seven artworks to meditate on
contemporary works that recall the focus, relaxation, and interconnectedness of our being
I've been traveling to some amazing museums, galleries, and spaces in the U.S. these past few months searching for intersections of visual art and concepts in mindfulness and mind-body practice. Though quite challenging, I've whittled down hundreds of visuals to this list of seven successfully meditative contemporary artworks.
one. Untitled by Ed Cohen
Winston Wächter Fine Art Gallery, NYC
In early December, I wandered to Winston Wächter for a show of massive portraits of powerful female icons. As I walked through the gallery, I saw this beauty tucked away in the back above shelves of binders and administrative files. This piece, only 24 x 24 in, is luscious, dynamic, and immediately evocative of Zen Buddhist circular form. Cohen's vibrant use of fluid acrylic over the white circle and uniform white background is almost transcendent in nature, reminding the viewer of the micro- and macrocosm, enlightenment, identity, and deep beauty in simplicity.
two. 1.8 Renwick by Janet Echelman
Renwick Gallery, Washington DC
my cellphone pics
It's hard to tell from the photos, but this is actually a huge installation on a ceiling made entirely of thread and illuminated by slowly-changing colored lights. Upon traversing the lavish staircase to the second floor of the Renwick, I was puzzled by the sight of a smattering of people laying on the carpet. Naturally, I entered the room, likewise assumed a supine position, and was subsequently mesmerized by the multicolor fibers. As the light shifted across all our faces simultaneously, our interconnectedness was peacefully evident. The carpeting, dark grey with wave-like patterns, is oceanic and equally consuming.
Echelman's thread-work is certainly not arbitrary. It is a representation of energy released by an earthquake and tsunami near Japan in 2011. It was so powerful that the earth shifted ever so slightly, shortening the day of the tremor by 1.8 millionths of a second. 1.8 Renwick extracts a beautiful lesson from this ominous and tragic event—one of common human experience.
three. Prabhavati Meppayil's solo exhibition
exhibited at Pace Gallery, NYC
video from snapchat on iPhone
As you can see from my incredibly eloquent snapchat video, I was greeted by dramatic whiteness upon entering Pace. My first sentiment was utter confusion, a sense of void, and curiosity. Then I approached the first white panel and stared in amazement. It had been marked by the artist, painstakingly and repetitively, in a sort of meditative fashion. The artist's laser focus is evident in the volume of this body of work and the detail in each piece.
Closeups can be admired below, bearing in mind that each large panel has hundreds or even thousands of such markings on its surface.
photos also brought to you via my snapchat
Sidenote: seeing a solo exhibition (at Pace, no less) by an Indian female artist also rocked.
four. Ghost (Vines) by Teresita Fernández
Boston Museum of Fine Art, MA
photo taken by me on my iPhone at the Boston MFA
Teresita Fernández, well-known and loved for her Fata Morgana installation at Madison Square Park, makes a profound point with this laser-cut mirror. This piece is highly experiential, so while I will describe my experience, you sort of #htbt. Ghost (Vines) is located at the base of a stairwell. As you walk past it, you may catch glimpses of yourself or you may not encounter your reflection altogether. If you approach the piece and stand still, your visage is fragmented by the botanical shapes. The thought registers: "this is how I look from between trees."
Seeing oneself from this perspective is haunting and memorable alone; however, the crux of the work is obtained through walking along the length of the mirror. You are fleeting, you disappear, the mirror remains, you may return, but you are eventually gone. Right. "I am ephemeral." Thanks for the reminder, Fernández. Fun fact, a yellow-gold colored version of this mirror recently sold for $500,000.
five. Take it Easy typography by Matthew Tapia
Honolulu Museum of Art, HI
image screenshotted from Tapia's instagram
As a long-time instagram fan of typographer Matthew Tapia, I was surprised and thrilled to see a large-scale copper rendition of his Take it Easy type at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Easily the most happening place on a Friday night in Honolulu, the space was bustling with dressed-up millennials head-bobbing to club music and clutching adult beverages. The environment was, aptly put, "chill." Seeing pure type at an art museum (as opposed to in design books or online) was chill. Tapia's message was chill. Sometimes, you just tell it how it is.
six. Uplifting beadwork by Stephanie Hirsch
seen at Lyons Wier Gallery, NYC
detail from Patience on my iPhone
With a team of assistants and a background in fashion and costume design, Hirsch spells out virtues and modern mantras through beadwork laden with memento mori type imagery. Like Matthew Tapia, text is central to her work. However, the expensive, labor-intensive process, glamor, and sculptural quality to many of her canvases—in which imagery breaks the margins of the traditional rectangular frame—create a sense of material allure associated both with beauty and ephemerality.
image courtesy of the really nice woman working at the gallery
who brought her tiny dog to work in a duffel bag
seven. Linda Ruth Dickinson's acrylics
Artspace, Raleigh, NC
photos courtesy of my iPhone and Linda Ruth Dickinson's instagram
I'm not going to lie, I almost started crying when I walked into Linda's gallery and workspace. Her massive, inviting, and deeply pigmented acrylics take forms that embody a more global, east-meets-west aesthetic. Her paintings struck my core. It is so easy to seamlessly envelop oneself in these serene works and feel an immediate calmness and loss of egoistical thought patterns. After speaking with Dickinson, I learned she is a self-taught blend of Asian and American background. While her other series explore various elements, these pieces in particular serve as a harmonious cultural bridge.