Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Time of Celebration and Reflection

Understanding a true meaning of love and peace is the beginning of wisdom and unity with the great spirit of the Universe.

The closing of each year is a time of celebration and reflection. We count our blessings, remember our losses, and look forward to the wondrous mysteries of what is to come. For me, 2012 was a remarkable time. I have seen and taken part in so much for which I am thankful beyond words. The past 12 months have led to my sculptural experience, Love & Peace, taking root and blooming internationally. I feel connected to the world in ways I had only imagined possible before and I know that 2013 will bring even greater surprises to us all.

When I think back upon 2012, I am awed by our progress. When injustice was found and the oppressed were silenced, so many hands and voices reached out in support of righteousness.

I believe there have been precious few times like these when so many opportunities for empowerment have been within the grasp of women and the young. Those courageous individuals who made a stand and pursed those opportunities have provided me with unending inspiration.

Figures such as Malala Yousafzai, whose brave fight for the rights of girls to an education in Pakistan lead to her also fighting for her own life after being struck down by an assassin's bullet. Malala's miraculous and blessed recovery and the way the world rallied to her support forced us all to pay attention to her cause; to discuss the issues she had raised and begin to think about a better, fairer and more just future.

Somaly Mam, grew up in poverty in Cambodia. Her journey from lost innocence became an inspiration to millions. Somaly and her Foundation are tireless in their struggle to highlight the plight of innocent women and children sold in to sex slavery.

Aung San Suu Kyi has stood up against the dictators in Myanmar from the confines of house arrest for most of her political life. In 2010 the rulers of her country finally caved in under the weight of global pressure and she was freed. This year she became part of the new democratic process and took her seat in Myanmar's Parliament. This long and hard fought for change is greatly due to Aung San Suu Kyi's status as a symbol of freedom and her ever presence in global conversations.

The tireless determination of these women and so many others burns brightly in our eyes, bringing us closer to the reality of global peace.

The year also brought with it immense tragedy. From escalating violence in the Middle East to the horrors committed against the truly innocent in Chengping, China and Sandy Hook, Connecticut, our will to persevere was tested again and again. Moments of despair like these leave us wondering how we will be able to recover, how will we ever piece life back together from the shards and scraps. I truly believe that the surest route to healing is through conversation. When we share our hurt, it begins to be released from us--the open ear of a friend is another shoulder to carry even the heaviest burden. Love & Peace has been created to open lines of communication between all people, offering places of solace and community across the globe. I hope so strongly that comfort may be found through my sculptures, and that they are received as tributes to resilience.

As we retire old calendars and prepare for a fresh start, I wish for so much: May our spirits be cleansed and our hearts open to a universe of positive change. May we treat every being with compassion and respect, as all creation possesses within it a spark of the Divine; may our souls link to strengthen us in the face of struggle. Let us make each new day a celebration of our miraculous lives--and let us make 2013 the Year of Love & Peace!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Finding Harmony Between Two Worlds

I have created Love & Peace with a special destiny. I am placing large and beautiful flower sculptures across the world in places where millions of people will see them. The first three have already appeared overnight in London, Shezhen, and New York. To me, these blooms are all part of one whole - one sculpture which spreads its stems and petals across the world. I see my flowerings as listening posts - beacons to encourage people to communicate. This is where social media comes in.

In the new year a special app will make my sculptures visible to anyone with an iPad, Android device, or smart phone. A video camera, placed beside each of the flowers, will make a global gathering of those visiting the sculpture. The thought of bringing so many people together in a shared place of love through the power of art fills me with excitement, and it would not exist without the innovation of social media.

Art has always been the centerpiece of culture. The watchful eye. Art expands imagination and imagination expands knowledge.

Each day brings fantastic new creations born of ingenuity and passion. Our entire history and all of its triumphs is always within our reach. Technology has made human existence a book with infinite pages, a museum whose doors never close. It opens both the generation of artists and those to come to unimaginable opportunity, and I know that they will use it well.

