Something I have been passionate about for a long time is animal abuse in factory farms. When my digital photography class was assigned a “political stance” project, I immediately knew what I was going to do. Because 99.9% of meat in the U.S. comes from factory farming, I decided to go to the main place where people obtain their meat: the grocery store. Taking printed images of undercover factory farming scenes, I had a friend hold the images against meat shelves while I snapped the shots. My approach was simple, but gets the point across easily.
Of the 200+ photos I took, these were the top three I thought were most effective:
Shortly after completing a landscape project for my digital photography class, I decided to look more into landscape photography. After researching an array of photographers, I stumbled upon Josh Andrews. While looking at his website, I immediately recognized a connection between his work and my own.
Although our approaches are completely different – I photograph my paintings close up, he photographs existing natural landscapes – I like to think that we share a similar aesthetic.
For my final project in my digital photography class, I am going to do a continuation of my landscapes, drawing inspiration from Andrews and other landscape photographers such as Stephen Cacciatore and Linda Aaron.
While visiting New York City with my fine art class this past weekend, I got the opportunity to see Wolfgang Laib’s piece, “Pollen from Hazelnut” at the MOMA. Although my work is nothing like his in appearance, we share interests in the natural and spiritual:
“Informed by the purity and simplicity of Eastern philosophies, he employs natural materials, most notably milk, pollen, beeswax, rice and marble. His works are more complex than being just about nature and the natural world. They involve ritual, repetition, process, and a demand for contemplation.”
A mandala, Sanskrit for “circle,” is a sacred, symbolic diagram, used as a meditational aid in Buddhism and Hinduism. A sand mandala is an ancient ritual art in Tibet. Of all the traditional Tibetan tantric practices, the art of painting with colored sand is one of the most unique and exquisite. In Tibetan language, this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, which literally means “mandala of colored powders.”
Because mandalas are supposed to represent the impermanence of life and futility of attachment, sand mandalas are traditionally swept up after completion and scattered into a nearby river or lake as a blessing; many people find this to be the most moving part of the ritual. The process of creating sand mandalas can take many hours of hard work. However, the experience is therapeutic and provides an opportunity your mind chatter to stop. Although sand mandalas are traditionally made by groups of monks in Tibet, the solo experience is just as rewarding.
How to create a sand mandala:
-A sturdy, flat board and surface to work on
-Colored Sand: can purchase at most craft stores
-Small funnel to direct the sand: can purchase at most craft stores OR can take apart an ink pen and use the outer shell. (Monks use a cone-shaped metal funnel called a chak-pur)
1. Lay a square board (of any size) onto a flat, large, stable surface. You will be working from above. Also make sure that the area you are working is free of potential breezes.
2. Find a design or create your own to be reproduced in sand. You can find examples of Tibetan mandalas in art books or websites.
3. Carefully draw your design on the board.
4. Scoop out the color of sand you wish to use for the background of your design with your funnel.
5. Lay down the sand where you wish that color to go, by gently tapping the side of the funnel to cause the sand to flow precisely onto the board.
6. Continue to lay down the design, one color at a time. It is best to complete the center of the mandala and work outwards. Continue until all the elements of the mandala are complete.
7. Begin removal of the mandala when you are ready. Following tradition, destroy the deities and symbols by pinching the sand in a particular order. Then draw lines from the four directions into the center with your fingers.
8. Sweep the sand into a container with a brush or hand broom. Continue until the surface is clean.
9. Return the sand to nature. Traditionally, the sand is poured into a river or lake. The materials are never used a second time.
Mandalas represent wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself; a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.
This was my first exploration of the mandala.
Using Photoshop to create a template, I found imagery of organic plants (taken from the internet and from my own photographs) and rotated them around an 8-part circle to create an aesthetically pleasing composition. The imagery was structured as birth of the plant being in the center of the mandala, growth of the plant coming out from the center, and “enlightenment” being represented as the furthest point from the center (the ultimate result of organic farming).
After creating a template for my mandala, I printed out copies of the photographs and pasted them to a 36″X36″ canvas using acrylic gel. After all images had been pasted to the canvas, I painted over certain areas with oil paint. The overall process required a lot of planning and concentration. Although I enjoyed the process, I did not achieve the level of meditation I had originally anticipated.