Monday, January 27, 2014

About Tadasana, Art & Yoga 2014

Tadasana is the first asana in BKS Iyengar's Light On Yoga and is naturally fitting as the first image used in my 2014 art & yoga intensive. Tadasana is the basic standing pose and although it looks simple, there is complex network of systems at work here—skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, nervous, pranic energy, and mental/emotional. Only a small portion of this network is controlled by the frontal lobe, our conscious mind. 

For me, Tadasana represents a positive start each day. In Tadasana, I assess where I am by taking an inventory of feeling, both physical and mental. I set some intentions and note areas that need attention, both physical and mental. As I move out of Tadasana into other asanas and deeper into the practice, I let go of the desire to actualize these intentions and practice simple awareness with detachment. Awareness with detachment is an acknowledgement of being—what is—without judgement or agenda. Like physical posture itself, there is a complex network of systems at work here—not all of which I fully realize at this time—and it seems a small portion of this network is controlled by our conscious mind as well.

Balance Application

For many of us, the self critical voice speaks loudest. Simply put, this voice keeps us in check, and holds us accountable, but it can also beat us down and drown out the supportive, self affirming voice that motivates us and makes us feel worthwhile. Both voices are valuable, but balance is key. All people experience these voices in different levels of balance. My self critical voice is so domineering that I have to make a concerted effort to quiet it down. I have to specifically listen for that supportive voice or I won't hear it. 

Whether it's an obnoxiously loud critical voice or a penchant for cookies, as imperfect beings the tendency for imbalance is in our nature. The practice of yoga creates a time and place to level out. By exercising awareness with detachment, the loud quiets and the soft becomes more audible. Yoga is a practice and with anything we might practice, proficiency increases with frequency and intensity. Maintained awareness can arguably be more valuable off the mat than on. With this in mind, be wary of yoga goals or practicing for a specific outcome. Go to the mat. Practice. 

Screen Print Application

For each image I work with this year, I'm producing a screen printed edition of 20. When it came to the printing of Tadasana I was posed with an interesting dilemma. The transparency level of the black ink I mixed was more than I typically work with creating a noticeable ink rink (called a screen kiss) on the print. The amount of extender making the black ink more transparent also made it more viscous leading to some slight bleeding where the black prints over the gold.

As I reviewed the first couple of prints, I liked seeing more of the fluorescent red under the black and the screen kiss suggested a wave of energy radiating to Iyengar in his Tadasana. Happy accident. There is plenty of intentional noise in the print design itself, so a little bleed in the area over the gold could go unnoticed. That didn't bother me either. The print, however, does not adhere to traditional screen printing standards for a print edition. Do I re-mix the ink so I can pull some perfect prints?

At the risk of losing acceptance by screen print enthusiasts, I opted against established standards for what came naturally. In doing so, I applied the yogic practice of awareness with detachment to my art making. The print isn't perfect by edition standards, but that doesn't mean it isn't perfect exactly as it is. Imperfection is the essence of the print.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Quantifying Yoga Practice

Yoga doesn't really seem like something that should be recorded and measured. There are no goals in being present. That being said, there is usually something a yogi is working toward that brings them to the mat. This motivator might be a specific asana, an overall physical improvement like increased flexibility, or a life improvement like better stress management. Changes resulting from a yoga practice can be subtle and best realized over a period of time. Keeping a practice log or journal can really help bring awareness of and celebrate the progress practice brings.

I'm most interested in a better understanding of my human connection with nature. What are seasonal affects on my practice? I want to discover how different types of yoga (ashtanga, intuitive, restorative, etc) specifically affect my moods. I also want to recognize what is happening physically. To accomplish this, I created a simple spreadsheet to record the following:

  • date
  • day
  • practice type
  • pre-practice mood 
  • post practice mood 
  • flexibility
  • balance
  • strength
  • creativity
  • flow
Entries rated using a scale of 1-5:
5 - unusually on, practice milestone
4 - improved, better that usual
3 - normal, usual (my own baseline, not based on age, gender, etc statistics)
2 - less than normal, a little down
1 - extremely low, unusually off

I have designated notes fields to be more specific about my mood, physicality and other things I am noticing. Flexibility, balance, strength, creativity, and flow are both physical and spiritual aspects of humanity so it will definitely be interesting to notice the connections and changes over time. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Yoga & Art Intensive

In the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna the meaning of Yoga:

“When the restlessness of the mind, intellect and self is stilled through the practice of Yoga, the yogi by the grace of the Spirit within himself finds fulfillment...There is nothing higher than this...This is the real meaning of Yoga."

My work in 2014 will manifest from an intensive exploration and personal practice of yoga to define and experience the effects and benefits thereof. I believe incorporating a focussed yoga practice with my art practice will result in a clearer direction and more significant purpose. We can break the project into 3 components: (1) yoga study and practice (2) documentation and processing (3) visual art and communication.

The yoga study and practice includes an extensive reading list of classic texts as well as contemporary theory and philosophy. The asana practice (engaging the physical postures), meditation and prãnãyãma (breathing exercises) will consist of classes and personal practice as well as supplemental workshops and seminars. Video/photographic documentation will supplement blog writing as a means to process and share progress and insights.

I will hone in on one base image each month as appropriately informed by the yoga practice. Each base image will undergo a series of exploration featuring screen print as the primary media. Supporting media may include a variety of paint techniques: spray paint, airbrush, and acrylic, as well as sculptural elements including fabric, wood, and metal. Work will be created on a battery of substrates including paper, canvas and wood, in scale ranging from small (4”-6”) to large (108”-240”).

The work will be exhibited in a pointed seasonal context with a cumulative exhibition in 2015.

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to be okay when you don't get your way.

A saying my feng shui teacher likes to use is—”all in perfect timing.” She got the saying from her teacher. It’s an easy one, right? Sometimes our timing is not the same as that of the universe. When I want a certain thing—a certain relationship, a certain opportunity, those boots, whatever—if the time isn’t right for me, then it’s not going to happen. 

As simple as the sentiment seems, I didn’t fully understand it until recently. Accepting that I didn't get what I wanted is only the surface of the concept. The depth of it involves being okay with it and better still, stoked about it. Here’s what I mean:

I found out about an artists residency program right at the time I was considering leaving steady employment to focus on art full time. I thought finding out about this program was a sign that the time was right to quit and go do what I really wanted to be doing. I thought, “I’ll time my notice and end my employment just before the residency starts. This way I’ll have a working direction all lined up and make tons of appropriate contacts right out of the gate. The timing is perfect!”

I gave my notice and worked my ass off on the residency application, but didn’t end up getting it. I didn’t feel upset or disappointed, though. I actually got a little excited. The time was right for a change, but starting up a residency program wasn't the right change. So what is next? This remains to be seen, but opportunity is always around the corner.

Increased confidence is a benefit of practicing Sãlamba Sarvãngãsana (shoulder stand) and I’ve been practicing it a lot over the past 6 months. It takes confidence to be secure in a decision even if the outcome isn't what you expected or wanted. The key is feeling good about the direction you are headed and not which gas stations you stop at along the way.