SPACE
On January 4, 2019, I will become one of the resident artists at Blank Page Studio. Blank Page Studio is a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing low-cost studio space for visual artists and supporting the visual arts in Oakland public schools. It is an honor and a privilege to share in the work of an organization that supports the youth of Oakland.  Be on the lookout for your invitation to my Grand Opening celebration!

PAINT PARTIES ANYONE!
As of January 1st, I will be working with Wine and Design – Oakland as a painting party instructor. Wine and Design is located in downtown Oakland at Jack London Square.  If you want to try something different, celebrate an occasion, or raise funds for your favorite non-profit we are the ones to call. Don’t forget to request yours truly as your party artist.

FINE ART INSTRUCTOR
My contract as a Fine Art instructor for 6-8 graders who participate in the Higher Ground After School Program has been renewed. Higher Ground is a non-profit corporation dedicated to serving youth in the Oakland public school system. 

The Aesthetics of Enlightenment

MANUSCRIPT COMPLETED!!
I spent long hours over the holiday weekend working on completing the manuscript for When We Pray. The manuscript and the images have all been formatted and sent to the publisher. I will be publishing through Balboa Press Books with an estimated release date of late February- early March provided everything runs smoothly.
The book will be printed in an 8.5 x 11 softcover version which should run about 80-100 pages. I have decided to complete a special illustration for the cover and need to have it completed for publication by mid-January. I AM SOOOO EXCITED!!! I am literally overflowing with anticipation to see one of my lifelong dreams coming to fruition!!

MY NEW COURSE
I have now begun the initial preparations for the creation of an online course that will expand upon and supplement the material presented in When We Pray. The course should be completed and ready for enrollment by the 2nd week of January (if not sooner). The new year is going to start off with a bang!

ARTICLE PUBLISHED
My article, “Conjuring the Muse: A Theology of Inspiration and Imagination” is now in print (finally). It is available in the November issue of the SEEN Journal – HOPE edition, Vol. XVIII (November 2018) a publication of the group CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts).

EXCERPT ROM CHAPTER 
Below are a few selected excerpts from chapter 2. Remember, my manuscript hasn’t been poured over by the editor yet so things could change.:-)

When We Pray II
The Aesthetics of Enlightenment: The Universal & the Particular
                When the word “aesthetics” is mentioned in contemporary circles, most of us associate it with theories regarding how we perceive and understand beauty, but this is a very limited perception that merely props the door open. If we open the door fully, we are invited to enter a much broader landscape which grounds aesthetics in the realm of sensory experience. Our senses are essential to this discussion because beauty must be perceived in order to be experienced, and perception is impossible without the use of our senses. You see a beautiful work of art, you hear beautiful music, you see and taste a beautiful meal, you physically and emotionally feel the power of nature. Beauty, at its most fundamental level, is a celebration of the sensual which props open the door to a wider range of aesthetic experience. “Aesthetics” is derived from the Greek root aesthesis which can best be defined as “of the senses” or “perceptible by the senses”. When the founder of the discipline, Alexander Baumgarten coined the term “Aesthetics” his original intention was to establish a scientific method for the study of empirical experience.[i] If beauty props the door open so we may glimpse what’s on the other side, Aesthetics opens the door and invites us into an exploration of sensory perception and the nature of human embodiment.
Far too many of us live disembodied lives. We are rarely fully present to our experiences due to living in the past, worrying about the future, over medicating, overindulging, blocking or denying our feelings, ignoring or neglecting our bodies…until we reach the end of our lives without ever having truly lived them. Unfortunately, many of our religious and spiritual traditions do more to re-enforce this tendency toward disconnection than encourage healthy and affirming attitudes toward embodiment. We have been told that the body is bad, sinful, part of the reason we suffer and a host of other negative assertions. However, embodiment is essential because It is through the locus of our bodies that we perceive and experience this reality…

               …Science now re-enforces this claim by proving that every perception we have is accompanied by a corresponding physical sensation that is stored in the body as cellular memory. Whether it is a thought, an experience, a feeling…it is still perceived by the brain and the body as sensory data that is recorded and stored within the cellular memory – whether we are consciously aware of the experience or not. This finding supports psychological theories which discuss trauma, PTSD, post-traumatic slave syndrome, recalling experiences in the womb while under hypnosis, and practices such as the curing of ailments through body awareness practices, improving intuition through muscle testing…etc. This process of cellular encoding ensures that all human experience is sensory, embodied, and aesthetic.
If all experience is aesthetic, then the paths to enlightenment, nirvana, and the road to heaven must all be paved with sensory experience. If we are to walk this path, we must first define what we mean by enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a destination to be reached nor a threshold that one must pass through. Enlightenment is a blossoming, a progressive unfolding of insight and revelation into the nature of universal, divine, consciousness. This perspective moves us away from the misguided notion that Enlightenment is a prize to be obtained or a goal that one accomplishes. Neither is it a destination to be reached. This mindset is much too static. A more nuanced perspective allows us to envision a progressive, ongoing, revelation of consciousness that moves us through the sensual toward the supra-sensual until we eventually become one with pure consciousness. The movement toward enlightenment is one of relative degree and expansion into the vastness of all that is…
                 …We have this treasure in earthen vessels. But in order to find the “treasure”, we must be willing to dig for it. We must be ready and willing to get down on our hands and knees and dirty ourselves in the soil of life. This is the true purpose of living. To dig deep into the ground of existence, to struggle to be present to our particular lives and all the experiences it will present us….(excerpt).

