Interview between Patse Hemsley, Moondance Arts Director, and Elizabeth....
Patse: I was very touched by your email, especially the part about your sincere hopes that kind hearted artists receive recognition for creating art with karmically balanced energy. Would you like to expand on that? What are your beliefs about Karma?
Elizabeth:As a human, my experiences of life have led me to believe that Karma is real, fortunately or unfortunately. John Lennon correctly asserted the notion of "instant karma." It is part of becoming aware. Awareness brings consciousness to consumption, of what energies give life. Art with "karmically balanced energy" holds a vibration put forth by the artist's vision of truth. We should honor art that dares to speak to our heart and soul, art that truly moves us. It is not necessarily positive, but it has the passion and power to move one beyond apathy. It may challenge the ego to the point of resistance. I love the old biblical prophecy, "And the meek shall inherit the earth!"
Patse: Can you expand on this... I can't connect Karma with Awareness. They are two separate things for me. And whilst Awareness is an essential part of our consciousness, and therefore very real... Karma is not... as it suggests a judgmental, authoritarian, even despotic and certainly devious God (one who keeps a tab on all our past deeds and serves them up as "punishment" in a consecutive lifetime) which I cannot accept. However I can understand that artists who are in tune with their "spiritual side" are bound to create art that "vibrates" with their vision of Truth... And through this powerful energy connect with kindred spirits and souls who celebrate this Truth.
Elizabeth: Of course Awareness is consciousness. Awareness causes one to understand her/ himSelf; Awareness is who one is and one's relationship with the world. What energies are the foundation of your life? How do you transmute the energies? What feelings do you give and receive? Who do you love? What do you eat? How are the energies consumed? Where are you at and how did you get there? To me, these issues of the basics in life are what constitute Karma. Personal responsibility is Karma. Your human relationships, your family is Karma. Karma is not the accumulation of good and bad points subject to the judgment of an external God, like Santa Claus's naughty or nice list (at least not in my universe!). Karma is what you are doing with the energies of life (and death), therefore it becomes the reflections of WHO you are.
Sometimes you are drawing the energies inward, like a vortex; creating new karma, new relationships. Other times, you expel Karma, dissolving old perceptions, creating space for an emerging new Self. Breathing in, breathing out; consuming, digesting, expelling. What are you absorbing? How are you transmuting that energy, and what do you put out? This is what I think of when I see life in terms of "Karma". How am I feeling and why am I feeling that way? Can I change? Yes I can through FREE WILL!!! "Free will" gives one the opportunity to create your own karma; you can become the BEing from the vision of your limitless imagination. Higher and deeper Awareness, growing, learning, and understanding your Self allows you to see through the Karma of oneself and others; it gives you a glimpse into Spirit.
"Spirit" IS the breath of life, the animation of motion, Luke Skywalker's "Force"; it is the wind. In an instant, Spirit can change all of existing Karma! Spirit cleanses, heals, and is One with LOVE. Spirit will spin us on the Wheel of Life and Death, Karma will be the patterns of the spinning; and it all just keeps breathing in and breathing out.
Patse:From your work, we can see that it speaks of a spiritual awareness...
Elizabeth: Isn't the artist by nature, "spiritual?"
Art being the spiritual products of human truth seekers, isn't art a living vibrating testament by the human(s) creator(s)?
I really like what you said , "..I can understand that artists who are in tune with their 'spiritual side' are bound to create art that 'vibrates' with their vision of Truth. And through this powerful energy connect with kindred spirits and souls who celebrate this Truth?"
Maybe Art is a way for Spirit to move in your heart and rearrange your Karma? Art must be one of the ways we humans spiritually connect; the unseen becomes physical, communication is possible.Art is healthy, if not nutritionally vital, for the soul. Art is the bridge from the infinite mind/heart of it's creator(s) to the World. Art has the potential power to change our perceptions of reality, reality being nothing but perception anyway.
Patse:When you say that you appreciate art that transcends logical thinking and directly affects the heart, I think all art affects the heart if the artist stays true to himself or herself...
Elizabeth: Yes, all good and true art will affect the heart. "A picture is worth a thousand words." One can immediately process art intuitively except when one gets bungled up trying to interpret overly analytical abstractions of the intellect (just like this sentence!). It is the unseen momentum that causes one to dance to inspirational music... I feel that that unseen force is the "heart" of art.Patse: And therefore all art is a private conversation between the viewer and the artwork?
Elizabeth: Of course art is a subjective experience that is interpreted and filtered individually and/or by group participants. It's relative theory. Not only is there conversation between the observer and the art, but God or the God/Goddess within may participate as well if the experience is so profound. I feel that music and dance, live performance, are artforms that affect us in the "now", in the heat of the moment. Whereas visual arts and literature, recordings, cultural artifacts, all serve as transfixed objects in time that may communicate with many generations and may reflect those experiences from the "moment". Art that is appreciated, preserved, and shared may reach the collective conscious and become archetype.