In order to thrive, I believe that art requires collaboration, conversation, and connection. This is how the artist's work transcends to become something far greater- a living force capable of leaving its fingerprints on the world and making it more beautiful. Modern technology provides artists with a direct channel to each of these needs, making creator and viewer equal participants in the experience. The horizon is bright, and I am delighted to see where art will be taken next.

My flowers of Love & Peace will bloom around the world, traveling as bearers of light and harmony. I want to share this gift of my heart and hope that others will be moved to share it, too! And through the wonders of our technology, this dream will soon become real.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Oscar Niemeyer – Ahead of the Curve

I believe Art is where the Divine and The Human meet. It is the embodiment of the human spirit.

Oscar Niemeyer – the wonderful Brazilian architect who has died at the age of 104 – knew this and practiced what he preached with something as near to perfection as any human being can get.

I have been a fan of Niemeyer’s work for half a century. He was not a man known for straight lines and rigid rules. His creations, which adorn cities around the globe are full of life – literally and metaphorically. He believed in the curve. From the harsh materials of concrete and metal he crafted beautiful flowing lines. His buildings lift the spirit whilst still being functional and efficient; they are full of narrative.

In a famous interview Oscar said: "I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire universe, the curved universe of Einstein."

What a wonderful way to look at life and art. Similar thinking lies behind my latest and most ambitious artistic exploration: Love& Peace.  I owe Oscar a debt of gratitude… as do many more artists who have been moved by his work.

Oscar Niemeyer’s passing has focused my thoughts on my own work; my own need to create paintings and sculptures.

Throughout the ages, so many of us have looked to art to express our beliefs and explore the ‘big questions’ in the hope of finding answers.

Art has always told the stories of the human spirit. Beyond all differences, it is a universal truth that art reveals the invisible soul of the artist and makes our purest voice physical – it becomes the manifestation of our true self. We learn more and more about ourselves as we continue to create, which is why art is so much more than a pastime—it is a faithful companion for life! Without art and spirituality, I would not know myself. As I mould and shape my work, it shapes me.

To create is to give praise for all our blessings and try our best to make great use of them. It is an act of giving from the deepest part of one’s being. In my life, creation and spirituality are inseparable sisters. I cannot see one without the other! My soul is in my art, and my art is in my soul. Even the practice of art mirrors that of faith and reflection. It demands attention, endurance, and a particular meditation, leaving the spirit cleansed.

Every day I paint. Every day I pray. These are things that continually ground and center me. They are my joy, my grace, my gratefulness and my heart. I wish to share this joy with all, and from this desire, “Love and Peace” was born. It is a sculpture I give to the world with the hope that it will bring jubilation and serenity to every soul it touches. I feel Oscar would have approved.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The World Is My Home

Art connects us wordlessly to the whole world, and I feel blessed though the gift of my art. This gift has given me the ability to see the world through the eyes of strangers.

It is this understanding I have reached down through the years and miles of travel which has inspired my latest and I believe most important artistic exploration: Love & Peace.

I have watched and taken part in traditions across the globe, from those found in the bustle of bright cities to ancient rituals in quiet villages at the edges of maps. Each experience leaves me so grateful, filling me with inspiration and breathing the magic of life into my paintings and sculptures.

By striving to capture these feelings, scenes, and traditions in my work, I am praising the fantastic diversity of cultures that colour our planet.

Through years and miles of travel, I have discovered that the most important aspects of civilisation--the things that define our human existence--transcend borders. The traditional values we hold in places of honor, like 'family', 'home', 'community', 'peace', and 'love', can be found thriving among all people, from the mountains of Japan to the savannahs of Africa.

I am lucky to have so many unique homes in my history, so many people from varied walks of life to call my family and friends. I live my life with open eyes and an open heart because I wish to celebrate what I have seen and share it with others through my art.

