The story of the art, its biography or “provenance” or evolution into form, is what brings meaning to the work. Not that art has to have a stated meaning, but what is it showing up for anyway? As actively creative persons (all of us are creative in our nature) artists have a special responsibility when our art is presented to the world or even hung on the walls of our homes. People may notice it and wonder about it.
So, this mandala has hung in the same place on the wall at the foot of my spreading stairs for at least ten years. I pass by it numerous times in the day. I have not looked at it closely in a long, long time. And, the other day, I had bed and breakfast guests, curious about what they saw in my studio and home, and one woman stood in front of this mandala asking: is that made from real flowers?
She wanted to know the story. And, I realized, so did I.
I don’t even remember when I actually made this, but it was at least over 20 years ago. All flowers were gathered from around my house and pressed in telephone books. The center, or bindu point, is small purple bicolor lupine which grow very close to the ground. The stems, dividing the mandala into quadrants, are from the local endemic poppy. 30 years ago I learned to call this wildflower by the name of frying pan poppy, because its pale yellow petals are splayed out rather flat from its center, just they are in the mandala itself. The inner circular ring is made from fringepod or lacepod seeds. A splash of watercolor hues are in the base.
The story of the art is my love for these plants which show up year after year without planting or seeding by human hand. And these flowers used to be all over this town, but are disappearing rapidly as people move here and make their new homes and yards in the foothills look like their old homes in the cities with green lawns and oleanders and plants they don’t call weeds, like the local plants are called now.
This mandala is the story of grief. Grief that can only come with the knowing of beauty. No way to avoid this if you are living a human life that sees wildflowers growing on their own, especially on the hill that plows into your kitchen window.
Mandate for the artist: live the life….make the art….share the story….and let others know they can do it too.