Patse: Lets talk about your art. You have a very special relationship with colour and light and I wasnt surprised to see that you took up stained glass art. Did you start working on this in college or was it something that naturally progressed from the process of using watercolour?
Elizabeth: I've only been working with stained glass for the last few years and it was easier to learn on my own from my many years laboring as a picture framer. I lucked into receiving loads of free glass scraps from some friends and I saved money to acquire necessary supplies and equipment. I started making designs when I gained some studio space that adjoins the outside of our house. Jim, my husband, had bought the house ten years previously from a couple whom had built it themselves. The wife made stained glass works and they left many lovely built-in examples all over the home. She even left her work table behind which has built-in partitions for glass that I now use. A man down the road from us recently opened a beautiful stained glass shop and studio, "Blue Ridge Glassworks". I simply feel destined to play with this medium! I like its fragile permanence.
Patse: Where does this sense of vivid colour come from? Where were you born/brought up? Were you surrounded by colour as a child?
Elizabeth: Vivid color simply turns me on! I was definitely influenced to create form from color by a brilliant professor I had at the Atlanta College of Art, Fred Gregory. Professor Gregory studied with the master colorist Josef Albers at Yale University.
I was born in Florida and raised in the boring suburbia of Charlotte, North Carolina. But I was blessed with a loving and stable home where my talents were encouraged. I believe creating with intense color has become a favorite way to engage my imagination and indulge in its lushness.
Patse: Youre very flexible in your choices of media, yet you have developed a consistent style. Have you ever used a particular medium that wouldnt allow you to express yourself in your style?
Elizabeth: Not really. It is fun to experiment with all media, to paint with sound or sculpt a drawing. I shied away from printmaking after a while because of all the chemicals and I never really tried photography. I took a lot of varying fine art classes at college to get a feel for different known ways of making art. But you can make art out of anything! or nothing! People transform garbage and found objects all the time!Patse: Which medium do you enjoy the most (working-process-wise)?
Elizabeth: Currently, I like making watercolor paintings the most because they are intimate. I can work on them inside during winter and they don't emit toxic fumes. I can achieve vivid colors by strengthening the opacity of the pigment.
Patse: Your favourite images are Cosmic Dance ,Creator, Octopuss Garden, Earth Mother and Union. 4 out of 5 are watercolour?
Elizabeth: Yes, they each were successful as personal mile markers in my effort to melt the expression of my heart with flowing watercolors. "Cosmic Dance" was the culmination of all the previous paintings, like completing the climax of a novel.
Patse: Earth Mother is a linoprint. And you use a very unusual technique. Do tell us about that. This painting, you said, celebrates the feminine power of birth within an oceanic context. Can you tell us more about this concept?
Elizabeth: In the early 1990's, I created a small series of linoleum block prints. I lacked access to a press so I used the ancient Japanese method of rubbing the back of the paper with the back of a spoon. It was hard work! All that rubbing to get the ink to transfer! But I enjoyed the aspect of carving out the block and whittling it down, color by color, layer by layer.
Printmaking is very process-oriented which can be meditative and of course you can experiment with more than one image at a time. "Earth Mother" was my expression of the life-giving energies of Mother Nature. The sun rises over the ocean, with fish swimming around, while a large flower sprouts from the birth canal of a feminine figure. The figure appears post-coital, as if sexual awakening causes growth of the sun-seeking flowerhead. The waves of the ocean give swirl, creating an environment of pattern, suggesting movement. The ocean is our fathomless subconscious, source of life and death, the unknown.
Patse: Cosmic Dance is an amazing painting. There is so much to hold and intrigue the viewer. So much to read. In fact most of your work I find very narrative... How long does something like this take to put down from start to finish?
Elizabeth: I spent a lot of therapeutic time on that one over the course of a couple of months. "Cosmic Dance" is very narrative with symbols and references flowing all around the Shiva figure, which began as the focal point. Shiva, Creator and Destroyer, dances from the shell of Venus, over the ancient scorpion, as she and her Warlock spirit eclipse the sun. Her eyelids are closed, dreaming, yet she sees through her breasts and palms; her head is in the stars, the earth in her care. Gods and Goddesses encircle her in the flaming heavens, they sprout vegetation and spin between night and day. Upholding this Universe are the dual faces of the aura of Spirit.
They stare at each other across the hourglass of time, which withholds sacred blood that seeps into a tree of life by the river. The jazzy patterned border serves as a moving marquee to showcase the whole story.
Patse: Which comes first when you start a painting or a print or even the stained glass? The colour or the content?
Elizabeth: The design comes first but I usually know what colors will be applied. Sometimes I design stained glass projects with specific pieces of glass in mind or found object that will direct the outcome.
