Ana's Thought: "I give to my Art every Last Drop of Energy and Love."
To be an artist, you must make yourself a living, moving camera, determined to record the colour, shape, and size of all you find around you. Your ears are microphones, receptive to every sound; your hands and mouth are amplifiers, eager to share with the world. And how your senses soar! You are so aware of fleeting scents, the dance of wind, rain, sun and clouds, the changing sky and restless sea, the trees... the people and the unique souls they possess, any interaction from life to life in your midst. The tonality of voices, their languages and the music they make, the poetry of lyrics lilting and intertwining with you, pleading sweetly for your response. You are moved beyond yourself and have no choice but to react.
This reply is immediate, initiated within the instant of observation while your feelings are still being absorbed. Your senses build up in anticipation, overwhelming you with their excited chatter until you reach the point where no peace can be found. You have only one option: to create.
Throughout that process, you are living within the act: you become that which you are making. You are, in the same breath, both a mother and a child, producing something new while being born again yourself.
When I paint a flower, I am that flower: I see my vibrant colour, the curves of petals, how I sway with the wind and lean into the warmth of the sun. I savour refreshing rain and the rest that night brings me. The flower flourishes within my heart's garden just as I am alive in that flower. When you raise your brush to the canvas, all the passion and energy stored in your thoughts pours forth into that singular moment.
There is no mistaking when it's all finished--you are empty, exhausted, and completely at peace. Only then, after the work and struggle, can you afford reverie and contemplation. Bask in it, as you have given mankind a gift to stand in the face of time. Your art is a stepping-stone to nourish and encourage other artists and a signpost for history. If you are lucky, you may find yourself among those chosen few whose creations give joy to millions of hearts that, like yours, are stirred by beauty. With them, and with all who create for the world, your life is filled by the mystic music of art, reaching deep into your soul and fulfilling it in ways that no words can satisfy.
In recent months, I have poured my heart into Love & Peace, a global celebration and conversational conduit in the form of large-scale flower sculptures.
One of the most thrilling facets of this creation is witnessing how people from so many diverse backgrounds, each with their own stories, are pulled almost magnetically toward the enormous, bright petals.
As viewers are drawn in by the vibrancy and cheer of these flowers, so, too, are they drawn together as participants in the creation. Art has such a tremendous power to connect us, overcoming every separation and obstacle.
Public art, specifically, has always provided humanity with a direct line through history, allowing us to connect with spirits of past generations. From classic structures like France's Arc de Triomphe and Rome'sFontana dei Quattro Fiumi to Robert Indiana's cherished contemporary LOVE sculptures, art in the open makes statements about the cultural climate that shaped it, capturing the essence of its era while resonating far into the future. Whenever mankind's emotions have proven too immense to be captured in words, our minds and hearts guide our hands so that they may speak for us.
The true beauty of public art rests in how it makes us gain a greater appreciation of our surroundings, gracing us with new perspectives. It is so easy to become detached from your environment in the rush and hurry of modern life, but encounters with art invite you to slow your pace, if only for a minute, to bask in its splendor.
The lens through which you see the world is granted clarity, and all of its colors suddenly seem more vivid. By discovering art in this way, you are reminded that the potential for joy is waiting around every corner and endless fields of beauty are ours.
When an artist's creation is placed outdoors, it gains new life. The walls of museums and galleries are forgotten - the whole world becomes its gallery, and all who pass by are its patrons! They are unified by their appreciation for a few precious moments, brought together by their wonder and the magic of chance.
We create art so that we can share - we cannot touch lives or accomplish great feats in isolation - and the product is a magnificent gift that all own equally. By letting art spring organically from the earth, there is simply no barrier that will prevent it from flourishing, and people of all religions, cultures, demographics, and gender will experience and share the same joy of being alive.
Ana's Thought: "Heaven or Hell is a choice inside you."
