Take a drive down any interstate in the United States and what will you see? Billboards, dozens and dozens ofbillboards. Not only do the advertisements distract commuters, they block stunning scenes of natural landscapes. For these reasons, artist Jennifer Bolande painted surreal landscapes on a collection of billboards that blend into their backgrounds.
The billboards were installed along the Gene Autry Trail in the sunny state of California. From the right vantage point, commuters could see larger-than-life photographs blend into their majestic backgrounds.
“Each photograph is unique to its position along this route and at a certain point as one approaches each billboard, perfect alignment with the horizon will occur thus reconnecting the space that the rectangle of the billboard has interrupted.
In the language of billboard advertising this kind of reading is referred to as a Burma-Shave after the shaving cream company of the same name who used sequential placement to create messaging that could be read only from a moving vehicle.
Credit: Jennifer Bolande
Within the desert empire of roadside signs, Bolande chooses to advertise the very thing so often overlooked. Looking up at the billboards our attention is drawn back to the landscape itself, pictured here as a stuttering kinesthetic of real and artificial horizons.”
Credit: Jennifer Bolande
A major objective of Desert X was to raise awareness about global and local issues, ranging from climate change to starry skies, to immigration and tourism to gaming and golf.
Making Any Kind of Art At Any Skill Level Reduces Stress Hormones
Whether you’re Van Gogh or a stick-figure sketcher, a new Drexel University study found that making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormones in your body.
Although the researchers from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions believed that past experience in creating art might amplify the activity’s stress-reducing effects, their study found that everyone seems to benefit equally.
“It was surprising and it also wasn’t,” said Girija Kaimal, EdD, assistant professor of creative arts therapies. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”
The results of the study were published in Art Therapy under the title “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making.” Kendra Ray, a doctoral student under Kaimal, and Juan Muniz, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, served as co-authors.
“Biomarkers” are biological indicators (like hormones) that can be used to measure conditions in the body, such as stress. Cortisol was one such the hormone measured in the study through saliva samples. The higher a person’s cortisol level, the more stressed a person is likely to be.
For Kaimal’s study, 39 adults, ranging from 18 to 59 years old, were invited to participate in 45 minutes of art-making. Cortisol levels were taken before and after the art-making period.
Materials available to the participants included markers and paper, modeling clay and collage materials. There were no directions given and every participant could use any of the materials they chose to create any work of art they desired. An art therapist was present during the activity to help if the participant requested any.
Of those who took part in the study, just under half reported that they had limited experience in making art.
The researchers found that 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during their 45 minutes of making art. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experiences and lower levels.
Written testimonies of their experiences afterward revealed how the participants felt about the creating art.
“It was very relaxing,” one wrote. “After about five minutes, I felt less anxious. I was able to obsess less about things that I had not done or need [ed] to get done. Doing art allowed me to put things into perspective.”
However, roughly 25 percent of the participants actually registered higher levels of cortisol — though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Some amount of cortisol is essential for functioning,” Kaimal explained. “For example, our cortisol levels vary throughout the day — levels are highest in the morning because that gives us an energy boost to us going at the start of the day. It could’ve been that the art-making resulted in a state of arousal and/or engagement in the study’s participants.”
Kaimal and her team believed, going into the study, that the type of art materials used by participants might affect cortisol levels. They thought that the less-structured mediums — using clay or drawing with markers — would result in lower cortisol levels than the structured — collaging. That, however, wasn’t supported by the results, as no significant correlation was found.
The study did find a weak correlation between age and lower cortisol levels. Younger participants exhibited consistently lower cortisol levels after they’d created art.
Those results made Kaimal wonder about how young college students and high school students deal with the stress that comes from academia — and how creative arts can help.
“I think one reason might be that younger people are developmentally still figuring out ways to deal with stress and challenges, while older individuals — just from having lived life and being older — might have more strategies to problem-solve and manage stress more effectively,” Kaimal said.
In light of that, Kaimal plans to extend the study to explore whether “creative self- expression in a therapeutic environment can help reduce stress.” In that study, other biomarkers like alpha amylase and oxytocin will also be measured to give a more comprehensive picture.
Additionally, Kaimal also plans to study how visual arts-based expression affects end-of-life patients and their caregivers.
“We want to ultimately examine how creative pursuits could help with psychological well-being and, therefore, physiological health, as well,” she said.
Whether artists hit their stride right after college or make their best work in their final years, the creative career seldom has a conventional trajectory. We asked seven leading artists aged 24 to 80 what they haved learned from a life in art
The Japanese master Hokusai was one day found weeping at his workbench because he believed he had not yet learned enough about drawing. He was 80. On his deathbed, eight years later, he cried out, “If heaven would only grant me 10 more years, I might still become a great artist.” We may consider Hokusai a genius from childhood but he thought nothing he produced before the age of 70 was any good. How long does it take to become an artist?
