Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Poetry of Silence

My work is often described as quiet, or peaceful, or restful or subdued. I really do not know where that comes from.

I recently wrote a post on my library in my home. Libraries are usually considered quiet places.
I still remember, as a child in the school or city library, being told over and over to be quiet. "Shhhhh...." or the finger on the lips....

Silence can be found in many places, like the above interior of a Japanese temple in Kyoto.

Vilhelm Hammerchoi (1864-1916) was a Danish painter of haunting interiors. His work has been described as quiet, empty, silent, solitary spaces in which the passage of time as been suspended. His colors are subdued, his interiors simple and minimal. This handsome book is the first retrospective of his work and is available on

"Hammershoi is not one of those about whom one must speak quickly. His work is long and slow, and at whichever moment one apprehends it, it will offer plentiful reasons to speak of what is important and essential in art." Rainer Maria Rilke

His interiors are often dark and empty, with a single window creating a sunbeam of light. This window represents the connection with the outside world to the isolation within.
Some of his interiors have a single, solitary figure who is detached from the viewer.

James Castle (1900-1977) was born deaf. He never learned to speak, read or write. He grew up on a farm in Idaho and never traveled far from his home. He used stove soot mixed with saliva (spit) and sticks to create his drawings on discarded papers, packaging, and backs of old cards.
He also cut up found papers and cardboard and stitched them back together with found string.
His work was noticed in the 50's and 60's, and is now recognized in museums and collected all over the world. The above book is curated and published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and available at

Never educated, James Castle lived in a world of silence, isolated from the outside world. Through his eyes, he recreated his every day life, giving his work a singular, unique, natural quality.

Now. Close your eyes and take three deep, cleansing breaths.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Spirit of Stones

Silence is intensified into a stone:
broken circles are closed:
--Pablo Neruda, Stones from the River

The Shiva Lingam rock is the sacred stone from India and gathered once a year from the Narmada River, one of 7 sacred places of pilgrimage in India. They are naturally formed gray and tan stones with reddish markings. Since the beginning of time, men have been collecting stones with the inherent belief that many of them were vessels that hold life force energy.
The message of the lingam stone is UNITY - balancing light and dark, and uniting all aspects of self and accepting the differences in others. I have a small collection of lingam stones in the bowl above.

The stone was there before the wind,
before the man, before the dawn:
its first movement was the first
music of the river.
--- Pablo Neruda, Stones of the River

Bill Dan balances rocks on top of other rocks without any glue or adhesives. He is an artist who defies gravity with his vertical sculptures. He has been creating these rock towers for 15 years along the San Francisco shoreline. He teaches workshops and tells his students when their sculptures fall over, "Nothing is permanent. Just go along with nature."

Nina Judin is an artist who makes one of a kind books as art. She made this book using stones for the covers. THE SKIN OF STONES is an artist's book about the silent life of stones and hidden things. You can find more of her wonderful hand made books at her website and blog here.

Fiona Watson, a Scotland artist, works with real stones. She also does etchings. Her beginnings in science led to her love of nature based art works. You can find her stream of her photos of stones and other nature based objects here. You can find her stream of artwork here. And you can find her wonderful website here.

Sometimes I sleep, I go back
to the beginning, falling back in midair,
wafted along by my natural state
as the sleepyhead of nature
and in dreams I drift on,
waking at the feet of great stones. --Pablo Neruda

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Way of Life

"All works of art, it may be said, are more beautiful when they suggest something beyond themselves than when they end up being merely what they are." Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty.

The following elements of Japanese design were taken from this book, written by Boye Lafayette De Mente. Japanese design is a way of life. There is no separation between life and art. They are the same thing.

ISHI: The Use of Sabi Stones. The Japanese imbue stones with spirituality and use them in many aesthetic ways. Their stones form a link between humans, the earth, nature--and they have a calming effect on the spirit.

TAKE: The Beauty and function of bamboo. Bamboo is the foundation or frame of so many Japanese objects-- some estimates are above ten thousand. Bamboo is a symbol of virtue, fidelity and constancy.

KI: Humility in Wood. In the Japanese concept of aesthetics, wood that is less than perfect is regarded as "humble" or more natural, and therefore more appropriate for humans, who need to be reminded by nature that imperfections are good.

SABI: Savoring the "rust" of age. The basic meaning of sabi is rust, or to decline or to become solitary. Revering nature involves an appreciation of weathering, aging and the passage of time.
This naturalness and simplicity exudes a sense of tranquility.

FUKINSEI: Symmetry vs. Asymmetry. Fukinsei means "without balance". Artists learned a long time ago that asymmetry could be used to give designs a fresh, surprising, charming look.

KATACHI: Making Things Shapely. Katachi relates to the perfect union of form and function.

WABI: Desolate beauty--an Indefinable Wistfulness. Wabi refers to rustic beauty, both natural and man-made. A deeper essence or meaning is more important than the material it is made from.

The evening bell, solemn and bronze
In the grandfather temple
down the hill.
Slow beat of the mountain's heart, perhaps
or determined pulse of the pine tree
growing out of a crotch of the
slippery monkey tree.
All one, perhaps---
bell, mountain, tree...