In my life, I have seen many days of sweetness - golden days of travel, of art, and of expressing my soul in the company of loved ones and strangers alike. I am eternally grateful for this, as I have also known a world of limited freedom. My childhood saw many moments in which my rights and my passions were threatened, but I was granted the strength, support, and good fortune to overcome. But there are so many who have never known such joy.
In recent weeks, India has seen tremendous unrest resulting from sustained and unimaginable horrors committed against women. Thousands have come together in order to let their voices ring on behalf of those who could not speak in their own defense. Through the efforts of organizations like the Human Rights Watch and brave leaders like Meenakshi Ganguly, the world has taken notice. Though humanity extends its reach toward equality ever further, we cannot ignore how much work remains to be done. The stage is now set for much-needed change.
When I hear stories of women silenced by intimidation--women who have not yet been granted light enough to shine--my soul is stirred beyond my words. Through the darkness of their circumstances, I see in each of these women potential that cannot be fathomed. We simply cannot allow those glimmers of promise to be snuffed out. As a global community, we must ensure that they will illuminate the world with their perspectives by providing them with security and the means for achievement.
There is more to Love than romantic bonds just as Peace means more than the absence of war. I implore all who dream of a world where no one lives in the shadows of oppression to make Love & Peace actions in their daily lives. Invite understanding and compassion into your heart so that it may be shared with others; your heart, your soul, your eyes, and your mind are the Divine gifts you have been given to create positivity within the Universe.
No woman should have to live in fear of a world capable of so much beauty. May we choose to defy violence and embrace all women as sisters, mothers, daughters, and indeed rulers of the world, as they share in wisdom and knowledge equal to any man.
"Greatness of Character is formed in solving great problems."
Last week, the world lost one of its true women pioneers. Gerda Lerner, Professor Emerita of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, died on Jan 2 at the age of 92.
I was touched by the way the late Native American poet Paula Gunn Allen described Lerner. She said that she "understood the root of oppression is the loss of memory." For me, it is art which holds on to memory and records it so no one can forget. This is why artistic expression is often the first casualty of an oppressive regime. Art is truth.
As a woman blessed with opportunities to chase her dreams without fear, the burdens of the oppressed weigh heavily on my heart. They remain with me in all I do, and I have documented the struggles of the dispossessed in my art as I travel the world.
I believe to my core that the empowered must do all they can to share the spark of potential with those who await their chance to be heard. This is why I am so inspired by figures such as Chancellor Angela Merkel, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Gerda Lerner: their willingness to stand confidently in the public eye has made them each bearers of brightness for all women in need.
Chancellor Merkel has been a stalwart political presence in Germany since the late 1980s. Her fearless leadership and pragmatic perspective as the first woman chancellor in the country's history led Forbes to name her the world's second most powerful person--the first time a woman has ranked so high in their list. Her dedication to the welfare of her people and all of Europe brings me much hope.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also remarkable for her great strides in putting women into focus. Beyond being a 'first woman' in many facets of her career, from her start as a noteworthy lawyer to her presidential bid in 2008, Clinton strives to put the interests of women, children, and families at the forefront.
The significance of Hillary Clinton's efforts to bridge dividing gaps of equality between people internationally deserves praise. I am very pleased to hear of her swift recovery from her recent health scare and wish her all the best, as the world needs her strength and vision.
Dr. Gerda Lerner and her contribution to women's rights should be celebrated: without her, the field of women's history would not exist within the academic lexicon.
After finding little representation of women in her own education, Lerner made it her mission to establish courses of study about the achievements of her gender, bringing graduate programs on the subject to several major American universities.
Lerner's work in piecing together the lives of significant women resulted in her election as president of the Organization of American Historians. This incredible teacher tirelessly pursued gender equality until her death. I know that her spirit lives on in the hearts of female students and activists everywhere.
Solely by having the courage to speak, these women set examples for those who aspire to achieve greatness of character. Their perseverance brings power and inspiration to girls waiting eagerly to inherit the earth, and I am sure that by walking the paths Merkel, Clinton, and Lerner have forged, it will be made a better place for us all. Let the hand that rocks the cradle help rule the world.