6 Months

February 15, 2013

“Contemplation is an exercise in keeping your heart and mind spaces open long enough for the mind to see other hidden material. It is content with the naked now and waits for futures given by God and grace.” -Richard Rohr

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this ’emotion’ is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder, or stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed.” -Albert Einstein

More than learning about another culture, living abroad is helping me to learn more about myself and my way of thinking and perceiving things. There are many differences between Beijing and Kansas City, and sometimes that is frustrating. Here are some examples. The other day, as I was waiting in line at the cashier, a man cut right in front of me. Then I began to understand why a lot of Chinese people stand very close in lines, practically touching the person in front of them. When I walk into a store to shop, I can usually guarantee that an employee will stand a few feet away from me the whole time. I used to think that they thought I was going to steal something! I’m still not sure, but I tell myself that the employee is probably just trying to be available and helpful. And although I don’t drive, I feel bad for the bus drivers and others on the road when cars take up 2 lanes, drive the wrong way on a one-way road, or stop in the middle of traffic to let out a passenger. There are definitely driving rules, but it doesn’t seem like many drivers follow them.

So for the past 6 months, I have been soaking in all these cultural differences. In October, my friend Heather gave me a wonderful book by Richard Rohr about seeing things from a “third eye,” beyond the initial look. Experience is a better teacher than words. Life is full of paradox, and this tension of holding inconsistencies together is good way to grow…I’m glad I decided to move out of my comfort zone.

In my art, I’m exploring these ideas and experiences by painting on transparent and reflective materials. I am also drawn to art with layers, and the idea of covering up something or creating a mystery. I started working full-time as an Artist-in-Residence at my school in January. So I haven’t built up too much work yet, but I hope to keep exploring these ideas and painting on non-traditional materials, such as transparency film, parchment paper, and foil. I love the transparent work by Do-Ho Suh and Kurt Lightner: