THe Tougaloo Art Colony
The artist has a powerful place in society - one that can be used to express ideas relating to the current social discourse. When viewed in this light, art should be used to promote the welfare of others and advance the affairs of mankind.
This workshop will be a space where the participant is encouraged to explore new approaches to drawing with the goal of developing their own personal artistic vision and expression. Working from a unique, one-of-a-kind, still life, participants will be motivated to create drawings that both challenge and excite them. Some might produce straightforward renditions from the arrangement, others might explore creative interpretations, distortions and abstractions, while others might experiment with new and mixed media. Mini demos and instructional exercises will be introduced daily. However straight imitation of a particular technical procedure is not the primary focus of this workshop. Through individual reflection and consultation as well as group interactions, it is hoped that each participant’s very different expressive goals will be addressed and new personal drawing styles will emerge.
As I see it, my own drawings begin in the realm of imagination and slowly transfer themselves into the physical world where they have the potential of affecting the human spirit of others. This process involves deep thought, creativity, and flexibility. My desire is to produce artworks that spiritually uplift others and kindle their curiosity about the true nature of the human reality. Bringing an idea from conception to fruition, is in itself a meditative exercise, one that could be likened to prayer.
The work in this exhibit is reflective of artistic exploration dating back to 2008. At this time I was a full time art teacher and mostly produced my own work during summer vacations. That summer I made some of the shadow boxes and began exploring the “Hidden Treasures” theme. The 3D objects in the designs are based on shapes seen in the drawings that make up the backgrounds. I was trying to bring the drawings to life and in so doing, got excited about using beads of various kinds as decorative elements in the pieces.
Later that year, I was awarded a fellowship from the Surdna Foundation in New York. This allowed me to travel to various cities to study contemporary art and also to take a workshop at Oxbow in Michigan, a branch of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Art production was also required.
I continued to make shadow boxes, this time on a smaller scale. The designs for these were generated from sketchbook drawings, and now almost all of the elements became 3D. These pieces were focused again on the “Hidden Treasures” theme, which through the use of gems and beads is very evident.
My students were always inspirational to me, and it was from studying some of their drawings that I decided to work with charcoal for a while. So in 2011, I began the drawings, first using traditional black charcoal and later changing over to tinted charcoal. The source of imagery changed too. No longer was I using images based on abstract drawings, but now I employed the camera and Photo shop to generate ideas.
These drawings are obviously nature-based, but are not straightforward renditions of flowers, leaves, and trees etc. They contain ambiguities manifest through the layering of images. As I draw, and they develop, more unexpected objects seem to appear and the viewer sees things that are not readily apparent at first glance. This, I hope, causes the viewer to look even harder and see even more “hidden treasures”.
In the Baha’i Writings it says:
“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom”.
“The purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves”.
These statements guide me in life and are important inspirations for my drawings. They are especially relevant to one who is a former educator. I learned that it was important to search for the good qualities in people and not to dwell on the negative. Sometimes, one has to dig down beneath the layers to find the treasures that will almost assuredly, be hidden below.
The “Hidden Treasures” series is motivated by this sentiment. In keeping with the human experience, an in-depth study of the drawings should take you to another place. It is my hope that through the beauty of nature the pieces will make a connection both visually and spiritually with those who see them, leaving spirits uplifted and curiosity kindled.