But without each of its strings, we cannot know the beautiful potential for harmony contained within a violin; without all of its notes, a melody will not rise and move our hearts. In my own work, I know that each daub or stroke of paint is a necessary piece of the whole. This, too, is how I see the world: life is a vibrant, shining thing woven out of so many colored threads, dyed by the differences and details that make each culture so captivating.

It is the inherent nature of people--being both so unique and so familiar--that helped bring Love & Peace to life across the globe.

In it, I seek to speak to the precious worth of all in the language of wonder, beyond words. If we are to see a future in which our dreams of love and peace prevail, we must embrace all of the world's shades and hues, for their splendor can only be truly appreciated together, as miraculous parts of the big picture.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Seeds of Inspiration

In the Golden Age of Dutch classical painting, Rachel Ruysch crafted still life after still life of vivid floral arrangements, bursting from their canvases to bloom before a viewer's eyes. Beethoven composed sweeping symphonies to convey to listeners his deep awe of the tranquil countryside. Henry David Thoreau isolated himself in the wilderness to pursue pure living, finding his spark among the thickets and channeling it into magnificent writings. Even Frank Lloyd Wright's monumental works of architecture grew from the seeds of nature. Around us, birds let their happiness resound through the air. With so much potential waiting to blossom outside the window, why should we, too, not be moved to sing?

My life and my work are celebrations of nature. Like Ruysch, I never grow tired of putting paint to canvas in studies of flowers - there is always some new perspective by which to see them, some new way to showcase their inherent grace. Flowers possess a universal beauty, symbolic of so much to so many, from sorrow to happiness to love. They are a divine blessing worthy of praise and thanks.

Nature provides me with unbounded and ever-flowing inspiration, sanctuary for my soul, and delight for my eyes. It is the mother of my palette and the muse in my compositions. The world beyond our cities is a treasure and should be treated as such; we will only be able to continue to reap the benefits of such a gift if we honor and protect it.

Do you recall the last time you dimmed the glow of your computer screen, ignored the pleas of your phone for a moment, and conversed only with nature? In the ceaseless rushing of life, with obligations tugging you in every direction, it is so easy to forget about the sweetness of a rose's aroma - and once you pause to enjoy it, you will notice that these roses are everywhere! Only when you learn to appreciate the many gifts given to us freely by our world will you truly find lasting peace, joy, and inspiration to create. I hope to remind others of this simple, but significant lesson.

I have created a giant sculpture, a magnificent flower of "Love and Peace", which travels the world to speak to all in the wordless tongue of natural beauty, peace and tranquility which can be yours if only you too can see it.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Dress Burning

I was just thirteen years old, a girl in Communist Yugoslavia growing up under Tito. We all lived in constant fear. At this time, everything was in short supply and I was pleading with my mother for a dress, any dress. I had no new clothes, ever, in my young memory.

My mother scraped together enough money and through contacts managed to buy some clothing coupons, which allowed her to purchase four meters of fabric - just enough for a dress. She left early one morning and waited in line all day, at last arriving home with precious, navy blue fabric, of light wool to make my first new dress.

My darling aunt offered to sew it and, after a lot of consultation around the family, it was decided to make it with deep front and back pleats, able to be 'let out' as I grew. The dress was pretty with three-quarter raglan sleeves and suitable for all occasions. I loved it.

As I grew, the dress grew with me. The waist and hem were lengthened, and small, extra patches were added. Over the next six years, the dress was patched and let out more and more. Each year, in order to update my dress, I would save up enough money to buy just one meter of white fabric with blue dots or flowers to make new collars and cuffs. The dress was my pride and joy from my early teenage years until the time I met my husband.

I got married to my husband, a New Zealander, and on leaving Yugoslavia, took my precious, only dress with me. One day, after I had been in New Zealand for about six months, I brought the dress out of the small wardrobe and got enough courage to turn it inside out and show the patches to my husband. He was speechless and, with tears in his eyes, said, "You must keep that one forever." I began to cry and replied, "What would make me very happy would be to have a burning of the dress and a celebration of thanksgiving and prayers, for now I have several dresses."