[i] Richard Shusterman, “Aesthetic Experience: From Analysis to Eros” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 64: 2 (Spring 2006), 218.

Chapter Sample

Yes, my book is almost done! Finally! The manuscript will be completed by the end of the month and expect the book to be out on the market around mid-March to early April. I didn’t get quite as much completed as I would have liked last month but am making significant headway already this month hand have set myself a hard deadline. Now you have my promise to have it done in print!

Below are a few selected excerpts from chapter 3. Remember, my manuscript hasn’t been poured over by the editor yet so things could change.:-)

When We Pray III
Signs, Symbols and the Sacred

From 2014 to 2018 I maintained a small studio-space within a local gallery in downtown Oakland. On the first Friday of each month, the city and most of the local galleries would host an event known as the “First Friday Art Murmur”. My space along many of the surrounding galleries located within the downtown area would be open during that evening allowing the public to come explore their galleries and the various artist’s studios. Even though I was working full-time for three of the four years I maintained my space, I always did my best to have at least one new piece on display during First Friday. After the first year, this became one of my favorite opportunities to show my work. I welcomed this event because it helped me stay focused during the month, provided me with an opportunity to show my work on a regular basis, and most important of all I was able to observe the visitor’s reactions, hear their comments to one another, and speak with them about my work. This source of direct feedback provided me with insights that have proven invaluable in innumerable ways.

One of the most astounding things about these encounters was the ways in which people responded to the symbols used in my work. Those who were not familiar with a symbol found in a certain piece would usually ask me what it meant and why I had chosen to use it. It was always both humbling and amazing to receive words of appreciation as they began to grasp the connections between the symbol’s meaning and the other elements within the piece. It was as if it all began to click, and most would stay and examine the piece more closely as if this newly acquired knowledge allowed them to digest the imagery more thoroughly. Those who recognized many of the symbols would often speak about how much they appreciated them being used in appropriate ways, and comment about the various nuances in meaning they grasped in a particular work because of one of the symbols encountered within it. This recognition of a familiar or meaningful symbol often increased their appreciation of the work and filled it with more significant meaning for them. These conversations let me know that I was on target with my desire to incorporate symbols into my work and helped me to better grasp the power of symbolism…

…Signs and symbols help us to make things “special”. If human beings lacked the desire to make anything “special” we would all lead very drab, indistinct lives. Making special is as natural to us as eating or breathing. This notion of making things special is one of the most significant aspects of our humanness – particularly for those of us who are striving to live our lives with an intentionally spiritual focus. It is the human desire to make things “special” which lies at the heart of any discussion upon the distinctions between the sacred and the secular. Things which we have designated as “special” are deemed as such because they hold significant psychological value individually or collectively. We prize a particular ideal, experience, object, symbol, person, role…to such a degree that we imbue it with significant psychological value. By doing so, the value we place upon it makes it “special” and in many cases it becomes so special that it enters the realm of the sacred. Making Special is the true essence of the sacred-secular distinction. Whether individually or collectively, human beings possess an innate need to make things special and the degree of value we place upon them determines whether or not they are deemed sacred. Throughout history art, signs, and symbols have played a significant role in this process by helping to: designate something as special, remind us that it is special, or celebrate its particular psychological value…

…What was coming more immediately to the foreground of my consciousness? What did I need to “make special” and why? Asking these kinds of questions increased my trust in spirit and deepened my meditation practice – because it helped me to see how important it was to practice looking for the “signs” instead of wondering and waiting for what was often already right in front of me. So, look for the signs. Open your senses and feelings to the signs. Pray for a sign. Meditate on the signs. Believe you have and will continue to receive the right signs. Give thanks for the signs. Trust the signs. You’ll have more appreciation for the journey, if you pay attention to the signs along the way.

New Opportunities

Last month I accepted a part-time position as a student Art Instructor for the Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corporation. Higher Ground is a nonprofit organization that provides elementary education and support to youth and County Education offices throughout the East Bay.

My work as an Art Instructor is part of the Afterschool programming component. I help to encourage the creative artistry of youth in the 6th to 8th-grade range. At present, I am working in 9-week intervals at two schools. Once this 9-week period is over, I will move on to another two.

Needless to say, I spent most of last month on the development of lesson plans, researching art suppliers, and prepping for my first round of students. I am excited about the opportunity to share my love for art with young people whom have shown an enthusiasm for creative expression. So far, I have been impressed with the overall level of talent displayed by the students I have encountered. Our first official week of programming begins next week and I am looking forward to meeting many more.

Now that I have my schedule with Higher Ground pinned down it is time to get back to writing. I have already penciled in some dedicated time for writing and am looking forward to digging my heels in and pushing forward on When We Pray: 8 Meditations on the Aesthetics of Prayer and the Spiritual Life. The completion of this project will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream; to have my own words and images combined into a book format! I am entirely too close to give up now! This will be the first of many!

BE ON THE LOOKOUT…next month I plan to give everyone a few teasers by sneak-peaking excerpts from a few of the chapters along with their accompanying illustrations! 

STUDIO SPACE
Once my manuscript has been completed, I plan to begin searching for a new studio location. If you know of any places that I should check out, please email me directly at: info@damonpowell.com. 

SHOW ME SOME LOVE

I could also use your support as I continue to save and raise funds for a studio deposit and just because you respect my contribution to the world. I am still accepting patrons through Patreon. If you would like to become a patron, please visit my page: