fine art

Will: The Power of Integration

INSPIRATION

Believe it or not, I wasn’t planning this. My initial chakra focused image, “The Flowering of Truth” was intended to be a single image. When I completed the work in February, I had no intention of creating another work on the chakras – nor the impetus to create a series. But it would seem that Spirit had other plans.

A large percentage of my inspirational and creative processes are dependent upon intuition and channeling. Most of my inspirations are brought forth through life-experiences and/or insights intuited/channeled/gleaned from my meditation practice. In a very real sense, one could view my creative practice as a spiritual development journal. In hindsight, I see that the process of strengthening my 5th chakra was in preparation for my departure from my day job in order to pursue my vocation full-time. I needed to connect with the expression of my voice and speak forth my truth in authenticity. “Will: The Power of Integration” is about the need for me to marshal my energies and resources towards the achievement of my goals so that I will have the strength to persevere despite all obstacles. It wasn’t until this image’s completion that I realized that this was the start of a series.

The third chakra is found in the vicinity of the navel and solar plexus. Its primary element is fire – thus it is associated with the pancreas and adrenals. It’s color – yellow is the core of the preceding two chakras (red and orange respectively) as the core of any fire is bright yellow-white with the reds and oranges radiating from that burning center. The 3rd chakra is the integrator of the 2 preceding it (1 = earth/matter, 2 = water/creation). Hence the power of the 3rd chakra is based in integration. It’s mantra, “I can” is reflective of human “Will”. Not society’s traditional notion of “will to power, conquer, push through…” but a dynamic force that transforms and shapes through integration. From this perspective, “will” is the integration of our desire and focus for the purposes of transformation and manifestation. Thus transformation and manifestation are based upon one’s power to combine and integrate the various aspects of one’s being in order to direct them towards a purpose. This is the power of “Will”.

Will: The Power of Integration

Will: The Power of Integration. The 2nd creation in my chakra series.

SYMBOLISM

As discussed previously, the color yellow is associated with the 3rd chakra and the core of fire and sun. I chose not to seat the figure because I wanted her to embody the energy associated with this chakra. This woman is standing, floating up and away from the lotus beneath her. She rises unaided, of her volition as she integrates her focus and desire in order to initiate her own ascension. She is the source of her own ascension and transformation due to her own self-integration (we are in truth the truth we seek). Her outstretched arms are symbolic of both praise and the discovery of her own inner power.  It is as if her outstretched arms and slightly lifted head evoke ecstasy and draw in the swirling matter that surrounds her as it becomes an integral part of her being. Her hair is both charged with the light of the chakra’s activation and the power flowing within. 

The graphic lotus symbol above her depicts the third chakra and its accompanying Sanskrit character. The open lotus beneath her figure is also symbolic of the chakras in general. 

Look out for a discussion of the crown chakra next month!

 

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There is only Love

 

WHEN WE PRAY: THERE IS ONLY LOVE

INSPIRATION

There are certain themes in life that continually repeat for each of us.  Lessons we must learn, ideas and concepts that require us to continually expand our understanding of them, seasons of lack and plenty…and these too are an integral part of our soul’s journey.

An ongoing theme for me is Love. In this case, I seem to have come full circle because I thought that the “When We Pray” series was complete last summer. I completed what I thought was the final image of the series (#VII) and began to move on, but the inspiration for this image burst forth in me and has already inspired me to begin another in the series. You may also remember that I was addressing the theme of Love inspired by Rumi in my creation of the “Resurrection of Love” triptych. But it appears that neither Prayer nor Love are through with me yet.

My efforts to strengthen my intuition and maintain a more consistent connection to my guides are steadily convincing me that we are forever and always surrounded by Love. It’s not that I didn’t already know or believe this, but my vision was clouded by my own biases and preconceptions. It is one thing to understand a thing conceptually, but truly knowing it in the depths of one’s spirit is something drastically different.

Most of us believe that God is love, that our souls have come here to give and receive love, that we are loved unconditionally; but very few of us have been able to truly experience the power and depths of divine love – let alone consistently dwell in that state of experience. At best we have epiphinal moments through which we are able to experience glimpses of glory. We know that familiar feeling you get with family or old friends when you feel completely safe, whole, known, accepted and loved. Those moments when all is right with the world and we silently wish that we could suspend time in such a way that would allow us to spend the rest of our lives suspended in that moment.

I am coming to know and rest assured that there is only love. That each of us is loved and cherished with a depth that we will never truly understand on this side of the veil. That our higher selves and guides pray with us, for us, and undergird each of us with an unfathomable love! Find the courage to trust it. Let go of fear and cling to love. What has been holding you back from love – both spiritually and romantically? Be quiet, become still, open your heart to Spirit and in the darkness of that silence, you will come to know that love is all in all.

There is Only Love72.5

SYMBOLISM

I made use of the repeating heart motif because it is easily recognizable within modern cultural iconography. This motif is repeated throughout the composition not only as a symbol of love but as a means of guiding the eye downward through the image. The heart motif with its downward edge helps push the eye downward from the heart of the angelic guide, down through the bottom of the heart shape surrounding the angel, then down through the hands framed in the heart shape, then we dive once more into the heart of the human figure which will also help guide our gaze into the power of love symbol located beneath the figure. A love that is always flowing downward to each of us through various levels of being.