On Thanksgiving, we made a special day of it and in our small backyard lit a fire under an oil drum incinerator and ceremoniously burnt the precious dress. That was 55 years ago, and the celebration and thanksgiving is still in my heart and the treasured memory continues to live on with me. Invaluable moments like these have been the spark to ignite my imagination into a great symbol of "Love & Peace" - a monumental flower which will be shown around the world, bringing love and joy to all needy hearts.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Look To The Future But Never Forget To Remember The Past

In this fast changing world we must do more than cling to the past – we must make it matter.

There is always something of our past in the things we do in our future.  This is why the power of traditions and storytelling are so important. We need to preserve these gifts - in painting, sculpture, music, and literature. All of these are ways to tell a story of the past and preserve them for the future.

All my life I have been drawn to stories and storytelling.  Humans have an innate need to connect to one another. Through stories we encounter different views, customs, and beliefs – they offer a window into human experience. 

Throughout history it is the story that continues the tradition.  Think of the cave paintings in Lascaux... These early works of art were stories meant to teach others.  They recorded a tradition sacred to the people and provided instruction and guidance for their future generations. Move through the centuries and our memory falls on the Chinese terracotta army, the tapestry at Bayeux and even the graffiti on the walls of the rooms in the Tower of London. The list is thankfully endless and you will all have your own favorites.

This month Europe remembered the fallen of a century and a half of terrible conflict. Not long ago millions watching the remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in London saw veterans from the First World War for the last time - their numbers dwindling and their faces fading into history. This year the thinning ranks belonged to the veterans from the second global conflict half a century after the guns were silenced on the Somme.  They may be growing old but we will always remember them through their stories - their words reverberating around the world during a two-minute silence.

We live in a global village where stories appear at the touch of a screen. The medium has got bigger but the message remains the same. Lascaux was the Twitter feed and the Facebook page for a community 180 centuries ago whose world stretched only as far as they could see. Their stories were discovered at the outbreak of World War Two. Lascaux is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its message is known all over the world.

The thousands of unique traditions I have encountered throughout my life fascinate me and I am captivated by the rich practices of cultures around the world. They are bursting with diversity, customs and traditions that shaped civilization throughout time.

My paintings and sculptures are my form of storytelling.  I document the cultures I witness for future generations so that they can look back with pride on their own heritage and also appreciate the many different cultures that enrich the world.

After a lifetime as an artist I feel I am now embarking on my most ambitious and important project. I believe in the power of love and its ability to bring peace and understanding. The seeds of my new artistic journey – entitled, simply LOVE AND PEACE - where sown many years ago. I hope what I am creating – as it takes root and blossoms across the planet – will bring people together – to share their stories and understand others. I hope many people will come on this journey with me. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Importance of Persistence

Over my lifetime, I have observed numerous people who have made a positive impact on the world: great scientists, scholars, artists, actors and writers. All of these influential individuals share a common thread: they possess persistence. Persistence is the most essential ingredient of any great success. Talent, beauty, and genius are all but fleeting qualities if they lack this key trait.

Today we live in a world of instant communications of all kind, and our lives have grown used to instant answers. The once-famous tale of the "Little Engine That Could" is no longer a common story among children. It is important that this lesson returns to us and the mantra, "I think I can, I know I can, I knew I could," returns to our daily endeavors - for persistence achieves greatness, and greatness is what we all continually strive for.

There was a young boy labeled stupid and unintelligent by his teachers and parents alike. He spent his youth drifting through odd jobs, never finding his niche. This same boy had a passion for inventing and throughout his life obtained 1,093 patents for one of the most indispensable objects today: the light bulb. Thomas Edison's persistence was exemplified in his famous quote, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

There was a young single mother living in a cold one-room apartment, barely making enough money to survive. She had a desire to tell stories. She wrote her precious book and when completed, took it to twelve different publishers, all of whom turned it down. She persisted and submitted it to one final company, who then agreed to print it. Her name is now famous around the world: J.K. Rowling, the creator of the "Harry Potter" series.

