The story behind my painting “Meditating on Love”

It has been a complicated year, which perhaps is every year. But this year challenged me to examine my beliefs on love, and beauty, and joy, and goodness in the world. It sounds simple enough, like a Hallmark greeting card, but real life doesn’t fit into one-liners sold in gift shops. Real life is hard, we get angry, we get scared, the world is falling apart, there is war, and poverty, and suffering, and hatred …and it’s just a downward spiral from there. Real life challenges us to look into the mirror and take a good long look into the darkness …the many facets of our lives, of this world …one day good, another bad …love, hatred …hope, fear.

Everyday is a decision …a decision about how to respond. Do I spiral down with the ugliness, or do I wake up and choose beauty and love? Do I say good-bye to someone with “have a nice day”, or do I say, “be safe”? Can I acknowledge the bad in the world without becoming negative, feeding into the power of fear, and the squabbles, and the hatred? …because really, it is easier to be negative, to complain, to be scared, to live in fear, to get into an argument. It is easier to give in to the power of anger and of fear, than it is to stand up and say I choose love and I see the beauty in the world …a beauty that is not sappy and frivolous, but that is necessary …a beauty that IS the currency that will facilitate change. Choosing beauty and love is a huge risk, one that is seen as weak, and interestingly enough is often associated with the female gender. It is not valued on the same level as power and control, the political discourse laden with anger and fear, coercive in nature and meant to elicit conformity.

And that’s where I found myself this spring; one event led to another and another, until I had spiraled so deep into the ugliness of the world that I found myself caught up in a darkness that seemed to have no way out. I stayed there for a while, because in so many ways those dark places are comforting; they’re easy and they’re safe. I took notes for a new series of paintings, paintings that were to have titles: Complacency and Fear, Living Scared at the End of a Dream, Training to be an American, Power and Control, and Calling for a Revolution. I sketched and I wrote, because that’s what I do when I am contemplating new work. But the whole time I kept hearing my words echo through the darkness: “ugly feeds ugly”, “beauty feeds beauty”, “what we feed grows”. And then it hit me that I needed a change. I had let things get too far, and I’d lost that which I hold most dear, and sacred, and valuable: my belief in the power of beauty and love.

And that’s where my painting “Meditating on Love” began. I had to change my current painting process, another big risk, because every time an artist changes something in their work they lose followers (potential buyers, exhibitions, etc). But I needed the new work to be clean, to say what it needed to say without a lot of frill, which also meant using less color. I wrote a few words to help keep me focused: Love, Joy, Beauty, Sound, Grass, Middle, Sky, Wind, Breath, Neutrality, Mountain, Body, Open. This all changed the relationship to the inspiration for my work. My previous work was inspired by nature and my experience in nature. This differs from my new work in that me, self, is no longer a separate thing in the experience of nature, but instead self is a reflection of nature and nature is a reflection of self. And then I began meditating on love…

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I’m honored that my painting, Meditating on love, received the Baron Grand Prize at the 18th Annual Artlink Juried Exhibition at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ.

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-Onna

To view more of my work visit my website: onnavoellmer.com

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