The angelic being who floats in the large heart above the figure is also engaged with the human figure below it in meditation and prayer. This figure also holds and receives divine love with its heart. A love that is echoed in the heart of its human companion. This connection is symbolized in the identical hearts the two figures share. The two figures are communicating heart to heart through the medium of love. Earthly intuition is perceived in the gut, but spiritual intuition is perceived in the heart and transmitted through love. This being holds its hands in the form of a teaching mudra – as it imparts divine wisdom and blessings upon the human figure below.

The halo above this figure is a symbol of divine grace, majesty, and power; while the symbol directly below the figure is an Adinkra glyph indicating divine love.

Since this image is a companion to the When We Pray series it was imperative that the hand motif occupy a prominent role within the composition. As in the other pieces in the series, the hands symbolize the hands of the divine as an ever-present source of comfort, protection, support…etc. In this case, the hands have formed the shape of a heart to symbolize the presence of divine love which surrounds the praying figure within. The hands operate almost like a frame that we gaze into to find the small but significant human being within them. Not only are we surrounded by love, but it serves as the very framework through which all humanity must be viewed.

The figure within the divine hands is deep in prayer and meditation. His closed eyes and traditional meditative posture indicate his turn within- while the halo and biomorphic energy field surrounding him are indicative of the higher spiritual energies he is receiving as a result of his practice. His hands form the mudra associated with blessings and wisdom. His practice brings him both divine blessing and love, but also provides wisdom into the deeper spiritual insights that are only available to those who consistently go within. The symbol below the figure is a West African glyph indicating the power of love. A love which is filling his heart as symbolized by the heart shape within the chest of the figure.

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The Flowering of Truth

INSPIRATION

The impetus for this work has been part of an ongoing struggle. A struggle that has been uniquely mine yet paradoxically experienced by each of us at various points throughout life. From the earliest stages of human development, each of us learns about self through the experience of contrast between us and that which is other. A baby begins to comprehend the difference between self and mother through the contrasts created by the touch. sight, and sound of its mother versus that of its own. Later in life, we often learn to distinguish who we are through the experience of contrast between the ways others (friends, parents, classmates…) are like us or different from us.
 
This process of self-discovery continues throughout the life cycle because each of us is always changing. The person you were at 3 is still present within your DNA and consciousness but is definitely not the same person who is reading this post right now. This process of continual growth and deepening consciousness requires that we not only discover who we are in terms of likes and preferences but also necessitates that we come to know self with depth and profundity. In a sense, one could postulate that we don’t actually learn who we truly are, but rather that we find the courage and strength to discover, and then become who we truly are. That living a conscious life is a continual process of becoming or embodying the spiritual beings whom we truly are.
  
As our eternal being, our essence becomes more fully integrated and embodied within us it shines forth more brightly through us under the guise of personality. In order for this to occur, we must first find the willingness to look within, the strength to face what we find there, and finally the courage to be that person in the world regardless of what others may say or think about us because of it. This kind of courage requires that we commit ourselves to complete truth and authenticity in all of our interactions. That you find the courage and commitment to be and do YOU in every aspect of your life – no matter what the circumstances. No facades, no compromises to get along, no hiding how you really feel or think to fit in, no holding back your truth for another’s sake…etc. I’m talking about having the courage and determination to be who you are in every way you can, under any and all circumstances.
 
Each of us has the right and the responsibility, to be who we are and do what we want as long as we are honest and forthright in our intentions, and do not hurt or harm others in the process. This kind of freedom can only be achieved by operating from a level of truth and authenticity that most of us are not willing to live from.  In my opinion, this is the kind of commitment to truth and authenticity which lies at the core of 5th chakra symbolism.  
The 5th chakra’s core principle is truth. It is the first chakra to move us beyond the boundaries of our physicality and connect us to the higher realms of consciousness by acting as a conduit for the expression of vibration, sound, and speech. Thus it is associated with the throat, neck thyroid, shoulders, arms, and hands. When we deny the truth within ourselves, or continually speak or act in ways which lack integrity or truth this chakra can easily become clogged or choked thereby weakening its’ vibration. When fully opened, this chakra gives one the courage and commitment to express one’s self in truth and authenticity.  
This has been the focus of my struggle. To not only know, “Who I am” but to strive to authentically “be me” in all situations and circumstances. To stop worrying about, “how others view me or my art?” If speaking my truth will cost me friends or prestige? Will people not like me if I show them who I really am or what I’m about? To be true to self is the simplest yet most difficult of endeavors. This year I am determined to open and clear this chakra. To let the real me shine forth and open up like as a flower opens to the receive the rays of the morning sun! To open to my truth, and express that authenticity in all my interactions. This is the Flowering of Truth.

flowering-of-truth-72-5

SYMBOLISM

The symbolism within this work is focused on truth. The large lotus symbol floating above the figure is a reinterpretation of the 5th chakra symbol. The deep cerulean blue is one of the colors associated with the chakra. The symbol found within the inner flower is the Bija symbol (or seed sound) “Ham”. When repeated, this sound is the key used to activate the chakra and unlock its power. The symbol eye-like piece above symbol is my own additive that which is reminiscent of omniscient divine presence. The white outline used to outline the flower is symbolic of the full moon which is also part of the chakra’s symbolism. T

The flower upon which the figure sits is also a lotus. I purposely used the varying shades of blue for this composition since the primary colors associated with the chakra are cerulean blue and turquoise. This flowering lotus is opening because the figure seated upon it is chanting the seed sound “Ham” as a mantra as she meditates upon the qualities associated with the 5th chakra. 

Since the seated figure is meditating upon the 5th chakra and chanting its’ seed sound, I chose the lift her head and expose her neck – the primary body part associated with the 5th chakra. I intentionally placed the tale end of the seed symbol in the lotus above her head near the figure’s throat in order to further accentuate her neckline and the connection between sound/mantra, the symbol, and the chakra’s connection to the throat. 

My intention was to strike a balance between the areas that were more highly rendered (the opening lotus and the figure’s flesh) and the more graphic areas (the lotus above the figure and the figure’s clothing in order to create a visually energetic push-and-pull between the various portions of the composition. This tension helps to create a downward movement which draws the eye from the face down through the opening lotus. I chose to keep the background soft and muted so that it would not distract from the main focal point of the composition – the meditating figure.

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The Awakening

INSPIRATION

If you recall, last month I spoke about my creative rut and accompanying blues. The 1 piece I did manage to create during the darkest portion of that period “Moonlight Blues” played an integral role in the creation of the piece featured this month.  It’s a shame that even the most spiritually in tune of us often miss the significance of certain events or decisions when we are caught up in the midst of them.  
For each of us there are ingatherings. Periods in our lives when we are struck by pain, hurt, loss, rapid change…and it affects us so deeply that we are forced to withdraw,  step back from life and the world, and just be alone (ingathering). During these times we are forced to grow, transform, stretch our inner being beyond the limits we had convinced ourselves we could not reach. During these periods of ingathering, we are often able to undergo rapid growth and experience profound shifts in spiritual awareness through which we are literally elevated and transformed. 
Just as the caterpillar cannot transform into the beautiful butterfly unless it withdraws from life and enters into its cocoon – a kind of ingathering. It must first go within. While in the cocoon, every cell in its body literally dissolves back into primal goo and is then recombined into an entirely new being.   It is literally transformed. From the prefix trans – to move beyond or through, and form – the physical manifestation of our material world.  We too must transform.
For me, the place of wrath and tears that created Moonlight Blues, was actually a time of ingathering. It was literally the cocoon of my transformation. From within that shell, I received an awakening. I was able to literally receive a divine transmission which elevated my outlook and frequency. My intuition has been awakened and strengthened, I have begun to connect intimately with my higher self and guides, and I have also been able to allow my spirit to fuse more fully with my physical being thereby uprooting many deeply held negative energies. There has been an awakening – a quickening that has pushed me to a new way a being with a new higher vibratory baseline. This Awakening is the inspiration for the similarly entitled work shown here.  
awakening-72-5
 

SYMBOLISM

“The Awakening” is the next phase of the process of ascension and descension I had been depicting in the ascension series (Ascension I, II and Breaking the Veil). The ingathering experience has given me deeper insights into the process and some of its more subtle nuances. The image depicts a single figure seated in deep meditation. If you know anything about meditation you understand that the act itself is a form of ingathering as one becomes still, goes within, begins to decompress from the body/mind’s constant barrage of sensory stimuli so that one can be renewed. As she receives divine transformation her head lifts up towards the heavens and in a gesture of receptivity and thanksgiving for the spiritual energies she is receiving. There is an opening, an infusion, a download if you will that will energize and awakens parts of her being (both physically and spiritually) which had previously lain dormant. The ability to literally float upon the air and phase in and out of  physical reality was a common feat documented on the life stories of many spiritual masters. 

As the figure floats upon the air bolts of lightning spread out beneath her. These thunderbolts represent not only spiritual power but the subsequent ability to affect the physical realm of nature – an ability that is also shared by those who have ascended and is usually narrated in the form of healings, walking on water, stilling storms, speaking with animals…etc.  Those who reach this level of mastery have power flowing through them that has a spontaneous effect upon others around them. This phenomena was responsible for the veneration of relics and other sacred items that belonged to holy figures. For example, the bible speaks of people being healed by the touching the discarded garments of the apostle Paul and other noted saints. 

Her hair rises up as it is filled with the sacred energies that are being received and course through her entire being. These energies are both spiritual and physical. Her hands form a mudra symbolizing power and transformation, while her eyes open up toward the heavens above. All the while she is supported by the divine hand of god which serves as a support, source of uplift, and grounding protection from any lower energies.

The burning fire bursting forth from the figure’s heart symbolizes healing, regeneration, and the development of a richer sense of intuition and connection to spiritual realities. There is so much discussion in circles about the third eye and its power to open one to spiritual insights, that we often forgot the true seat of all knowing is not from the mind or upper chakras, but from and within the heart. The same spiritual fire depicted within the figure’s chest is also mirrored above her in each of the smaller orbs that comprise the outer portion of the heavenly circle above. This divine connection is maintained within the awakened heart.

The other symbols within the piece are all loosely based upon numerological theories. The large circle above her is an adaptation of the Fibonacci scaling system which is directly connected to Phi and the golden rule of divine proportion found throughout nature, art, music, the human body, and symbology. The circular scaling sequence and the spiraling energies within the circle are all part of this system. The floating circular shapes are healing glyphs fashioned of copper that have been purported to heal those who come into contact with them, while the 9 pointed triangular shapes within the glyphs are indicative of the 9 personality types found within the Enneagram.  The number 4 is associated with the earthly plane so the four glyphs are earthly symbols which help to keep the figure grounded as the heavenly energies descend and fuse with her physical nature.  As in many of my other images, the figure is encircled within a biomorphically shaped ring of power which is indicative of both spiritual power and the auric energies.

This image will be the cover for my next major project. I have begun the process of developing 2 books for next year. This image will serve as the cover of project number 2. A large format coffee table book entitled: When We Pray: Seven Monographs on the Aesthetics of Prayer and the Spiritual Life. Look for further details by the end of March 2017! 

To purchase the original image please contact me directly at:

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Moonlight Blues

Greetings Family,

I know its been 4 months since you heard from me, but you haven’t been forgotten. I’ve been pressing on, but there  hasn’t been much creating. My last post in July was part of my normal summer slowdown, but unforeseen circumstances burst onto the scene commanding a large portion of my time and attention. The darker sides of life and people often present themselves to us at unexpected times in unexpected ways.

So I was reminded that into each life, some rain must fall. All of life is a revolving series of endings and beginnings – the sun rises and sets, the seasons transform and change, joys bring us light and sorrows bring the blues. The people and things we love most are very often the sources of our brightest days and darkest nights. The winds of change blew a storm my way and I got the blues.

People say that time heals all wounds, but what we do between the hurt and the healing can make a world of difference.  It’s not just the time, but what we do during the time which determines whether we heal in a manner which is conducive to future growth, or just an exercise in repression which eventually leaves us with more psycho-spiritual baggage. These unseen scars cause more damage and heal much slower than our physical bodies, so we must be more intentional about our healing by doing so from the inside out just as our bodies do.

So I sunk into the blues. I prayed, I wept, I was angry, I felt as if everything in my life had suddenly just shriveled up. I wanted to work, to create, to wash these blues away by birthing something truly powerful from this darkness, but nothing came. I was numb, paralyzed, creatively mute. Sitting in my studio, staring at my sketchbook, living with the blues. There was no light and there was no muse. The only light to be found was reflected from the moon. Moonlight Blues

Every day, everyday I have the blues.

When you see me crying baby, you know it’s you I hate to lose

Seems like nobody loves me, and nobody seems to care

Speakin’ bout hard times and trouble, you know I’ve had my share. 

I’m gonna pack my bags and move on the down the line 

Ain’t nobody worrying and ain’t nobody crying 

Everyday I have the blues

B. B. King 

moonlight-blues-72-5

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Ascension III: Breaking through the Veil

INSPIRATION

Although the appearance of this image is very different from the two which have preceded it, the impetus for its creation is deeply embedded within the same concept. “Breaking through the Veil” is still very much about ascension. At the most fundamental level, each of us is spirit and exists as such in this dimension and those beyond it. From a quantum perspective, we know that more dense slower moving particles (lower vibration) can not maintain their integrity in the presence of less dense particles (higher vibration). The more dense particles must either be accelerated to the higher frequency or be destroyed by it. From a spiritual viewpoint, Spirit must literally descend to a lower frequency in order to become encased within physical matter. The portion of human consciousness which exists within our bodies had to literally descend and break through into this 4th-dimensional reality. 
Part of our spiritual work is the practice of more fully embodying this higher energy and consciousness within our physical body. At our best, we do this through a process of spiritual formation and an intentional cultivation of the inner life that will help spirit become increasingly more present within every aspect of our being. At our worst, we live unconsciously and are driven by ego, habit, and basic physical impulses. Siddhartha the first Buddha is a shining example of the potential we possess when the spiritual life is cultivated with discipline and intention. As we read his story we are privy to an ongoing process of transformation which culminates in him embodying so much spiritual light that he could phase up and out (ascend) into the higher dimensions of consciousness. He took the small spark which had initially broken through the veil and fanned it into a bright and shining light that brought about his ascension. 
When we review the life of Jesus and the events which led to his resurrection and subsequent ascension we find another point of entry. As a boy, we are told that Jesus was constantly spending time with the spiritual masters of his particular tradition. We also find that a significant portion of this embodiment work was completed during his baptism in the river Jordan under the hand of his cousin John the Baptizer. We are told that when he presents himself to John for baptism, Jesus rose up from the water and the spirit descended upon him like a dove. Whether we view this literally or symbolically, the essential point is that he was transformed in a manner which was easily identifiable by those around him. In this case, he was provided with an inpouring of spiritual power for the performance of his particular mission within the earthly realm. This descension could be interpreted as a greater connection to his higher self, or a greater capacity to access the frequencies within the higher realms. This capacity allowed him to perform various works which seemed to be miraculous by our limited perspective. 
The examples above inspired me to create “Breaking through the Veil”. The images I create are not only birthed from my vocational practice but are the result of spiritual insights that have accompanied my own process of spiritual formation.
 

Breaking the Veil 72.5

SYMBOLISM

“Breaking through the Veil” symbolizes ascension and descension. The piece was created using scratchboard because the stark contrasts between dark and light were an essential part of my vision for the image. We encounter utter darkness on the left and right sides of the image. For me, this blackness is pregnant with symbolism. In Western Euroethnic culture, blackness is associated with that which is base and evil. But in other cultures this isn’t the case. The blackness encountered here is associated with formlessness, the void, a place absent of any “thing” yet pregnant with infinite possibility. Science refers to it as anti-matter that fills the spaces between space and as such it is the blank canvas of the cosmos.   

On the left side of this expanse, we find a single point of light shining forth within the darkness. This light, this single spark from source is filled with infinite knowledge which is symbolized by the all-seeing eye contained within it. This single divine spark is filled with all knowledge and therefore, an infinite capacity to act upon and within the darkness which surrounds it. It uses its very being to pierce through, manipulate, and mold the slower moving anti-matter into a form that a portion of its consciousness can embody. In the process of descension and embodiment so much is of its former brilliance is lost that it, we, so often forget that how truly powerful, brilliant and expansive we are. We forget that there is so much more to us than theses bodies and thoughts could ever contain. We forget that this is not all there is and that the reality we know is simply the tip of a massive iceberg buried deep within.  

The child-like figure finds shape and form as it emerges from the darkness yet it is not fully formed as none of us truly are. Some of us will live a thousand lifetimes and still remain partially unformed. unfulfilled, and never fully mature into the possibilities for which we were intended.  This is why we must work at embodying the spark, bringing forth the light which yearns to become fully actualized within us. Live in the Light!

The rings emanating from the figure are indicative of both spiritual light and the dissolution that accompanies time. The first one is bright white and clear as we grow into our full maturity. The second aura is much denser because it represents the genesis of our physical forms process of decline. Notice that each successive emanation has less form and greater degrees of dissipation.  What is spirit must return to spirit. Eventually, the physical form will return back into the void from which it was birthed, and the spark will once again merge with its own omniscient brillance. As Job reminds us, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The spirit gives and the spirit will take away.” Amen.

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Ascension II: The Buddha Nature Ascends

INSPIRATION

The term enlightenment is derived from the notion of light. The light of consciousness, the light of knowledge, the light of awareness that breaks through to us, and in us. Light comes to us in the midst of our ignorance, blindness, our will to power, and our pain. As we receive that light we slowly but surely ascend. We accelerate the process when we consciously and deliberately choose to consistently go within. These epiphanal glimpses of light inspired Ascension II.

As I reflect upon it now, the creation of Ascension II was almost inevitable. The thoughts and feelings which led to its creation are evidence of the natural process of expansion and deeper consciousness that accompanies the path to enlightenment. The Buddha is not necessarily a person. A more accurate characterization  would be to identify it as a state of being, or conscious awareness that can be reached by anyone. This truth ensures that there have been, and will be many Buddhas throughout the course of history. The Buddha is a nature which one acquires as one seeks to go ever deeper within. It is believed that some who have reached this state were able to literally shift their vibration to such a high rate that they disappeared into the realms of higher consciousness. 

Ascenion II72.5

SYMBOLISM

One of the first things you will notice about this piece is the horizontal format. I intentionally chose to use this format because I wanted to emphasize the point I made in my discussion of Ascension I regarding enlightenment as a process of expansion and not the upward movement we so often assign to it. Just as the first piece was long and vertical, this piece is wide and horizontal (36h x 48w) to reflect the notion of expansion as both upward and outward movement.

The four figures located in the corners of the image are seated in various meditation poses. They represent adepts who are following the teachings of the Buddha, and the Four Noble Truths of the Buddhist tradition (suffering, craving, there is an end to suffering, follow the path). Each figure is surrounded by an auric field which is not complete because they have not yet achieved enlightenment but are still walking the path.

The Buddha is encompassed within an eight-rung wheel which is reminiscent of the eight-fold path that is followed by all who seek to ascend in this tradition. The Path is characterized by the concepts of: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, mindfulness, and singularity of mind (enlightenment). It is the possession of these virtues which leads one toward ascension. The deep purple which comprises the wheel and the four figures is indicative spiritual strength-an essential for any transformation.

The Bodhi tree at the bottom center of the composition is a historical reminder that it was during meditation under a such a tree that Siddhartha achieved his enlightenment and thus ascended into the realms of Nirvana.

My use of the star-shaped figure around the wheel symbolizes both light, and the sudden flash of spiritual insight which can often accompany periods of deep meditation. One is often privy to sudden flashes of understanding which lead to even deeper levels of inner light and spaciousness.

In the center of the composition, we find the Buddha himself. He is sitting in a full lotus position with his eyes closed in deep meditation. He levitates above and within the spiritual energies which surround him.  I wasn’t really interested in representing the chakras in this image. My main concern was to depict spiritual light and create a sense of vibration and spiritual power. The lighter pastel colors which form the auric field, are not necessarily based upon the chakras.

All of the colors used in this piece were carefully chosen after numerous color roughs to determine which tones would work together seamlessly. It may seem random but the placement of the colors was carefully worked out so that they would all work together and compliment one another. Many pastel colors can be symbolic of higher energies without necessarily referring to the chakras. From a frequency perspective the many of the colors we associate with cooler temperatures (blue, green, violet) are actually of a higher wavelength frequency than  those we think of as warm (red, orange, yellow).The magenta cloud is juxtaposed to the deep blue clouds in an interplay of light and dark. The deep blue representing spiritual darkness or the unexamined state while the higher vibrations of magenta and the rays of green and yellow light break through the darkness.

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Ascension I: The Son of Man Ascends

INSPIRATION

Inspiration is a funny thing. It is often born from the most unlikely sources and flashes into consciousness at the worst possible moments. Yet these capricious insights are an integral  part of the creative process. To be inspired is to be “in Spirit” and that was exactly how the seeds of this image began to sprout.

Over the course of 3 weeks, I had been listening to several talks by various thinkers and intuitives on the topic enlightenment and the expansion of consciousness. The more I absorbed their perspectives and meditated upon the topic the more insights poured into my mind and spirit. Over those weeks, I felt a growing need to not only synthesize these insights but to share them with others.

As human beings, we often think of ascension as an upward, and often hierarchical  movement, but in reality, ascension is circular and holistic. Ascension is about expansion! The expansion and integration of one’s consciousness throughout all levels of self. Thus, one becomes fully self-actualized and self-aware physically, mentally, spiritually, and  energetically. From this perspective, one can only ascend outward and upward to the level or depth one has also gone downward and inward.

This can be evidenced not only in Jesus’ life and ministry but in the writings and biographies of all the spiritual masters. We see what can best be described as a kind of implosion. Each master first begins by going within in an effort to know the self’s inner world and locate that quiet, silent place of inner spaciousness. But in each instance, the master begins to discover that the journey within is simultaneously connecting her/him more deeply to all that is without and beyond. Paradoxically, each one discovered that the universal resides within the particular. Yet each reached a point upon the inward journey where there was no further they could go. The journey inward was then replaced by an opening, a flowering, or a rapid outward expansion which completely altered their way of being. This transformation occurs as a result of the inward exploration and is directly linked to the act that we refer to as ascension.

SYMBOLISM

I chose Jesus because he is the most easily recognizable figure within my particular context. Since Jesus’ ascension is directly linked to his death and resurrection, I felt it was extremely important to make reference to these events within the work so that one can see the continuity between them. I began researching Jesus and the ascension using various theological texts and the biblical narratives. The main features of the biblical narratives are Jesus ascending up into the heavens, the presence of heavenly beings, the elements, and the disciples who stand in witness.

Materials

The image is painted using acrylic paints on a large solid wood board. I actually found the piece of board lying outside near a trash pick-up site. I was walking down the street and noticed this large piece of wood supported by a couple of trash bins. The wood’s surface was distressed by scrapes, peeling layers, and various rippling textures. Normally I wouldn’t even have paid attention to something like this but the surface was so intriguing that I decided to take it to my studio.  It literally sat in my studio for a month and some days I would just sit in the studio and stare at it. I felt a connection to it in some way but I had no idea what to do with it? It wasn’t until I was halfway through my sketches for Ascension that I understood why I had been drawn to this block of wood.

The panel is 1.5 inches thick and weighs about 80lbs. Its surface is rough, pitted, and unfinished. This large piece of wood is reminiscent of the Jesus’ death on the cross. Its surface and texture are not only symbolic of a cross but it is earthy and grounding just as Jesus’ death truly was. It reminds me that life, death, and ascension are not heavenly conceptualizations to be spiritualized, but real-world, natural, embodied experiences that are played out within the earthly realm.

Ascension I: The Son of Man Ascends

Imagery

The two angels found on the upper right and left portions of the composition are representative of heavenly witnesses and guides. The angel on the left holds an ankh which symbolizes rebirth and new life. The angel on the right wields a spear which makes reference to Jesus’ death by human hands and the piercing of his side by the Roman centurion’s spear during his crucifixion.

The elements of cloud and sky have always held a prominent place in spiritual symbolism. The clouds symbolize both the divine presence and the biblical narratives’ description of Jesus ascending up into the clouds as he entered the heavenly realms. In the biblical tradition, the divine presence is often symbolized by clouds so I felt they were appropriate for this image. The golden-yellow sky is symbolic of light and spiritual illumination. The divine light pours forth bringing both physical and spiritual illumination to Jesus and the disciples who see and comprehend the events with supra-natural clarity. The symbol floating in the sky above Jesus’ head is the West African Adinkra symbol for transformation.

The silhouetted figures found in the bottom portion of the composition represent the disciples who not only witness the ascension but later receive a portion of Jesus anointing and divine power with the arrival of the Holy Spirit as it is described within the biblical book of Acts. These figures are in various positions of prayer and supplication as they worship their ascending master. Each figure is not only connected to the next, but each is connected to Jesus through the orange mandorla which surrounds Jesus who is ascending up above them. The deep blue depicts the figure’s silhouettes since they are surrounded by the dark clouds of divine presence. They are also encircled by red and orange halos (respectively). The former represents Jesus’ shed blood which covers the figures and provides both protection and connection with the divine presence. The orange halo is symbolic of the disciples sharing in the same spiritual power that Jesus himself possesses.

 Jesus is depicted within the very center of the composition floating upon a cloud as he ascends into the heavenly realms. The viewer’s eye is directed to this focal point by the use of an orange mandorla surrounding Jesus. The same orange also surrounds his actual figure as an aura. Orange is an expansive color that is often used to symbolize energy and power. Since ascension is expansion I thought the orange was an appropriate means of symbolizing this reality. In addition, the biblical narrative clearly connects Jesus’ ascension with the notion of power, both spiritually and physically (“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me…”). This power pours forth from the figures’ eyes and body (if the eyes scare you stop watching so many horror films).  The symbol that accompanies this new state of ascended transformation is the reiki symbol for enlightenment emblazoned upon his forehead in red.  The red robe is reminiscent of Jesus’ death and the blood he shed upon the cross. His sacrifice will be the catalyst through which those who follow him will gain access to the heavenly realms. His hands are outspread in a gesture of welcome as his forefingers grasp his thumbs to form a mudra.

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God of the Oppressed

God of the Oppressed bw300

INSPIRATION

Although this image has flowered recently, the nights of reflection and debate that planted the seeds for its creation go back almost 20 years. Seeds that were planted during my second semester at seminary where I received my initial exposure to the writings of Dr. James Cone, the parent of Black Theology. That seed was then watered by the writings of Gustavo Gutierrez, the parent of Latin American Liberation Theology, and fertilized in the fruitful soil of ongoing theological debate and reflection.

I find both ironic and appropriate that I have given birth to an image of Jesus so close to the season in which his birth is celebrated throughout the world. For some this birth means nothing – and for others everything. The most practical and pertinent questions have nothing to do with whether or not Jesus ever existed as an actual person, is he the son of god…and everything to do with his contemporary relevance in a world where his presence (real or otherwise) has made a lasting impression. There are so many differing voices and factions claiming  possession of Jesus that it’s extremely difficult to discuss his relevance to the current state of affairs, until we ascertain “whose” Jesus we should be talking about? God of the Oppressed is a visual response to this question.

SYMBOLISM

Imagery

The nature of representational imagery necessitates the use of smaller, individual images (image begets image). The smaller individual images within the overall composition were carefully selected to support the overarching theme, “God of the Oppressed”.  In the process of supporting this theme, I have placed the images together in ways that detail or elaborate upon certain aspects of the theme while simultaneously reinforcing or supporting the other images around it. In this way, their interdependence mirrors our own interdependence.

The Asian male with his hand raised in defiance counter-balances the outstretched arm of Hitler behind him. The handcuffed figure in the prison garb is directly connected to the silhouetted figure behind bars – yet both are directly linked to the police officer firing his gun as he holds the dangling head of yet another victim…we go on and on this way as we circle our way around the entire composition.  My point with this effect was to remind us that despite all our futile attempts to deny our interdependence, each of us is connected to one another in myriad ways. The injustices we exercise upon another have an effect upon us, them, and the whole of humanity.

The Scriptural Texts

The figures carrying signs in the image’s lower left corner are central to its interpretation. Each of the figures holds a sign containing excerpts from key biblical texts. The young man in front stands before a sign which contains an excerpt from Luke 4.16-21 that reads: When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  

The gentleman walking behind the young man carries a sign with excerpts from Exodus 3.7-10 which states: Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

The final text is carried by a woman wearing a hat who marches just behind the two gentlemen. Her message is excerpted from the famous “Magnificant” contained in Luke 1.46-55: And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

The central theme within each of these texts is the emphasis upon liberation from oppression, suffering and injustice. Not only liberation from, but more importantly solidarity with those whose lives are being affected by injustice. Solidarity from a divine intelligence that feels what they feel, hears their cries and provides comfort in the midst of unjust and often hostile circumstances. A divinity that not only identifies with us in our brokenness but also promises to take concrete action toward justice on our behalf. These actions are not solely focused upon comfort for the soul but are grounded in concrete historical reality. There is no “pie in the sky” or promise of future glory in the hereafter. These are the actions of a being who walks with us and works on our behalf within the context of our present reality. Freedom and justice are to be struggled for “now” because they are pertinent to our physical experience.

These texts present us with a divinity that is filled with compassion and actively concerned with justice. A god who not only takes sides but exercises a preferential option for those who are oppressed. This is a divinity who cannot be contained or co-opted by the establishment. A creator who loves us all, but is willing to not only take sides and become proactively involved with our efforts to balance the scales of justice. That is why these texts lie at the core of my personal theology and are intimately connected to every other aspect of this image.

Jesus

The image of Jesus serves as the central figure within this illustration. He is surrounded by a mandorla like shape which is also representative of the fish symbol that the early church appropriated to depict their faith and mission. I intentionally made sure that the figure not only breaks through the mandorla to touch the other figures but the tail portions of the mandorla also connect with the outer figures as well. This helps unify the composition and create a direct physical connection between the Jesus and the figures that surround him. I also opted to make use of the traditional halo surrounding Jesus’ head. Both symbols indicate spiritual light and power that is being symbolically transmitted to the other figures as it connects them to Jesus. The silhouette upon the cross at Jesus’ feet is not only his cross but the cross of all those who are suffering from oppression – yet continue to engage in the struggle for justice and equality.

From my perspective, the real question is not about Jesus, but “whose Jesus?”  The Jesus of the oppressor never was and never can be the Jesus of the oppressed. The establishment has its own Jesus. He is not a person of color. He is not a Jew. He is not concerned with justice or equality and would never condone any kind of rebellion or insurrection. He is a wimp. His only interests are sentimental love and helping to maintain the status quo. Whose Jesus are you walking with?

My emphasis here is upon the person of Jesus as opposed to the risen Christ of faith. A Jesus who was born as a person of color into a minority community that was experiencing multiple forms of oppression. A Jesus who was: poor, stood up to a corrupt religious establishment, established his ministry by serving those who were considered the least within his community, was trapped by his enemies, abandoned by his inner circle, brutalized by the authorities, and ultimately tried and murdered by an oppressive government. This is the Jesus who has stood by my side, labored with me in my struggles and knows me in every aspect of my humanness.  This is the Jesus with whom I identify. This is the God of the Oppressed!

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Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

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Leap of Faith

LEAP OF FAITH

INSPIRATION

There are times in life when we are compelled to take a “Leap of Faith.” Times when we must step out into the unknown with no possible idea what the outcome may be. Times when it has become just too painful to stay where you are. You may not know where or how to move, but deep in your gut you instinctively know that something must change. Oftentimes, we begin to examine our lives and the ever fearful voice of the rational mind says, “No, don’t do that you had better play it safe.” In those moments of decision we can either: let fear win and once again settle for less than what Spirit had intended for us; or we can listen to that still small voice, and take the leap of faith.

Every moment of life is an opportunity to step back into safety, remain where we are out of anxiety and fear, or leap forward in faith. We will never know what we are truly capable of until we begin to release our doubts, disbeliefs, and fears in order to replace them with optimism, hope, and faith. Last month in Winds of Hope I quoted the famous biblical verse from Hebrews 11.1 “Now faith is the substance of things we yet hope for, and the evidence of the things we do not yet see.” I also defined hope as, “The belief that the things we desire are capable of becoming reality”. As such I posited that hope is an essential component of faith. If hope is the precious cargo that each of us holds deep within, faith the is the ship which will carry it safely through life’s storms.

Faith is a convictional stance that embodies hope within a framework of trust. It offers the heart assurance that the hope one bears can be realized despite life’s apparent contradictions.  Many would have us believe that faith lies in opposition to or contradicts reason, but in reality faith it transforms.  This transformation is brought forth by bringing the objective (rational mind) and the subjective (inner heart) together in balance and focus. A healthy faith creates balance and focus by helping us to validate the self as an agent in achieving our hopes while simultaneously acknowledging that there is a greater source of truth that is available to aid and guide us. This transformation allows us to focus our thoughts and actions upon that which we hope for despite any lack of physical evidence to support our decisions because we trust that doing so is the only way that anything actually will change. Thus we see that faith requires that we take a vital and dynamic stance toward life. A stance which requires will, commitment, persistence, and trust that a source of wisdom far greater than self is ready and willing to provide us with assistance if we are prepared to accept it.

This is one of the reasons why faith is always exercised in the present. Faith forces us to live and be present in the “now” because that is the only time it can be actively expressed. We choose to trust now, act now, plan now, commit now, persist now…and this choice to focus our thoughts and actions upon the thing which we hope for prepares us to eventually receive it. Just as an idea or inspiration is lost without execution, so too “faith without works is dead.” Being conscious and present is always about expansion. To shrink back or stay put is about contraction and fear. Ultimately, fear is not about the obstacle you face, it’s about the level of faith and trust you are willing to act upon in that particular moment. Being in the now requires expansion, and as we expand for the leap out into what appears to be unknown; god, the universe, source, spirit expands to meet us. Faith prepares us to face the unknown but without action we are unable to receive it.

John Calvin defined faith as, “A steady and certain knowledge of divine benevolence toward us that is revealed in our minds and confirmed in our hearts” by Spirit. I truly believe that there is something beyond us. A center around which all other facets of being revolve. And that center is benevolent, kind, just…and willing to work in and through me to the degree that I am willing and prepared to accept it. For me, “Leap of Faith” serves as a symbolic reminder to move forward, take the leap out into a loving universe that is waiting meet me at the point of expectation. “According to your faith it shall be done for you.”

LEAP OF FAITH

LEAP OF FAITH

SYMBOLISM

I knew that something more than a single figure painted upon the paper was needed to create any kind of relevant composition. But the leaping figure was so visually powerful that I didn’t want to overburden the rest of the composition with too many additional details. The problem was incorporating an image or symbol which resonated with my inspiration but did not compete with the central image for the viewer’s attention. I needed something that was consistent with my vision but subtle enough for me to maintain control of the leaping figure as the image’s primary focal point.

The Japanese symbol Mitsudomoe provided exactly what was needed. The Mitsudomoe is found throughout Japan in many of the country’s Shinto temples. The three comma-like shapes within the circle are called “tomoe” and are reminiscent of the same tomoe found in the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol. In Shintoism the mitsudomoe represents the three realms of existence: humanity, earth, and sky. These three exist in a tripartite relationship of mutuality and interdependence. This conception correlates with my previous discussion of faith if we see humanity as the subjective aspect of the faith equation because our individual hope is always personal and subjective. Sky symbolizes the divine as the objective aspect of the being and its’ eagerness to work with us in the process of bringing our unique vision into materiality. The earth corresponds to the realm of action where humanity and sky come together in the project of materialization. A mature active faith requires all three and recognizes their interdependence.

The three swirling tomoe imply movement and action while simultaneously embodying the three aspects of faith.  In “Leap of Faith”, the leaping figure represents a healthy humanity expanding itself in a forward leap. The figure is both purple and lavender. Purple is a color often associated with spirit or spiritual strength/power while  lavender is reminiscent of the colors found in the higher chakras. The pink and blues in the composition are symbolic of both sky or heavens (blue) and the higher chakras or spiritual realms (pink). The brown represents the earthly realm where the demonstration of faith will ultimately be manifested.

In this case, the leaping figure takes the action by leaping out into the unknown, but this is not possible without divine aid to guide, protect, and provide all that will be needed. Simultaneously, the results and context in which all of this activity takes place is the earthly realm. Both the leap and the evidence of divine support must both be played out within the context of earthly life. Thus, the three realms work in mutual interdependence. For me, this relationship is symbolized within the mitsudomoe.

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Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

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