“Mended ceramics foremost convey a sense of the passage of time. The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity . . . It may be perceived in the slow inexorable work of time (sabi) or in a moment of sharp demarcation between pristine or whole and shattered . . . A mirage of ‘before’ suffuses the beauty of mended objects.”
-Barlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics
I first encountered the Japanese philosophy + aesthetic Wabi-Sabi a little over a year ago, + the Japanese art kintsugi a couple of years before that. Both captured my imagination from the first encounter, compelling me to study the philosophies + explore ways of incorporating them into my art practice.
Wabi-Sabi honors the imperfect, the humble, the hand-made + the impermanent. It seeks to embrace the beauty found in the changing of seasons, things, nature + our own lives. Kintsugi is the Japanese art first practiced in the 15th Century of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The work is stunning.
At the end of May, I hosted my second Wabi Sabi + Pottery Art Experience for 12 courageous participants/artists that incorporated kintsugi. The table was full + creativity was in full bloom all over my studio. Each person engaged in abstract intuitive + creative introspective practices designed to encourage them to honor the gift of their intuition through listening deeply, experimenting with various textures + techniques, risk taking, creative play + integrating their "mistakes" in the creation of their art piece.
It was sacred. It was beautiful.
The workshop exceded all of my expectations. Though I didn't make a piece during the workshop, I received my own takeaways from the process while guiding each person. I still find myself leaning into some of the wisdom the process revealed regarding the importance of patience in the mending what has been broken + trusting the creative process. I kept hearing, "Don't be afraid to risk + let go."
A few of the participants graciously shared their takeaways from our time at the table with me + agreed to have excerpts from their reflections anynomously shared with you. You'll find the excerpts, rich with honesty + vulnerability with photographs from our time, below.
Take a read. I think you'll find a takeaway or two and you 'll find that life is worth leaning into as well.
"During the art workshop, I became present to the beauty of brokenness. I began to wonder what else in my life needs to be pulled apart, unraveled and cracked open?
In western culture, there is a stigma associated with brokenness. We are very results driven and like to hide our flaws...
... I saw new things and new ideas through the cracks. As I slowly held the pieces back together with my "magical and golden glue", the creative process became freeing, meditative and calming. No loger relying on myself to create art, I was able to utilize ancient Japanese wisdom, the energy brought forth by the artists around me, and the inspiration that comes from unexpected "mistakes."
Reflection on Easter, 2017
Acrylic, gold leaf, charcoal + ash
6wft x 6 ft on stretched canvas
One of the gifts of my partnership as artist-in-residence with Holy Family HTX is that I have been commissioned to create 9 liturgical paintings for the community over this next year. Each painting is a abstract reflection on a liturgical season of the Church. The only paramenters I have are size + the palatte to an extinct.
This past Saturday, April 15, I offered 2 of the 9 paintings at the Easter Vigil for Holy Family HTX. This painting was one.
For those who have been following the journey + were unable to see the pieces in person, I thought I'd take a view minutes to share the process + inspiration behind the work.
For this piece I used a process of layering + subtracting paint to make sure that every circle on the painting is connected to the whole, that each circle consisted of varied textures + that each circle has gold coming through some part of its composition. Some of the specks of gold are so tiny you may need a magnifying glass to see.
The underpaintings consists of words written in in charcoal and ash from palm branches. There are lines from Mary's Song, traditional words of praise for Easter and the line "I can breathe" a number of times throughout.
The three gold circles, Trinity circles, on the east side of the painting represent the Risen Christ.
In 2005 while living in Leeds, England, it was not unusual to find me in a coffee shop reading + blogging. One day I picked up Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II + did not get to0 far before stumbling upon words that struck me to my very core. They were simply that we are all Divine manifestations-- every single human being.
To be honest, as someone raised in the church all of her life, I'd heard those words articulated differently many times before. It was not really all that new.