A whole lifetime is the stock answer (unless you’re Julian Schnabel, who compared himself to Picasso in his 20s). But what if that life is cut short? Raphael, Watteau and Van Gogh were dead at 37. Modigliani was 35, Géricault 33 and Seurat was carried off by a virulent illness at 31. We may regret every masterpiece they did not live to paint, but the stupendous works they left show that age and achievement do not keep pace. Schiele was dead at 28; if Gauguin had died at the same age we would never have heard of him: The Ham, arguably his first masterpiece, was painted at 40.
There are other late starters (Van Gogh didn’t paint until his mid-20s) but these days the pressure is on young artists to come up with a singular look while they are still in college. Ever since Charles Saatchi began trawling degree shows in the 1980s, students have had to produce selling statements alongside their work, never mind that it may still be inchoate.
Laure Prouvost argues that early success may be dangerous. Get picked up in your 20s and you may founder later because “you haven’t tried hard enough, or got lost enough yet”.
Assuming you aren’t netted at this stage (or any other), a day job will have to carry you through. Richard Serra was a removal man; Ed Kienholz sold vacuum cleaners; Susan Hiller here reveals an early stint as a receptionist at a Skoda factory. The trick is to find work that doesn’t exhaust the body, or fill the head so that there is no room for thinking.
Perhaps there is some freedom in making art without any sense of its prospects to begin with, for as soon as people start liking it, there is a compulsion to keep doing the same thing to survive. I have heard artists in their 30s and 40s speak of the intense difficulty of getting new ideas accepted by galleries or potential buyers. And just around this time a family may fill the horizon.
The old adage that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach, has never applied to artists, nearly all of whom teach at some stage to feed their dependants. I remember my father, James Cumming, literally running upstairs to his easel after a day’s teaching to paint right through the night; money and time were so tight.
The age of 50 brings the realisation that you’re in it now for the long haul, with all the hardship, labour and joy. “Everyone has talent at 25,” Degas sardonically observed, “the difficulty is to have it still at 50.” At 60, there is the knowledge that more projects may now be abandoned than made. At 70, like Hokusai, some artists begin to think they are at last getting somewhere even if the spotlight has eluded them. Louise Bourgeois, still sculpting weeks before her death at 98, said that the lack of interest in her art up to this point at least left her to work beautifully undisturbed.
The most radical art of all is sometimes the very last. Late Titian, late Picasso, late Matisse – in a wheelchair, devising the cut-out technique when he could no longer paint – seem so much wilder and more vigorous in their 80s than in youth. But a sense of urgency can dominate at any age. George Shaw, at 48, feels time’s winged chariot drawing near, and the drive to work increasing exponentially. Paula Rego, in her 80s, says working makes one forget the miseries of old age. And perhaps it is true that artists stay younger for longer, as Hiller suggests; I recall solemn research to this effect published in Nature (sculptors, incidentally, apparently live longer than painters).
The artists interviewed here are all exceptional in that they have the recognition, freedom and financial security that millions of their colleagues will never enjoy. Yet they share the same preoccupations: how to raise families while working, what to make, how to find time, how to keep one’s spirit, vision and integrity intact. And even, in Richard Deacon’s case, whether and when to retire.
For artists do not have to go on for ever. Marcel Duchamp spent most of the last 30 years of his life teaching and playing chess. Generally it is rare for artists to give up for good, certain that they have made everything they could; the mind lifts the hand for ever, my father used to say. And for most artists, this is not a profession but a calling. The great Cuban-born painter Carmen Herrera, who turned 100 this year, and did not sell a work until she was 89, gets up every morning to paint. Her advice to the young is not to hurry through their 20s, and never to be intimidated by anything. “You don’t decide to be an artist,” she has said, “art gets inside of you. It’s like falling in love.”
Posted: Art therapy is a form of therapy that encourages creativity and self-expression as vehicles to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, increase awareness and help remedy trauma. While many other forms of therapy depend on verbal language to express feelings and overcome personal obstacles, art therapy allows for other, more abstract forms of communication. This tactic makes room for elements of the subconscious that perhaps are not yet ready or able to be verbalized come to the surface.
You do not have to be an artist to enjoy the benefits of art therapy. In fact, most of the exercises rely not on the final product you create but on the therapeutic, meditative ritual of the creative process. If you’re intrigued by the process of relaxation through artistic imagination, we’ve compiled a starter kit to get you on your way.