Like the proverbial oyster, we all have daily attacks of unwanted problems. We must learn, through persistence, to coat them and make them our points of strength. Over time, these trials will be transformed into "pearls" - accomplishments otherwise unthinkable.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Older Women Artists and The Art of Living

In a recent article in the Financial Times, journalist Rachel Spence discussed a topic rarely mentioned in the art world: the OWAs; Older. Women. Artist. I want to applaud Ms. Spence for her wonderful piece as it shed light on a rather unexplored subject.

This brilliant article explored the lives of several female artists whom are currently exhibiting at the Frieze Art Fair in London. Artists including Letizia Battaglia, Teresa Burga, Geta Bratescu, and Carmen Herrera - who had until now seldom found acknowledgment outside their own countries - are gaining international recognition for their work. The interesting twist, however, is that these artists are all in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s. Their art is one with depth and feeling, which has evolved through a lifetime of experience, and it has something to say which is worth listening to.

I am an OWA. Although I have been painting my entire life, it was not until my late 60s that I began exhibiting my paintings. My life has always been one of an artist, but I was never able to fully devote time to my craft; and looking back, I am grateful for all the life lessons I had then, because it has shaped the artist I am now. My travels around the world and exchanges with all of life's trials and tribulations have molded my work. I have witnessed the determination and will of individuals and communities to triumph in the face of often seemingly insurmountable odds. Their strength of mind and resolve are a continual lesson to me - one that helps shape the development of my own art.

As an OWA, I feel blessed for having lived so much because it has allowed me to translate my first-hand experiences onto the canvas. I see my work, and the work of all OWAs, as documentary. We record the frailty and strength of the human spirit, and in every new piece of art we create, we are able to instill a lifetime of experience. It is an expression of continued vitality, one of depth and feeling, which has evolved through generations of life-long learning and practice. Our work is not just a reflection of the past, but also a declaration of a vibrant and energetic future full of growth. I think that richness is something worth paying attention to.

"If", a poem by Rudyard Kipling, illustrates what I believe to be an OWA: "If you can fill the unforgiving minute/with 60 seconds' worth of distance run/yours is the Earth and everything that's in it..." We have and will continue to live life to the fullest. Our art is a blessing to all because it shows how strong the human spirit -- the woman's spirit -- can be. We have survived wars, discrimination, stereotyping, and oppression, but through it all we have endured, turning hardship into something beautiful. I encourage everyone who aspires to create, from young upstarts to OWAs like me, to keep pursuing your passions. Keep creating, working and learning; and always be proud of what you have overcome for the time will arrive when your gift will be recognized by the world.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

My Praise for Spirits Like Malala

Millions of young girls throughout the world suffer hostility, deprivation, and abuse of every kind because of their efforts towards education. I was one of them.

Having been born a girl into an almost feudal European family during the Second World War, there were very few opportunities to receive an education. I first attended school at the age of 9, and I was a very curious child who wanted to know everything. From the very first day, though, it was a struggle for me to continue because of the views of my family members. My grandfather, uncles, father, and even some of my aunts discouraged me from going, saying, "Good girls stay home and tend to family needs. Only bad girls go to school, where they learn to smoke and wear short skirts!" I remember my grandfather would cruelly beat me if he thought my dress was too short. He would constantly pressure me to drop out; every day, every month and every year, it was always the same - but I knew within my heart that I was doing the right thing.

In the beginning, I was very lucky because my primary and secondary education was free. I excelled at learning and as I completed my basic classes, I knew I wanted to continue with higher classical studies. The closest school that offered these advanced courses was in the city of Split, which was 25 kilometers away. The bus ticket I would need to travel to this school cost 1400 dinars. That was a very large sum for my family who had very little money - hardly enough to buy our daily bread! To earn the money for my trips, I worked as many jobs as I could and saved every cent I made. I was busy seven days a week: my school was held Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays I would knit jumpers for my neighbors and work every extra job I could find.

I saved enough money for my classes in Split and eagerly started the next chapter in my education. There were five other girls who attended the higher education classes with me, but one by one, the difficulties and intolerance they encountered forced them each to drop out. I was the only one who finished.

Through my hardships, pain, hunger, and lack of sleep, I fought on and earned my education. As a result, I learned a magic language in my communist country: English. Because of it, I met my husband and we started our life together. My education unlocked many doors that would have otherwise stayed eternally sealed. To this day, my family and I will never forget the importance of education, especially for women, as we strive to continually support educational efforts in impoverished areas.

Anyone can count seeds in an apple - but who can count the apples in a seed? Malala, my heart goes out to you today. You are an inspiration to all those working for educational rights, and the blessings of women all over the world are directed to you. We hope you get better, for you are a great leader - and a great seed for the world.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Women Are Destined for Greatness

Sister; wife; mother; daughter; artist.... These are a few things that identify who I am in this world. One, however, stands above the rest, marking me as special: WOMAN.

Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Emily Dickinson, Georgia O'Keefe, Harriet Tubman, Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher. Each of these women share a common bond: greatness through perseverance, dedication, and individuality. These women were monumental leaders of their time who paved the way for us today. I admire each one of them for their unprecedented creativity in difficult times. Their work in the fields of politics, philanthropy, poetry, freedom, religion, and art, is a continual reminder to all women today that we all possess the power of greatness.

Women must work to empower and motivate others and I strive to portray this through my art. I want my art to inspire the women I paint as well as the women who see it. Art is a catalyst for greatness and creativity and it is my goal that other women will be motivated through this form of expression.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed with incredible opportunities to travel the world and each new place presents an opportunity to connect with and learn from the various cultures I visit. One of the most resonant experiences across the multiple continents, countries, and cultures I encountered, was that of the female bond, and as a female artist, I feel compelled to record the women I encounter. In my paintings, I try to capture scenes of celebration and joy, daily interactions and friendships, and comfort and support in times of loss that all women experience.

My travels have allowed me to witness firsthand the significance and power women play in daily life. In Japan, women comprise the foundation of a highly disciplined and ritualized form of art: the tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony in Japan is one of the most revered and famous customs and it has been a monumental part of Japanese culture for thousands of centuries. The tea ceremony is an example of the creative influence women have in society. Drinking tea is an activity most people consider to be a simple and almost thoughtless process. The women that perform the ceremony however, elevate the action into a meditative art form. As a collective group, these women become a creative power, one that extends into almost all aspects of Japanese life. Their devotion, discipline, and dedication are inspiration to me and act as a constant reminder to always strive for creative serenity in my work.

During a visit to Hawaii, I was invited to attend a traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremony. This joyous occasion was marked not only by the significance of man joining woman, but more importantly that of the bride's metamorphosis from daughter, to wife, and eventually, mother. The wedding ceremony began with an intimate meeting between the bride and her mother, sisters, and other female companions.

I was struck by this gathering of women because they all represented different "stages" that most of us experience during our lives. As women, we all progress through multiple roles - roles that require us to take on different characters. From daughter, to sister, friend, wife, mother, and grandmother, each role blesses us by providing new and beautiful opportunities to connect with others.
While traveling in parts of Africa, I observed the harsh reality of the pain women suffered due to disease. The women I met had lost everyone they loved to the AIDS epidemic and they were forced to rely on themselves and other women in their community.

These women formed a remarkable support system - one that was instituted out of necessity but had blossomed into a reliable and gentle bond. They provided food, shelter, clothing, and education for their children, and constantly tried to encourage and uplift all those around them. Their endurance and perseverance through hard times was one of the important lessons I have ever learned: you are not alone; you will persevere.

