The Pilgrimage to the Sea: 15 years later
I want to share with you a little bit of "what's behind the art" in my current body of Mosaic Light Paintings.
This summer it is fifteen years since I uprooted myself from my happy home in Brooklyn, NY, and set forth on my "Pilgrimage to the Sea", a personal journey to bring me closer to sacred spots that all have one thing in common: water. Embarking on this journey was perhaps the best thing I've done so far in my nearly fifty years on the planet. It brought me closer to my family, my home base, my art making, and storytelling. Through my own self-prescribed journey of faith, I unknowingly began to create a life based not in my own comfort or pleasure, (though I discovered plenty of life's delights along the way), but on living and appreciating the experiences I most needed to have in my life. Keep in mind, this was the year after the attacks on the World Trade Center, and I was really looking for something to make sense of the world, a place that to me seemed hell-bent on destroying itself. I wanted some answers, or at least a different way of looking at things.
My only real plan for my trip was to follow my heart, to try an be present at all times, and to allow my heart to lead me to the places and people I needed to encounter. I chose the element of water as my "guide" after reading "By the River Piedra I Knelt Down and Wept" and visiting the monastery and grotto in Spain featured in Paolo Coehlo''s book. As a child, the hot springs, creeks, rivers, and lakes in Idaho (where I grew up) were the setting for many of my most cherished memories (hot springs and fishing trips with Grandma Lucy), as well as the most terrifying (nearly drowning at age 12 in a river-rafting accident). I created my itinerary based on returning to these places, as well as attending the Burning Man festival where the theme that year was "Floating World". But the first place I chose to visit was Puget Sound, where my brother and his wife and family were living at the time. I borrowed a bike and got on the Washington State ferry, island-hopping and camping under the stars, soaking in the moody pine-covered mountains keeping watch over the waters of the sound, filled with mystery.
I spent that summer revisiting the most important places and people in my life. I made the rounds of visits to my extended family and close friends,, but also began to meet new and interesting people who provided wisdom and insights for my journey. I returned to San Francisco where I reconnected with friends there and created a procession to the sea at Baker Beach, complete with a statue of the Virgin Mary and banners which my friends helped me march into the waters of the Pacific, a ritual cleansing. A college friend filmed the piece on video; another documented the day in photos. I discovered the beauty and richness life, and art, that is created from following the heart and allowing others to play a role in my creativity.
Although the Pilgrimage to The Sea came to an end, my journeying did not. I eventually made my way to Lake Atitlan, in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, a sacred lake ringed by Mayan villages and steeped in myth and mystery. It is "The Belly Button of the World", "The Most Beautiful Lake in the World", a place I simply fell in love with, a place where I chose to finally put down roots and be a part of the community. As it turns out, its been the best place for me to advance my career in art as well as create a life that suits me. The climate is ideal for year round mosaic-making, and there is an abundance of concrete, sand, and colored glass, as well as talented masons from whom I've learned many tips and techniques in my work. The food, culture, nature, and climate all conspire to make Atitlan the perfect home for me. Most importantly, its a place where people still greet each other on the street, the pace is slower, and I feel my Grandparent's presence most clearly. It's a place where I encounter locals whose warm smiles express the kindness in their hearts, and foreigners from many lands who've come to create a life with heart.
The Pilgrimage to the Sea has had many blessings for my life. As a result of following my heart and allowing the mystery and magic of life to bring to me everything I need--work, friends, experiences--I've developed a sense of security within myself that serves me well, especially as an artist. And its my art that has developed and flourished over the years, fortified by the numerous commissions and special orders for custom mosaic work, both in Guatemala and the US where I travel each year to see my family and friends, soak in the hot springs, and create art.
2017, has been a particularly bountiful year for my art. I've delved into the depths of my creativity with the "Mosaic Light Paintings" that I've been making. I've reached a fertile ground for new art work, and because of this I've chosen to share and exhibit the new work via pop-up art shows in the Bay Area and Boise. The works I have created are based in part in the landscapes where I am working. Now that I am completing the "Next Wave" of these light paintings, I realize they share a commonality which I did not intend to create: the water. Lake Payette, whitewater rafting, "The Giant Wave", a pond, the Wood River,and the Boise River all serve to inspire this work, and infuse it with a special beauty.
Looking at the pieces now, I am reminded of the river-rafting accident that nearly cost me my life. Looking at the sparkling light coming through the glass gems in the mosaic paintings, I remember my experience trapped beneath the water, my foot stuck in the boat frame, tons of water pressure holding me under the river surface. In those precious moments when I realized I would die there, I had nothing to do but relax and enjoy the beauty of light twisted in the magical medium of the water, a sense of peace, of beauty beyond words. When I was yanked out of the water by the oarsman, I don't know if it was the terror of pain from my broken ankle, or the loss I felt from being suddenly removed from such a beautiful place.
The mosaic light paintings feel like a gift from this place, a special view I was fortunate to experience. I can't help but rejoice in the wonderment of seeing my near-death vision brought to life in these works, and the knowledge that life does truly provide all we need.