Patse: Your web site Dreaming Heart... Do you draw inspiration from your dreams?
Elizabeth: Some of my works in the past are references from dreams. I believe life is the living dream that we are "rowing gently down the stream." I love the freedom we feel while dreaming, that anything is possible and surreality rules.
Patse: Do you write poetry? I ask only because one of my clients asked if I do. She said my work evoked that kind of music, and looking at your work, I now understand what she meant. At the time, I said No, thanks. I articulate my expressions through my pastels. Im no wordsmith... but I asked her to go ahead and write poetry if my work so inspired her.
Elizabeth: I used to write a lot of private thoughts in my sketchbooks or when I was feeling troubled. Poetry and art exist intra-dimensionally, it is all therapeutic. Each inspires the other. I've included some poetry on the Dreaming Heart site by my friend, Cat Cole Johnstone, who really is a wordsmith and shouldn't be eating so much humble pie (hee hee).
Patse: Lets get back to the narrative nature of your work. Is this something that has grown out of your enjoyment and admiration of the so-called Primitive Art? I do hate labels, dont you? You and I know that you have to have reached the ultimate in sophistication to achieve that kind of primitiveness?
Elizabeth: Yes, "primitive" (labels are distracting, aren't they?) art is very sophisticated. It is the result of a long cultural tradition and usually reflects excellent craftsmanship. I believe "primitive" peoples and cultures may be more "evolved" than the Western way of life. It would seem "primitive" cultures are closer to the consciousness of Earth and are more open to the spontaneous rhythms of life. The art embodies real power. It can be sublime.
Patse: Your husband, Jim, is known as your inspirational muse. Its great to see a working marital partnership. How does he inspire you? And indeed vice versa?
Elizabeth: Without Jim, my current body of work would probably not even exist. Finding each other was the biggest blessing (or curse, ha ha) for each of us and we were both at the stage where we were ready for each other. I needed a rock because I was drowning and he needed the partner with whom he could roll. We balance out. His computer expertise made Dreaming Heart ArtWorks possible. Jim inspires my faith in love and an optimism for the future. He's also an audiophile and has shared with me some beautiful, life-altering, musical concerts that touched my soul. He helped me renew my enthusiasm for creating art and encourages me to value the effort. I constantly battle with my esteem as an artist, but in my heart I know the artwork is honestly "real". We are not perfect, we are not saints. But we know the power of love and that it is eternal.
Patse: Tell us about your future ambitions. Near and far.
Elizabeth: My biggest ambition is to make my living by the art I choose to create. I hope to be producing art when I'm an old lady if, by the grace of the Goddess, I live to be an old lady. Jim is starting his own computer business and we are praying for its success. He's now a free agent, no longer on the corporate dole. It is both our aims to make our own livings completely from home eventually. We want to raise money to acquire land further up into the mountains. We have a nice spot in the country now, but several years ago the nearby farm erected monstrous chicken houses that foul up the air for weeks at a time. The poultry industry is nasty here. And we are vegetarians!
I also have ambition to make more money so I can donate more to deserving charity. Recently, I was contacted by a couple from India who are struggling to care for 63 orphans. They want to found an Art and Spiritual Learning Center to care for the poor and needy. They have obligated me to share their plight with others. These are truly noble and kind-hearted people.
Patse: What are you working on at the moment?
Elizabeth: I just finished a new watercolor, "Phishy Love Connection", which we added to our paintings gallery site. I am now drafting a new painting, in the larger size, that will be an expanded underwater scene. I may also add a people and animal portrait portfolio that I've been working on to open another venue of commission work.
Patse: When and where is your next show? Where can we see your live paintings?
Elizabeth: I don't know when I will show in person or where. That is one of my next goals, to find a gallery with which I resonate and trust. I've exhibited and have sold artwork here and there but I haven't formally approached a suitable gallery recently because I rarely felt my body of work was current or strong enough. I now have the confidence in my growing portfolio (it feels pregnant!) and I truly feel I have some original art to offer. The art is much more vibrant and dynamic "live", in person, but the Internet does give a worldwide forum.
I believe the images of my work are being seen by more people than who would see it for a limited time at a gallery. Every month Dreaming Heart's traffic increases and we've received lots of encouraging feedback.
Patse: If there is one big lesson youve learned in this art business, what would that be?
Elizabeth: I wish we would stop placing instant value to artwork based simply on the reputation or fame of an artist's name. One should collect what truly moves one and not by the pressure to conform, heeding advice from everyone but oneself. Why not move beyond decoration and support art that is truly moving and uplifting.
The soul will recognize it.
Moondance Note: If any of our readers would like to find out more about the Art & Spiritual Learning Centre in India that Elizabeth is working with, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Elizabeth's Web Site, www.dreamingheart.com
Go to Elizabeth's Biography and Gallery
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