The following is another in a series of guest articles by artists on their work with art in a healing or transformative context.
Marjorie Kaye is an artist residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts who graduated from Syracuse University in 1979 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting cum laude. She is also the owner and operator of the on-line Caladan Gallery, which exhibits artists from around the world, as well as the director of Gallery 181 in Lawrence, MA, a contemporary, alternative space. Her work is influenced by nature, geometry, music, and the artwork of many ancient cultures. Her pieces, while they stem from the symmetrical perfection of the traditional mandala, diverge considerably from that form. They are injected with a subtle shift of content and direction that throws them off-center in their own revolution.
Marjorie says she feels the opportunity for spiritual manifestation through art is limitless. “Art is life celebrated in matter.”
Marjorie’s work also has been influenced by and includes images she has called “Social Surrealism,” in which she attends to the “little sticks in our pathways — and sometimes the boulders!”
Marjorie has exhibited her work in many exhibitions both nationally and locally. Here, Marjorie speaks about the relationship between sacred geometry and mandalas, as well as her own discoveries in working with the mandala form.
Sacred Geometry and the Mandala
Mandalas are the formations and organizations of Sacred Geometry.
Sacred Geometry has been utilized by humanity since thought became structured and used as a tool for survival. The ancients assigned importance to simple shapes, as well as their more complex factors, as this is what faced them upon opening the eyes at dawn. Without the clutter and complexity of our combinations of energies, i.e. TV, Electronics, Weather Prediction, this is what surrounded the first of humanity. Even what we perceive as common and ordinary, such as paper goods, plastic containers, microwavable meals, clutter our perception of the basic energies of life. Not so for our remote ancestors. What else existed for them but the morning call of the birds (awaken); the running of the water (drink); the wind rustling in the trees (pleasure); the roar of a lion (danger); the sparkling of the stars at night (wonder)?
We start with a circle, the universal life force. Present in nature, giver of life, the circle is the most fundamental of geometrical shapes. It is the organic, breathing entity that is also symbolic of the womb, the sun, and the ever-lasting. We come to the square. Elemental and opposite forces uniting to create structure. The microcosmic balance made crystalline. The manifestation of life. The triangle is movement. It is the flow outward, represented in growth and communication. It is reflected in the reaching of the leaf towards the sun, an arrow towards the sky, and also embedded in the consciousness as the outflowing of ideas. These are the three basic elemental geometrical shapes utilized in the mandala to create and portray the meditative energies and power within the image.
Most mandalas are a combination of these three energies. Each mandala is a snapshot in time. There are as many combinations of geometrical pattern as there are breaths taken by all of us, or moments in time. The mandala represents the beauty and complexity of the universe around us. If we were to layer mandala over mandala, eventually the patterns would combine, merge to form One – pure energy and light. We are all mandalas, countless in the Universe.
The mandala form, as with all art, comes from inspiration. The mandala form came to me about 15 years ago. I have been an artist for as long as I have been alive, but I had never investigated mandalas until they literally popped into my consciousness! I had been doing many abstract paintings and drawings at the time, when I felt the urge to work in this certain way stop abruptly. I started making very small pen and ink drawings which were radiating from the center. At this time, my mandalas were much more symmetrical than they are now! I can’t tell you what it was that inspired the mandala form at this time. It is something mysterious in the heart of me that awakened. I do know that as my spiritual practice and consciousness became more refined, the mandala appeared in my work. My spiritual practice is Zen Buddhism. As the world appeared in more clarity to me, this clarity was reflected in the mandala.
When I sit down to begin a mandala, I start with a simple gray-colored pencil (with an eraser!). I let the shapes and forms come to me. I feel as if I am a receptacle for creative energy. I let go of any interrupting thoughts about what is right and what is wrong and let the energy flow through me to create the underlying geometrical diagram. As a graduate of Syracuse University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program in Painting, I have been made aware of certain thought patterns that come naturally from being taught. It is a wonderful thing, as it creates a vehicle for one’s self-expression! However, these formulas of art-making can linger in the mind’s eye and actually get in the way of the spiritual energy trying to come forth from one’s inner heart It is important, when making art, to allow the truth of it to come to the surface. The mechanics of making the work becomes automatic after a while.
I then use sequences of color, tint, and hue to bring energy and direction to the underlying shapes. The addition of color to the mandalas brings to mind, for me, the blossoming of a mathematical truth, or listening to a Bach cantata. There is an order to it that I discover as I apply the sequential color to it. I feel that by allowing the spiritual energy through to the surface in the mandala in this way, the color is always right. If I were to use other colors, it would simply be a different mandala! When the color is applied, the finishing touch of shading each individual shape is done. This is truly a spiritual practice! It is an exercise in patience! The works take many months to do. They are always a meditative experience, guiding me deep within my inner being.