Recently at Ana Tzarev gallery in New York, I partnered with a group that I feel exemplifies the female empowerment and strength I try to portray in through my art. Same Sky, a wonderful organization founded by an incredible woman, Francine LeFrak, uses creativity, art, and craft to improve the lives of women in Africa. This group gives women the tools to create jewelry, which is then sold all over the world. Women that work for Same Sky earn an income much higher that normal wages earned in other jobs in the areas. These women are able to use their incomes to provide education, clothing, food, and medicine to their families. Without the creative initiative of Same Sky, many women would be forced to work elsewhere for a substantially smaller income.

I urge all women to support and encourage each other. We must work together to achieve greatness and fight for knowledge and power because it is not always given freely. The great Margaret Thatcher often quoted a passage of the famous Henry David Longfellow poem, The Ladder of Saint Augustine...

"The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept were toiling upward in the night."

This quote holds a dear place in my heart and I feel that Longfellow's poem is poignantly relevant to women. As women we must empower and strengthen each other, constantly encouraging all to work extra hard to reach our goals. What's more, we girls must learn to glide serenely like swans on the surface while pedaling like hell with all force beneath the water, in order to reach greatness. Each one of us has special traits and abilities that make us unique and successful. My unique expression is my art and I hope it provides inspiration to all that experience it. I encourage you today to find and use your own special strengths to awaken greatness in others.

Friday, 24 August 2012

My First Art Critic

I will never forget my first art critic; it was a moment that has shaped my work and focus ever since. The year was 1947 and I was 10 years old.

Growing up I lived in the small town of Trogir, Croatia. It was a beautiful area and I was enrolled in the local primary school, located right on the Dalmatian Coast. As with most primary schools, our teacher taught us every subject, including art. Art was always my favorite part of the day and with her direction, I greatly excelled.

I remember we had just finished doing a charcoal study of a set of three vases, when in walked the man who would become my first art critic: Marshal Tito.

Marshal Tito had recently become the head of the Communist state, so he was well known, even to us 10 year olds. To say we were shocked beyond words is an understatement!

The leader and his large German Shepard walked through the classroom, looking at each of our drawings. We froze in our seats, waiting for him to speak. He came to mine, pointed to it, and said "Good work". Then, without saying another word, he turned and exited the room. Although it was such a brief moment, its power and significance has continued to live with me to this day.

It has been many, many years since then, but here I am, still doing what I love: art; and I've used my love to continue the education I once received as a young child. Marshal Tito's actions proved to me that kind words and gestures can spark greatness; and I truly feel that it is my mission to continue inspiring confidence and greatness in others. Often times, kindness shown to children can be viewed as inconsequential, but it can produce lifelong accomplishments, as it did with me. Because of this, it has become my passion to pass this along, and I've done so through my exhibitions.

My most recent exhibition in the U.K. was at the Saatchi Gallery in London. The show, Exposed: A Secret Garden, featured a selection of my newest paintings of vivid and colorful flowers from various world cultures. The paintings comment on the universal dialogue I feel flowers provide: one that represents a language of love, compassion, peace, and friendship.

The show was a very big success and it drew in hundreds of thousands of visitors and many noted art critics. In addition to this, I was able to accomplish something very dear to my heart: I was able to extend my passion of education.

During the exhibition, the Saatchi Gallery and I hosted a workshop to inspire artistic learning within the community. Young children from the Park Walk Primary School were invited to tour my exhibit to learn about my inspiration, artistic direction, and the meaning of my work. Afterwards, they were encouraged to create their own visual language inspired by my paintings. They created intimate drawings depicting their own understanding of my language of flowers. In addition to the works being completed at Saatchi Gallery, the children's drawings have a chance to be exhibited at a gallery in New York City. This will further the sense of accomplishment and confidence I strive to teach.

I thoroughly enjoy working with children and will never underestimate the power that art can play in one's life. It is my belief that fostering creativity in young children is of utmost importance. Marshal Tito's words instilled in me one of the most essential traits for success: confidence; and his message inspired me to continue with my passion for art. As I continue painting and exhibiting around the world, I hope to endlessly inspire confidence in all those who see my work; and I strive to provide the same confidence and direction to children as Marshal Tito gave to me.