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.