The following 10 suggestions are simple ways to explore your inner creative voice while turning off the negative influences that so often get in the way. They may not all work for you, but hopefully one or more of the following techniques will serve as the artistic equivalent of a long, hot bath.
1. Design a postcard you don’t intend to send
Whether it’s a love note to someone you’re not ready to confess your feelings to, or an angry rant you know is better left unsaid, sometimes enumerating all the details helps deflate the issue at hand. While writing the text can be therapeutic in its own right, designing the postcard gives even more value to the object. It also allows you to activate different portions of your brain while relaxing in a manner similar to coloring in a coloring book. Once you toss that signed and sealed letter in the trash (or tuck it away in a drawer), you’ll find its message has lost some of its power.
2. Cut and paste a painting to create a collage
Create a painting on a material like paper or cardboard. When you’re finished, cut or tear it up. Then use the pieces as building blocks for a new artwork — a collage. See how your original artwork transforms into something new and exciting, something unpredictable. This exercise illuminates the close proximity between creation and destruction, encouraging us to take risks to push ourselves creatively and in other aspects of life.
3. Build an altar to a loved one
Take inspiration from folk art and create an altar honoring a unique relationship between you and another person, living or not. Decorate the shrine with photographs, letters and relics of memorable times spent together, as well as new art objects you’ve created in their honor. Anything can become artistic material, from gifts you’ve exchanged to a candy wrapper you know your subject would love. Building a totem to another person awakens memories and creates a physical manifestation of a relationship that can provide comfort in tough times.
4. Draw in total darkness
So much of the stress we experience when making art comes from the judgments and criticism that seem unavoidable every step of the way. Try creating artwork in total darkness to make art free from that inner art critic inside your head. (Think of it as a form of blind contour drawing.) You’re suddenly freed up to create lines, shapes and patterns simply because you feel like you should. When you turn back on the lights, we suspect you’ll be surprised by what you find.
5. Watercolor your bodily state
Lie down and close your eyes. Visualize your body as you breathe in and out. Try to imagine your breath as a particular color as it enters your body, another color as it exits. What do you see? Draw an outline of a body on a large sheet of paper, and inside, create a watercolor based on your bodily state. Think about what these colors mean to you, where they are densest, where they are most opaque. Think of this as the most relaxing self-portrait you’ll ever create.
6. Create a Zentangle-inspired creation
Zentangle is a drawing method invented by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, designed to make drawing meditative and accessible to all. To learn the official method you must be taught by a Zentangle Teacher, but you can recreate the basic idea on your own. Use a piece of paper, cut into a 3.5″ square piece, and draw a freehand border around the edge in light pencil. Then use your pencil to draw a curved line or squiggle within the border, called a “string.”
Now switch to a pen and begin drawing a “tangle,” a series of patterns and shapes around your “string” and voila! You got yourself a Zentangle. The process is designed to encourage deliberate, ritual creation and allow room for human error — no erasing, that’s against the rules. Traditional Zentangles are always black and white but we fully support experimenting with color. The entire process shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, and can be repeated whenever you feel the urge. Keep some 3.5″ squares handy so you can always create when inspiration strikes.
7. Produce a permission slip
Think of the societal and self-imposed pressures you feel on a day-to-day basis, the personal traits you see as faults, the natural slips you see as errors. Choose one of these things and give yourself, in ornamental detail, permission to do just that. Turning one simple defeat into an accomplishment can minimize feelings of self-hatred, allowing you to achieve more of your important goals. Remember, it’s an art project, so make it pretty.
8. ‘Write’ a found poem
Don’t consider yourself a poet? Let someone else do the hard part of coming up with the words by grabbing your material from old books, magazines, newspapers or even letters. Cut out words that jump out at or inspire you. Collage your found materials just as you would a visual collage. You can have a topic or story in mind at the beginning, or just get started and see where your word collaging takes you.
9. Craft a mark-making tool unique to you
Instead of spending the majority of your time on an actual painting, why not focus a little of that attention on crafting an alternative paintbrush all your own? You can make a mark-making tool out of nearly anything, whether it’s a row of toothpicks (glued to a cardboard base) and dipped in paint, or a DIY paintbrush made from pom-poms and yarn. When you finally get around to actually making a piece with your new tool, you will have relinquished some of your artistic control to your distinct artistic medium, which, of course, is a work of art in itself.
10. Make a forgiveness box
If there is a certain person — including yourself — you don’t want to harbor negative emotions toward any longer, try making him or her a forgiveness box. Decorate a small box with soothing images and words that can be either specific to an individual or catered to your desired inner state. You can write the person’s name on a slip of paper and include it in the box if preferred, and the name can be removed and exchanged if needed. The act of making the box will bring up happy memories of whomever the box is for, as well as help you physically work toward a place of forgiveness.
American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn’t Exist
By David Edwards
Are Americans getting dumber?
Our math skills are falling. Our reading skills are weakening. Our children have become less literate than children in many developed countries. But the crisis in American education may be more than a matter of sliding rankings on world educational performance scales.
David Edwards is a professor at Harvard University and the founder of Le Laboratoire.
Our kids learn within a system of education devised for a world that increasingly does not exist.
To become a chef, a lawyer, a philosopher or an engineer, has always been a matter of learning what these professionals do, how and why they do it, and some set of general facts that more or less describe our societies and our selves. We pass from kindergarten through twelfth grade, from high school to college, from college to graduate and professional schools, ending our education at some predetermined stage to become the chef, or the engineer, equipped with a fair understanding of what being a chef, or an engineer, actually is and will be for a long time.
We “learn,” and after this we “do.” We go to school and then we go to work.
This approach does not map very well to personal and professional success in America today. Learning and doing have become inseparable in the face of conditions that invite us to discover.
Against this arresting background, an exciting new kind of learning is taking place in America.
Over the next twenty years the earth is predicted to add another two billion people. Having nearly exhausted nature’s ability to feed the planet, we now need to discover a new food system. The global climate will continue to change. To save our coastlines, and maintain acceptable living conditions for more than a billion people, we need to discover new science, engineering, design, and architectural methods, and pioneer economic models that sustain their implementation and maintenance. Microbiological threats will increase as our traditional techniques of anti-microbial defense lead to greater and greater resistances, and to thwart these we must discover new approaches to medical treatment, which we can afford, and implement in ways that incite compliance and good health. The many rich and varied human cultures of the earth will continue to mix, more rapidly than they ever have, through mass population movements and unprecedented information exchange, and to preserve social harmony we need to discover new cultural referents, practices, and environments of cultural exchange. In such conditions the futures of law, medicine, philosophy, engineering, and agriculture – with just about every other field – are to be rediscovered.
Americans need to learn how to discover.
Being dumb in the existing educational system is bad enough. Failing to create a new way of learning adapted to contemporary circumstances might be a national disaster. The good news is, some people are working on it.
Against this arresting background, an exciting new kind of learning is taking place in America. Alternatively framed as maker classes, after-school innovation programs, and innovation prizes, these programs are frequently not framed as learning at all. Discovery environments are showing up as culture and entertainment, from online experiences to contemporary art installations and new kinds of culture labs. Perhaps inevitably, the process of discovery — from our confrontation with challenging ambiguous data, through our imaginative responses, to our iterative and error-prone paths of data synthesis and resolution — has turned into a focus of public fascination.
Discovery has always provoked interest, but how one discovers may today interest us even more. Educators, artists, designers, museum curators, scientists, engineers, entertainment designers and others are creatively responding to this new reality, and, together, they are redefining what it means to learn in America.
At Harvard University, where I teach, Peter Galison, in History of Science, asks his students make films, to understand science; Michael Chu, in business, brings students to low income regions to learn about social entrepreneurship; Michael Brenner, in Engineering and Applied Science, invites master chefs to help students discover the science of cooking; and Doris Sommer, in Romance Languages, teaches aesthetics by inviting students to effect social and political change through cultural agency. Similarly, in the course I teach, How to Create Things and Have Them Matter, students are asked to look, listen, and discover, using their own creative genius, while observing contemporary phenomena that matter today.
Because that’s what discoverers do.
Learning by an original and personal process of discovery is a trend on many US university campuses, like Stanford University, MIT, and Arizona State University. It also shows up in middle school, high school and after school programs, as in the programs supported by the ArtScience Prize, a more curricular intensive version of the plethora of innovation prizes that have sprung up in the last years around the world. Students and participants in these kinds of programs learn something even more valuable than discovering a fact for themselves, a common goal of “learning discovery” programs; they learn the thrill of discovering the undiscovered. Success brings not just a good grade, or the financial reward of a prize. It brings the satisfaction that one can realize dreams, and thrive, in a world framed by major dramatic questions. And this fans the kind of passion that propels an innovator along a long creative career.
Discovery, as intriguing process, has become a powerful theme in contemporary culture and entertainment. In art and design galleries, and many museums, artists and designers, like Olafur Eliasson, Mark Dion, Martin Wattenberg, Neri Oxman and Mathieu Lehanneur, invite the public to explore contemporary complexities, as in artist Mark Dion’s recent collaborative work with the Alaskan SeaLife Center and Anchorage Museum on plastic fragments in the Pacific Ocean. Often they make visitors discovery participants, as in Martin Wattenberg’sApartment, where people enter words that turn into architectural forms, or sorts of memory palaces. In a more popular way, television discovery and reality programs, from Yukon Men to America’s Got Talent, present protagonists who face challenges, encounter failure, and succeed, iteratively and often partially, while online the offer is even more pervasive, with games of discovery and adventure immersing young people in the process of competing against natural and internal constraints.
