Season of Slumber :)

Onset of WINTER Season evokes varied reponses in people. For some it is time to take a break and settle into extended slumber, for some it is time to equip oneself with warm, comfy & stylish winter clothing, for some it is time to stack up rich foods, for some it is time to start working on New Year resolutions and so on.

Winter reminds us of the cyclical nature of lives where one experiences both sunny & cold moments year after year. As the temperature plummets, air turns dry and crisp and days darker, we naturally gravitate towards warmth cozy environment.

Here at Danforth Museum of Art, we strongly believe that the beauty and significance of wintertime deserves to be acknowledged & appreciated! We thus gather today evening to commeorate this crucial time of the year. Join us for an evening of insightful conversations with artists, light refreshments & brand new exhibits to spark your creative spirits yet again :)

Danforth Winter Exhibit
"You come to nature with all her theories, and she knocks them all flat."~Renoir  


Free Museum Day

If you wish to seek some inspiration, stimulate your mind or come up with some cool ideas, plan a trip to a nearby museum this weekend. 25-Sep-2010 is National Smithsonian Museum Day & more than 1300 museums across the US welcome people into their premises for FREE! Oh and before heading out to your favorite museum check out following pointers:
  • Print your FREE ticket here
  • Some interesting tips to make the most of your visit are here
  • Probe museum docents with plenty of questions & most importantly have a blast :)
Have an educational weekend ahead :D
 Give me a museum and I'll fill it.~Pablo Picasso
[Image Courtesy - Smithsonian]


Spreading Happiness

In the ever expanding world of fast moving consumer goods, the products that stand out are the ones that offer a unique shareable creative experience. A friend (who works in ad industry) emailed me a link to Unilever's latest "Share Happy" project. Here are its salient features:
  • Simplicity: Make consumers extremely happy & trade their smiles with ice-cream.
  • Inventiveness: Utilizes latest face-recognition technology (by SapientNitro) to deliver a never-heard-before product consumption experience.
  • Emotiveness: Engages instant happiness and euphoria.
  • Buzz: Idea that Smile-O-Meter rating people's smiles to friends is so viral!
  • Powerful Visuals: Warm red color on a washed-out striped white background, words "HaPpY" on an ice-cream bar invoke instant curiosity.
Take a look at this slideshow to learn more. While you wait to actually pose before this ultra-cool interactive vending machine, keep spreading happiness by beaming your winsome smile while relishing your favorite ice-cream this summer :D
The only way to advertise is by not focusing on the product.~Calvin Klein


Words Have Weight

If reading can be fun, writing can be way more fun. I am truly excited upon hearing that true to her form-Surabhi, a dear friend, recently bagged 1st prize in a Picture Writing Contest. As I browsed through her feedbacks & congratulatory notes (we always share our Ahaa! moments), I grabbed the salient words & thought of presently them visually right here :) Keep those accolades coming Surabhi!

Here's some light reading for the weekend - Surabhi's write-up & Yann Martel's writing secrets :D
Writing is thinking on paper.~William Zinsser


FIFA Fever :)

When you take a break from watching & cheering your fav teams & players, check out these visually captivating links:

>> Interactive World Cup Schedule - here
>> Opening Ceremony - here
>> Eye Popping infographics by Brazillian designers - here

Till sooner-Hip-Pop Hurray :D

Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.~Claude Monet
[Image Courtesy - ADA]


Hand Painting Art...

While talking to a friend who is taking up Bharatnayam classes this summer, I learned about importance of hand gestures in traditional Indian dance styles. These gestures (also called Mudras) are powerful means of non-verbal communication & they often invoke strong emotional instant responses in the viewers. For ex in Anjali Mudra, one would press the palms of both hands together firmly with fingertips pointing upwards & bow one's head slightly towards the recipient. This centering pose brings the practitioner in a meditative mindset and is symbolic of unification of left & right hemispheres of the brain. The pose symbolises respect, greeting & humble salutation.

As I decided to spend rest of the weekend reading about various mudras & their significance, I came across AT&T's inventive ad campaign which depicts stunning hand-painting artworks by Guido Daniele. Some other works of this remarkable Italian artist can be viewed here, here or here.
Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.~Louise Nevelson
[Image Courtesy - AT&T]
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Interactive Art...

During Danforth's Docent Training, we were told true difference between passively looking and actively observing the visual stimuli. Once we start paying attention to objects in our immediate environment and start asking plenty of questions (Why is water tumbler cylindrical?, Why are door knobs round? Why are flags rectangular? Why is roof usually painted white? Why do birds chirp in morning?), we realize the "inter-connectedness" nature of things & aptitude for concentrated attention seems to shoot up in no time.