Eye of Dune
When considering the origin of the mandala, it is important to realize that mandalas are already present in Nature. Humankind is not the ultimate creator of the divine cosmic geometry – we are here to become unified with it through its understanding. We as a people have been attesting to this divine resonance through the construction and awareness of perfect order in the mandala. This perfect order does not come about without the existence of chaos, however. The symmetry used in most mandala forms is indicative of our desire for and outreach to what we perceive as perfection. In nature, the symmetry is rarely perfect – rather, it is the tiniest flaw in the snowflake, the differentiation in the pattern made by a drop of water that gives rise to the materialization of the world in the first place! Perfect symmetry is existence looking back on itself. Therefore it is static, having nowhere to go for its own reflection. However, The tree is perfect. The leaf is perfect. The caterpillar is perfect. You are perfect.
By doing these pieces, the mind is not formulating, consciously, a certain outcome. The outcome is directly related to the actual making of the piece. In this way, the practice of BECOMING is actually the practice of BEING. The meditation is ongoing, and a loving practice. It teaches me to be gentle and loving to myself and others. It has taught me self-acceptance. To trust in the nature of the Universe and in its perfection. To see each manifestation of God’s Love in the nurturing of others and in their nurturing of me. To forgive those who don’t understand the truth of themselves and their part in the universe. It is the practice of allowing sequential “mistakes” to exist in the colors sometimes that keeps me on the path of transformation – allowing and “welcoming the weeds.”
Being able to relate this work on a deeply spiritual level is one of the most wonderful gifts possible. In the art world, the truth of the actual art is rarely the call of the day. There are veils upon veils of distortion. Even really well-meaning art-lovers are more concerned with the passing value of a thing than the spiritual reality behind it. It is a very difficult world to work within! I actually spend a lot of my time running a virtual art gallery to dispel this trend, paying homage to the artists that are exhibited on the gallery site and glorifying the true spiritual intent of the pieces. It is amazing how many artists thirst to have their inner spiritual life recognized! It is a most wonderful experience, as is being able to impart these things here. It’s a rare “gem in the lotus.”
I feel amazing gratitude to be the vehicle for Spirit through the mandala form. It is my life, and is a source of constant nourishment.
I celebrate the boundless range of elemental combinations present in the universe. From basic substances of matter emerge presences of infinite variety that take form as planets, comets, stars, trees, human-kind, and other celestial travelers. This is a manifestation of the creativity of spirit. This is present and reflected on all levels of being. It is with this observation that my drawings are made.
© 2008, Marjorie Kaye
Blue Morning Glory II flower mandala
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality and art. So far, my thoughts are vague and unformed, but I’m aware that in my own life, my work as an artist and my spiritual development have been running in tandem for a long time, often intersecting.
I’d be very intersted in hearing from others their thoughts on this: on how either making or experiencing some kind of art has related to their sense of themselves as spiritual beings, and their growth in this area. Spirituality has been so much a part of art, and art so much a part of places of worship in all cultures and, as far as I know, for as long as there have been places of worship, that they must be intricately interwoven in the human soul. It would be interesting to start to figure out how and why, and how to tweak that interweaving in our own lives to make both more accessible.
Please let us know your thoughts, either here or in the parallel post in the Art, Healing, and Transformation group.
David J. Bookbinder, LMHC
Spirituality and Art / Spiritual Art
Art, Healing, and Transformation group
Flower Mandalas Project group
© 2008, David J. Bookbinder
This is another in a series of articles by guest authors or artists.
D. Kristen Herrington is an artist, writer, and Reiki master/teacher from Round Rock, Texas. Here, she tells the story of her Soul Mandalas.
Kristen Herrington’s Soul mandala
Life is fascinating. The ins and outs of desire and design make for the most interesting roller coaster ride! When I was a child and people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” I would simply say, “I don’t know, but I want to love everyone and I want everyone to love me.” Somewhat unrealistic, I’ll grant you, but honest in its sentiment.
As college approached, I still had no idea what to do. However, I had always loved art, drawing, reading, writing, and fabrics. I had won prizes and accolades for my drawings and writing. The textures (two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and in good writing) captivated me. So, off to art school I went. Printmaking became my method of combining texture with form in a medium which allowed me to retain a piece for myself. I always had a problem parting with my ‘babies.’
After four years of training but no degree, I decided to go to work. Sales and service became my existence for that time, until I finally virtually screamed, “Enough!” Back to college where I at last earned my degree in psychology. Odd, you might say, but my understanding of the psychological parameters of human existence has been invaluable in my creative work.