All this has led to the rise of the culture lab.
Culture labs conduct or invite experiments in art and design to explore contemporary questions that seem hard or even impossible to address in more conventional science and engineering labs. Their history, as public learning forum, dates from the summer of 2007, when the Wellcome Collection opened in King’s Cross London, to invite the incurably curious to probe contemporary questions of body and mind through contemporary art and collected object installations. A few months later, in the fall 2007, Le Laboratoire opened in Paris, France, to explore frontiers of science through experimental projects in contemporary art and design, and translate experimental ideas from educational, through cultural, to social practice. And in the winter 2008 Science Gallery opened in downtown Dublin to bring contemporary science experimentation to the general public (and students of Imperial College) with installations in contemporary art and design. Other culture labs have opened since then, in Amsterdam, Kosovo, Madrid and other European, American, Asian, African and Latin American cities. In the USA, culture labs especially thrive on campuses, like MIT’s famous Media Lab, Harvard’s iLab, and the unique metaLAB, run by Jeffrey Schnapp within Harvard’s Berkman Center. These will now be joined by a public culture lab, Le Laboratoire Cambridge, which opens later this month near MIT and Harvard, bringing to America the European model with a program of public art and design exhibitions, innovation seminars, and future-of-food sensorial experiences.
The culture lab is the latest indication that learning is changing in America. It cannot happen too fast.
We may not be getting dumber in America. But we need to get smarter in ways that match the challenges we now face. The time is now to support the role of learning in the pursuit of discovery and to embrace the powerful agency of culture.
There’s a huge misconception about art and artists. Most people believe that you are born with talent or not, and there’s nothing you can do about it. While we can’t all be Van Goghs, the desire to create, along with proper instruction, can take a person of modest talent a long way towards creating art.
If you’ve ever had the urge to embrace your artistic side, why not do it? It doesn’t matter whether you think you are “talented” or not. Do it because creating art is a wonderful way to stimulate your brain, improve your well-being, and possibly get healthier! Do it for yourself because you enjoy it, and with lessons and practice, your hidden talents will blossom.
The Brain Benefits of Art
Here are some of the best ways that picking up your paint brush can benefit your brain and mental health:
1. Art makes you more observant. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and color, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.” Creating art helps you learn to “see” by concentrating on detail and paying more attention to your environment.
2. Art stimulates the imagination. If you consider yourself a right-brained (artistic) person, you can enhance creative skills you already possess. If you’re left-brained (analytical), creating art will stimulate your creativity and imagination.
3. Art enhances problem-solving skills. Unlike math, there is no one correct answer in art. Art encourages out-of-the-box thinking and lets you come up with your own unique solution.
4. Art boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment. We stick our kids’ artwork on the fridge to boost their self-esteem. Hanging your latest work of art on the wall can instill you with the same feeling.
5. Art reduces stress. Painting, sculpting, drawing, and photography are relaxing and rewarding hobbies that can lower your stress levels and lead to an overall improvement in well-being.
6. Art enhances cognitive abilities and memory, even for people with serious brain conditions. Dr. Arnold Bresky is a physician who has created a program he calls the “Brain Tune Up” that utilizes art therapy for patients that have Alzheimer’s and dementia. He has seen a 70% success rate in improvement of his patients’ memories. He believes that by drawing and painting, they are connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain and growing new brain cells.
Art & Healing: Can Art Be Medicine?
Besides helping patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, art used as therapy has successfully helped people with anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, cancer, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, and other serious health conditions.
This video — Can Art Be Medicine? — shows some real-life examples of how art is being used as therapy. Particularly moving is the story of a Marine with PTSD who used art therapy to express his pain in a safe way and help lift the burden in a way that nothing else had been able to do.
Art is for Everyone
Unless you have a serious health condition, seeing an art therapist is not necessary. ArtTherapyBlog.com puts it like this, “If it’s therapeutic for you to draw or paint a few times a week (without an art therapist), then I would consider that therapy. Who says art therapy always has to be professional?”
Creating art isn’t just for artists, art is for everyone! Within each of us lies a spark of creativity. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try drawing, painting, sculpting, or fine art photography, but never had the time or opportunity so you put it on your “someday” list. Now that you know all the benefits artistic pursuits can provide, I hope you won’t put off exploring your artistic side any longer.
You might be satisfied experimenting on your own, but art lessons can teach you shortcuts and techniques so you can see your work progress faster with less frustration. Here’s a dramatic “before and after” shot of two portraits done by an adult student. After just two lessons, the difference is amazing! While the purpose of art is to relax and have fun, you can get a lot of enjoyment watching your talent unfold. Thinking you suck at something isn’t much fun.
Imagine devoting your life to carving one of the greatest sculpture gardens in the world- and then losing everything…
This is the incredibly inspiring story of Bruno Torfs: How it began, how it was taken away, and how he made the best out of the worst thing imaginable.
Bruno was born in South America and lived there with his family till the age of fifteen. At this point the whole family made the move to Europe in seek of new opportunities. After working as a sign writer Bruno made a gradual transition to become a fulltime artist. Through his diverse talents and a spirit for adventure Bruno created a unique style full of culture and character. This was achieved through his many trips around the world.
Sketching the scenes and faces of his journeys allowed Bruno to return home and make oil painting and sculpture versions of his experiences. These artworks would then be sold in a series of annual exhibitions hosted in the lower levels of the family home.
After several years of this lifestyle, Bruno and the family made a decision to pack up and move to Australia to create a sculpture garden that he would run as a permanent attraction.The family arrived in Melbourne and shortly after had found the perfect place in the small Victorian village of Marysville. The luscious sub-alpine forests of the surrounding area – were the ideal setting for Bruno’s plan and luckily the property he purchased he a large section of rain forest attached. After five months of backbreaking work Bruno’s art and sculpture garden was opened to the public. Also on the property was a gallery that housed over 200 of his artworks brought over from Europe that included oil paintings, sketches and smaller sculptures.
The garden began with just fifteen life sizes terracotta sculptures, which evolved into over one hundred and fifteen pieces on display. The amazing sculptures attracted thousands of visitors each year.
But then disaster engulfed the town of Marysville and swept his beloved garden . . .
In February 2009, the Black Saturday bushfires overwhelmed the area. A series of bushfires ignited across the Australian state of Victoria claiming everything in their wake. They resulted in Australia’s highest loss of life from a bushfire to date. Bruno and the rest of the town were prohibited from entering the town for two whole months while authorities conducted an investigation and attempted to identify victims.
This was an unimaginable time of grief for the townsfolk of Marysville, not knowning what remained of their lives. Bruno received overwhelming support from friends, family, and perfect strangers from all over the world.
Bruno knew his gallery, garden, and home were completely destroyed before getting a chance to see for himself. The images below were taken the day Bruno was finally granted permission to return home.
The amount of sculpture that survived the blaze was a miracle.
With the help of friends and family, rebuilding Bruno’s home and gallery took less than two months!
After that it was time to start planting. The native ferns rebounded vigorously and the green slowly returned to the area. Unfortunately it will be many years before the forest resembles the old lush wonderland, but that hasn’t discouraged Bruno one bit.
What the gardens are looking like now…
Bruno’s words: “The bushfires deeply touched us all in many ways. It allowed me to see that people had a heart for each other, that when things really got dark, the best in us comes out. We have lost a lot, but life also provides us opportunities to gain a new vision, lots of new friends and a blank canvas to play. In the meantime, nature is already regenerating itself. The green is slowly returning and the rivers are flowing, finding new ways”.
The golden ratio or spiral is a unique relation existing in the universe between the whole and the part and has been in our consciousness for over 4,000 years. It is a ubiquity number widely accepted as a divine proportion and spiritually regarded as the language of the Universe.
This simple fraction has been an inspiration to many artists, musicians, mathematicians and philosophers throughout our history.
Out of the golden ratio rises the golden spiral, whose familiar coil shape can be found everywhere in nature, such as in the structure of our DNA and fingerprints, sunflowers and seashells, storm clouds and tornados—even a star cluster nebula like the Milky Way.
The golden spiral, also called the flower of life, is a twirling pattern that forms out from a rectangle with the golden ratio.
When this rectangle is squared, it leaves a smaller rectangle that has the same golden ratio as the original. When this even smaller rectangle is squared, it in turn leaves a yet smaller rectangle behind—and this process continues until the shapes become so small you cannot see them anymore.
In other words, the process goes on forever.
When you connect a curve through the opposite corners of these concentric rectangles, you form the golden spiral.
The fact that the golden spiral shows up in many growth patterns of plants, animals and even whole galaxies makes us wonder if this unique shape is not indeed the pattern of life.
The principles of the golden spiral also can be seen in the design of buildings and architecture, as well as in art and literature. Golden proportions are to be found in music and even light.
The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese all depict the golden ratio in their artwork. The Egyptians were probably the first to combine mathematics with art in the design of their pyramids.