BUT for some reason, at that particular time in my history, they had a profound impact upon me + provided a new lens by which to see the world around me. It was surreal actually. On my way home from the coffee shop, every single person I passed was aglow-- seriously.
It was like I was seeing people, but they all looked like candles walking.
It was beautiful.
It was hopeful.
It was empowering.
As I reflected on what the hope of the Resurrection + began working it out on canvas, that transforming moment kept coming to mind + I know I had to figure out a way to point to this beauty in this painting.
You have to get close to the painting to see the details.
In some of the circles the gold is immediately evident to the eye. Others you have to search pretty darn hard to see it.
Some of the circles are strong in composition-- alive.
Others are a bit faded-- representing the saints, whose light still shines.
There are circles that are heavily textured-- full of story, full of a past.
Others are textured just a bit.
All have gold.
All are connected.
Last night I offered the first of nine liturgical paintings as part of a commissioning project with Holy Family HTX UMC. The painting was displayed in the Ash Wednesday services and I had the privilege of sharing with participants about the work and my process for completing it. It was surreal.
All of the liturgical paintings I'm creating as a part of the commissioning will begin with words. The words that served as the foundation for this painting were: "remember you are dust + to dust you shall return". The painting was also inspired by lyrics from music I was listening to, + lines from a Howard Thurman poem about the season of Lent.
The painting was a reflection on the dual encounter that the season emphasizes: our own mortality + the deep need for God's redeeming love and life in Jesus Christ.
The line of color, breaking up the rich layers of purple on top of warm yellows, browns, reds and blacks, represents our mortal lives within the expansivness of eternity.
Music was an important part of my process. There were very few moments, if any at all, in complete silence. The last marks were made to the soundtrack of "Saturn" by Sleeping at Last, which I had on constant repeat. Following are four lines specifically I mediated on as I completed this piece:
You taught me the courage of stars before you left
How light carries on endlessly even after death
With stillness of breath you explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.
The past couple of months have been AMAZING!
One of my favorite things to do in life is to travel. I am happies when on my adventures-- reading the many rich pages of this book that is the world, learning + soaking up all the brilliance of humanity + creation I possibly can. Each trip restores my hope, expands my ability to see + forms the artist I am, as I live, breathe + work to love well each place I enter.
Throughout my travels the past 2 months, from New Orleans to Nashville, Gulfport, NYC, London, and culminating with time Paris where I immersed myself in art, conversations + studies about the black imagination + the great legacy of dreamers + creatives that are a part of my ancestry --
a theme embodied in the work I encountered during a tour of Studio Be in New Orleans continues to resonate with me:
"I am my ancestors wildest dreams."
This theme that has stuck with me, + has its roots in the MBL activist community. Right now I am in the studio working it all in planning my next project.
I've decided that my next collection will be inspired by my attempts to deeply connect with my ancestors as I imagine new worlds that hopefully builds upon + honors their dreams, work, faith + magic.
Below is a glimpse of what's flowing out...
Last Saturday I led an Advent Encaustic + Image Transfer workshop in the studio. Each artist that sat at the table was guided through a process of reflecting + art making, utilizing some of my favorite encaustic painting + transfer techniques. It was wonderful in every way.
I loved seeing what flowed out of each person at the table. It never ceases to amaze me how people can have access to the same exact supplies + resources, yet what they ulitmately create is unique. There is a moment each workshop I take a step back + imagine what great masterpiece or idea the world is missing because not everyone has equal access to the tables where magic happens or equal resources. What seed is out there waiting... longing for all that it needs to fully bloom + contribute something beautiful to this world.
It was so good to take time to creatively enter into + journey through Advent with others in the studio this weekend. I am excited + grateful that I get to do a little differently three more times on December 18 in partnership wtih Holy Family HTX.
The worksh0p is free + there are three opportunities to join in. If you would like to join, click HERE to RSVP. Space is limited so you must RSVP to attend.
I look forward to hosting + creating at the table with you soon.
Lanecia A. Rouse