After a brief stint in graduate school, many years in advertising and marketing followed. Ultimately the scream returned, and I left the corporate world entirely. I had begun a more metaphysical life, studying shamanism, animal communication, and Reiki. The questionable integrity in the advertising world had become far too dissonant with my newfound understanding of my soul.
The development of my spiritual greeting card line was an organic process. My writing and artwork seemed to weave themselves together quite naturally.
Then an amazing thing happened. My first soul mandala was born. I say born because, like childbirth, I do not remember the process. I simply became aware, after roughly an 18 hour session on my computer, of a beautiful image before me. (I know I fed the cats and changed their litter box somewhere in there, but remember nothing else…) I had never created anything like it and it resonated with my own soul energy. It is my own soul portrait – my soul mandala. Try as I might, I still cannot recall or repeat the creation method for that particular mandala.
With a bit of prodding from my friend Carrie Laymon (a remarkable energy healer – http://pathfindertohealth.com), I began to recognize the possibilities. Using my Reiki training (I’m a Reiki Master/Teacher), I could access the soul energy of a person and allow that energy to direct my creative process. An entirely new concept opened to me.
My process is, I believe, unique. I work in Adobe Illustrator to create brush strokes. The strokes are then brought into Adobe Photoshop. A stroke is isolated, placed, duplicated and rotated, then the group of strokes is merged together. I repeat this process many times, ultimately creating a frame. The background colors are laid down, and all the fill colors are laid in row by row. The frame is then embossed graphically. Finally, the background, center, and any other bursts are added. The end result is a somewhat traditional mandala with a particularly modern feeling. Also, every step of the way is directed by the soul of the client, from the movement of the strokes to the angles of the bursts. I take my guidance from spirit.
The mandala form is such a healing and resonant form throughout cultures and history. In using this form with Reiki energy, I believe I’m creating potentially powerful regenerative artwork. I’ve had interesting experiences connecting with the souls of my clients and receiving direction specifically geared for the recovery of their essence.
Regardless, I’m finally producing the work I’m meant to produce. I continue to create in other art forms, including my spiritual greeting cards, sculpture, fabric art, and various writings; fiction, poetry, and essays. But the soul mandalas in particular seem to resonate with people, and I’m thrilled to produce them!
I hope the public enjoys my work! And thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss all of this with you!
Gelatinous Light mandala
Obtaining Kristen’s work
Mandala prints on canvas and spiritual greeting cards by Kristen are available at http://www.pathfindertohealth.com/greetingcards/
Unique Personal Soul Mandalas are available by commission. Kristen displays some, with their owner’s permission, here: http://www.723.com/lifelites/gallery
Contact information: email@example.com
© 2008, D. Kristen Herrington
Above is the Iris Germanica I flower mandala (which I’d love to have your comments on, either here or in the Flower Mandalas Project group). Here is the invitation:
Although the Beliefnet.com home page calls me an “expert,” I’m really just another traveller on life’s journey, and I’d very much like to hear from you about yours.
I’ve noticed that quite a few people have joined the Art, Healing, and Transformation group, and that’s great! I hope, here, to create a community in which blog readers and group members are not just listening to me, but are sharing in each other’s stories, thoughts, feelings, experiences, ideas, and struggles, as well as sharing their creative work. So I hope I will see more and more of this, and encourage you to post “early and often.”
I’m also interested in experimenting with using the “Miracle Question” I wrote about here, and I’m asking for volunteers to engage with. I’d like to use it online as a way to let myself and other members of the Beliefnet community help people to discover/recover their creative selves.
One of the things I do in the physical world is lead small groups I call Artists on Artists. In these groups, I use the Miracle Question as a framework for people to imagine what their lives would be like if all the issues and concerns they have as creative people were, like that!, solved. They write or draw these visions of their “miracle” lives and then, step by step, week by week, through a combination of peer review of their product and peer review of their process, the group helps them get there. It really works! People who have been blocked get unblocked. People who have always wanted to do something artistic discover what it is they want to do. People who are timid about getting their work out there — get their work out there. And so on. Each person’s miracle is different, and they’re all exciting to help actualize.
I’d like to do that here on Beliefnet, too. I’d like to encourage you to experiment, with me as your “miracle coach,” on you developing your particular miracle. Miracle workers of the world, unite! And post your questions, concerns…, and your miracles.
See you in cyberspace,
David J. Bookbinder, LMHC
Art, Healing, and Transformation group
Flower Mandalas Project group
© 2008, David J. Bookbinder