Pythagoras discovered the golden proportions of the human body and this was portrayed by artists throughout Greek art.
Leonardo De Vinci found inspiration in the mathematics of art and nature; and it is almost certain he painted to conform to the golden ratio—especially the proportions set out in the Mona Lisa.
Literature can draw on the golden ratio in the structure of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and pictures.
Just as we see the existence of the spiral in our fingerprints and galaxies and in the creation of pyramids and paintings, the golden ratio also appears inside the pages of a book—and even in a book’s cover design.
This pattern of nature can be seen inside many art forms and has a universally stimulating effect on the mind. Enlightenment may be part of this pattern—a communication that connects consciousness through the language of the Universe.
Look at the soul as being a bridge between your mind and the intangible essence of your spirit, gently guiding your mind through a doorway of transcendence to a higher plane of awareness.
By bringing the flower of life to words and pictures, your consciousness can be encouraged to move toward a realization greater than itself. In other words, the golden spiral can spiral you to soul awakening.
The flower of life transcends itself from the physical-mathematical form by which it is more commonly known (sacred geometry), into a spiritual equivalent we call unconditional love.
This little flower of life transforms into the pattern of love. Truth seekers, poets and prophets everywhere teach love as being at the center of all things.
When your soul connects consciousness with the golden spiral, you become love. Love is the infinite pattern of the Universe. And so are you.
Our world needs to undergo an incredible transformation. We must heal our emotions and weary bodies. We should sincerely connect to spirit and love—the intrinsic nature of everything.
Most cultures throughout history, from the Aztec to the Celtic, have documented a significant correlation between physical form and spirituality, clearly expressed through art and sacred geometry, like the mandala: beautiful, mesmerizing patterns bearing ritual and spiritual significance.
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung said the mandala is a representation of the unconscious self and believed mandalas are a means toward wholeness in personality.
The Mandelbrot Set, named after Benoît Mandelbrot, is a collection of numbers that form fractals. These are objects that display self-similarity at various scales; and so we can journey into the wondrous world of fractal geometry, gliding through never-ending self-similarity repeating patterns arising from a simple definition.
Quantum physicists show us that the substance of our reality is shaped, if not created, by our own consciousness.
Both old and new worlds of thought now come together as science greets spirituality in a uniform field of thought. The Universe speaks to us and we ought to listen.
If you “dream within a dream,” and inside this dream you awaken to unconditional love, which is the origin of all things in and beyond this world, you may find yourself in an infinite spiral with no beginning and no end called eternal life.
Robin Craig Clark is a writer of a new generation of spiritual books. Robin’s unique ideas come directly from nature, sacred geometry, Celtic wisdom and the use of holographic narrative, bringing words and art together to create a powerful way to inspire spiritual awakening and transformation. For more information, visit www.peliguin.com.
Author, ‘War of the Worldviews’; Founder, The Chopra Foundation
Possibly a New World (Part 2)
Posted: 1/11/12 08:45 AM ET
It’s a well-worn truth that the modern world is built upon science and technology. But this truth doesn’t dominate everyday life as much as one might think. Science is materialistic, and it explains the world through objective data. People lead their lives, at least partly, apart from materialism. The spiritual side of life exists and always has, which defies objective data. So does art, which isn’t mystical, not to mention emotions, intuition, morality and much else that makes life worth living.
Most of the time we are satisfied with this kind of catch-as-catch-can dualism. One of the easiest precepts from Jesus to follow is “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” If you substitute “science” or “materialism” for Caesar, everyone does exactly that, compartmentalizing personal and spiritual experience in a separate box from iPads, microwaves and space shuttles.
The problem is that a compartmentalized life feels inadequate, which is why a public debate has been ongoing for 200 years about whether God or science is the ultimate master of reality. The answer matters. If you plump for God then miracles, mysticism, the soul and invisible forces have a chance to be real. If you plump for science instead, then physical existence can be completely trusted and the rational mind will in time solve all apparent mysteries. In either case, dualism no longer pinches; some kind of non-dualism wins the day.
In my posts, articles and books I’ve argued that science can expand to include miracles and mysticism. There is no need to deny the miraculous if everything is a miracle. There is no mystery surrounding mysticism if we look into the subtle essence of the human mind. More importantly, a non-dual world based on consciousness would be a better world. The fact is that science won’t reach answers to every riddle, so plumping for materialism is an empty gesture — even a hoax — when it comes to explaining a broad range of issues:
What is a thought? Who is thinking?
What connects body and mind?
Where does meaning come from?
Why and how does the body heal itself?
These questions seem so abstract, not to mention so huge, that everyday life seems content to pass the by, and materialists are content to call them metaphysics, putting them high on a shelf to gather philosophical dust. But I’d argue that no questions are more relevant to my life and yours, once we reduce them to the personal scale.
Why do I have the thoughts I have? Where are they taking me?
Can my mind change my body in positive ways when it comes to disease and aging?
What does my life really mean?
Can I make a difference in how my body heals?
One could add many other important issues to the list, but all would have one thing in common: until you understand the mind, you haven’t truly understood reality. Life comes to us as experience. This is true of driving a car, raising a child, catching a cold or building a super collider in order to detect subatomic particles. Experience is how we participate in the universe. The super collider isn’t set aside in some objective space, even though data tries to be objective. Every moment in every scientist’s life is a subjective experience. It consists of sensations, thoughts, feelings and images.
You can claim, as non-dual materialists do, that the subjective side taints the objective and should be considered an unreliable guide to truth. But to say this makes two mistakes, and they are whoppers. The first mistake is that the mind cannot be located in the material world. Primitive peoples, as we like to call them, believed that spirits inhabited physical objects, a perspective known as animism. Trees contained tree spirits, the sky was the home of rain gods, and little demons lurked all around. Yet when it says that mind exists in the brain, neuroscience is committing the same fallacy. The brain is made up of atoms and molecules. It is a thing, like a tree, and to say that the mind is only the brain means that you have attributed consciousness to atoms and molecules. No one has ever explained how mind suddenly arises in blood sugar when that sugar crosses the blood-brain barrier. It is simply assumed.
The second mistake, intimately connected to the first, is that observers can stand apart from what they observe. Instead of being a participatory universe, science asserts that outside reality is separate from us; we are like children with our noses pressed to a bake shop window, staring through the glass but never going inside. This view reduces experience to data and then goes further by saying that data is superior to experience. This cannot remotely be true. The data about your body, such as blood pressure, heart rate, hormone levels, etc., is essentially the same as the data from Buddha, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso. It seems obvious that when you throw out all the factors that make these individuals unique, you have thrown out something pretty essential — the very meaning and purpose of life.
I’ve argued that a new world is being born in which nothing needs to be thrown out, and such a world can only be based on experience. Experience covers billions of people leading different lives, but one element is always present: consciousness. Thoughts and actions occur in consciousness. This is so obvious that it feels a bit meaningless, like saying that all marine life occurs in the sea. But the world’s wisdom traditions exist to open our eyes, seeing beyond the obvious to something incredibly important: If you delve into consciousness, you will find the essence of existence, meaning it purpose, direction and goal. You will know deeply and fully who you are, and when that unfolds, you will know what reality is.
Non-dual consciousness doesn’t celebrate subjectivity over objectivity. To do that is simply to take the mistakes of materialism and turn them on their heads. Non-dual systems all make the same claim: “Everything is made of X.” Science says that everything is made of matter and energy. Non-dual consciousness says that everything is made of mind. An alien landing on Earth in a spaceship, lacking bias either way, could easily see why these two worldviews consider the other preposterous. To say that everything is matter and energy is preposterous when you are trying to get at the mind and subjective experience. Non-dual consciousness is preposterous when you are trying to figure out where stars and galaxies come from. In other words, the physical seems secure in making its claims on us, while the mental seems just as secure when telling the story of inner life.
The great challenge is to decide which preposterous claim is, believe it or not, actually true. For thousands of years human beings had no difficulty believing that Creation was happening in the mind of God; the spiritual origin of the universe was certain. Today, people have no trouble believing that tiny physical things called atoms and molecules will reveal why we fall in love, create art and have thoughts in our heads. I’m not defending an ancient bias as opposed to a modern one. Rather, there has been an evolution, bringing us to the point where we can go beyond crude animism, whether of the spiritual or materialistic kind, at last seeing how consciousness works in the whole scheme of reality.
We can explain the galaxies and personal experience at the same time by finding the same origin for each. If nature goes to the same place — an invisible workshop beyond time and space — to create a supernova, a rose, human love and our craving for God, then non-duality solves everything. My position is that non-duality must be based in consciousness, since it is inescapable that the only reality we know comes through experience. Without a doubt we live in a participatory universe, and the sooner we surrender the delusion that data is superior to experience, the closer we will come to transforming the world.
In Paris, Palestine, Peru, and beyond—guerrilla artist JR asks the people of the world share their faces to transform urban landscapes into stories.
Infamous “photograffeur” JR won the TED prize and a wish to change the world. What does he want to do? Turn the world Inside Out!
JR’s projects seek to challenge social preconceptions and bring communities together through radical acts of art. The Inside Out Project asks people around the world to use their personal identities to share millions of untold stories.
“I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world…INSIDE OUT.” -JR, TED Prize