I went down to East West Books tonight after my meditation class, to see a series of paintings called "The Madhubani." They were all hand drawn and painted by women--it's actually a tradition that has been passed down from mother to daughter over the centuries. They depict mostly various Indian gods, or some meditation on Indian philosophy/religion, and in that way, they seem to function almost as a prayer, as well as being visually stimulating. Apparently the paintings that you are most drawn to in the exhibit showcase something in their subject's energy that extends to the specific energy of the viewer, and that's why some paintings intrigue you more than others. The one I was most into sits to the right of this text, known as Jaladevi. The description is as follows:
One of the rarest images in the collection, Jaladevi (Goddess of Water) is the presiding deity of the primordial soup, water, rivers and oceans. She is also the Shakti force that breeds life in water and the living goddess who supplies nourishment to all forms of life. She sits on a crocodile among smaller water creatures (frog, fish, snail, water snake, salamander) holding lotus flowers in her hands and wearing a lotus crown. With her hair flowing in the water current, her benevolent smile and forward gaze is a blessing of nature’s bliss to all who worship her.
I do like the sea, it is true, so being drawn to this picture makes sense. I guess. I always walk on the edge of being a "true believer" as it were. But it's still pretty beautiful in its intricacy.
I hadn't been to the East West bookshop before this, and was really impressed by the amount of stock they had--books, crystals, natural musical instruments, home decor (I think I'll be going back for some bells I saw there, apparently designed to keep away evil spirits, but are also hand made and really cool looking), and a cafe/art gallery upstairs. Everything a modern day spiritualist needs is here, from sage to burn, to rune guides, to Buddhas in every shape and color. I think I'll be spending way more time in this shop, if only because of the novelty.
So often we forget about the divine, yet it is something that shapes our lives every day, whether we believe in a higher power or not. If we believe, how we display or don't display that belief or acknowledgment of that power shapes our lives just as much as some one who does not believe in such a thing. The idea of the divine has shaped and produced art on so many levels over the years, whether praising it or reacting to it, and therefore must be respected as a viable source of inspiration for the production of work. But nowadays, try to weave a little divinity into something, and you're often shuffled around with the label "Jesus Freak" or something else. I hate a morality play just as much as the next person--they're usually really dry, and they all end up the same way, don't they? And there's nothing less interesting than predictability.
Is this dismissal of work that has some kind of theological base occurring because we fear offense--we worry people will be hurt by our expression of something? Or do we work to create a "universal" spiritualism, something vaguer than a morality play, say, to make it accessible, and hope that we've somehow covered everyone's bases with what we've put together. This seems futile, as everything will offend at least one person for some reason no one could have thought of, before that person came along and got offended. So why is religion such a hot issue? Is it because much of the work done around/about religion is propagandic somehow--if you believe,"x" will happen to you; OR, if you don't believe, "y" will. How does one create work that provides the wonder, the awe, the release, and the appreciation that most strictly religious work is meant to inspire in us, and make it less...religious? Is that possible? And would it be nearly as powerful if you cut the whole ethereal thing out of it?
I don't know the answer to this, but it's something to think about for possible future projects. One thing is sure: without a concept of the divine, the exhibit I saw wouldn't have existed. Neither would the Sisteenth Chapel's ceiling, for that matter.