At Danforth & MFA, I have often seen viewers engaged in internal dialogue with the paintings. While some viewers fill up their notebooks, others nod their heads in admiration of artworks but the ones that interest me the most are kids (watching them is always fun:))! They have boundless enthusiasm and indulge in active dialogue with artworks by doing kinesthetic movements such as waving arms, mimicking expressions (portraits), hopping around sculptures, making open-mouthed expressions before extra large (scale) artworks etc. It seems kids make conscious efforts to interact with ART but unfortunately the static nature of most artworks (paintings & sculptures) makes the interaction one sided.

While reading ARTSCOPE, I came across the term "Interactive Art" and the concept is plain brilliance. These artworks are housed in a responsive environment and engage in continuous dialogue with the viewer. Here are some salient features of these artworks (that I found fascinating):
  • Like a smart sensor-based electronic device (air conditioner thermostat, light controlled switch etc), these artworks basically seek input from viewer's movement, body temperature, voice pitch or touch etc & provide viewer with a pre-programmed response. 
  • The viewer & artwork work together to create an experience & effect unique to each observer.
  • Due to dynamic nature of artwork, they foster personalized human-machine interactions in a highly creative setting.
  • The viewer experiences a state of total immersion and gets emotionally involved in no time. (One knows it isn't real but it feels so!)
  • Some famous examples are Embankment, Irrational Geometrics or Test Site.
Here's  an interview by Camille Utterbacka renowned interactive installation artist, who keeps pushing boundaries with her awe-inspiring installations.
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody else has seen & thinking what nobody has thought.~Szent-Györgyi
[Image Courtesy-Camille Utterback]


Docent Recruitments 2010

If you reside in New England, love volunteering, can't stop smiling & Art Galleries/Museums/Elegant Designs/Photography/Art History seem to stimulate your mind, Danforth's Docent Program might be the perfect place to hone your skills, acquire several new ones & utilize your brain in its entirety. Hope to see some of you during annual docent Open House next week!
There are always flowers for those who want to see them.~Henri Matisse


Paper Magic !

[ESL Tour in Giles LaRoche's gallery at Danforth]
A while ago while doing one of the ESL tours at Danforth, I was quite surprised by elated instant responses of ESL students as they got off the museum elevator & stepped into Giles LaRoche's gallery. Some of the responses I documented were:
  • Ahaa--I've been there when I was a kid!
  • Look at that-these small people - they are so colorful & beautiful.
  • Maravilhosa! Patterns in cathedral's glass windows make me so happy.
  • Puxa - I'll get my cousin here for sure.
I hoped that one day I could share these euphoric responses with the master illustrator. Thanks to Danforth-I could not only meet Giles Laroche today but also hear him speak about how he creates the intricate paper collages,  get an overview of his drawing style (use of exactoknife, paper, book dummy etc) & see him give a jaw-dropping demo of carving paper-house from a plain sheet of paper (he calls his work PAPER RELIEF)!

[Shri Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, 2000]

Later during one-on-one conversation with Giles, I told him that I see a strong connection(art/aesthetics wise) between his illustration of Shri Meenakshi Amman Temple and Ashland Temple snaps (erswhile blog post) and to my utter amazement he smiled and nodded in agreement! He said something on the lines of "There are amazing things everywhere-one just needs to be able to observe(closely), capture (carry a sketchbook) & express it with the best of one's ability!", which I found quite impressive! When one pays close attention to subtleties in his artworks, his statement does make immediate sense. Unless one observes vivid details of things with a still mind, it seems quite difficult to transfer the same from mind to a sketchpaper.

Visit our museum between now & May 16th to see "Bridges Across Cultures!" exhibit and join us in appreciating illustrations that celebrate construction & architecture from around the world! Also check out Giles website to view his artworks and these 100 extraordinary works of paper art when you have a moment :D
Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite - getting something down.~Julia Cameron
[Image Courtesy-Giles LaRoche]
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East Meets West :)

Richard Feynman, the famous American physicist says in his remarkable book-"I don't know what's the matter with people: they don't learn by understanding, they learn by some other way—by rote or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!In current times, we absorb so much information from news, television, internet & books but do we really learn and more importantly apply that learning in real world?  Today's experience taught me that learning is indeed the outcome of in-depth understanding of a subject via experimentation, serious study & idea generation.

Speaking of idea generation, sometimes ideas emanate from entirely random stimuli. Few days ago, an animated discussion about "Hindu Scriptures" with a dear friend resulted in one such idea! I learned about two interesting mechanisms by which knowledge in ancient Indian scriptures was passed on from one generation to the next. These two classifications were "Shruti" or 'The heard' & "Smriti" or 'The recorded' respectively. Anyways, as my friend contemplated about dimishing cultural values in modern society   during this insightful conversation, my monkey mind had this epiphany-"Why not experiment with these ancient learning styles in current times?"

As I hung up the phone, I tried to recollect my best learning moments in the past six months. The results-95% @ "Danforth Museum" + "Ashland Temple" and  rest @ "Library" + "Books". Seems that this accelerated learning at museum was the result of enhanced observation & understanding of things in my immediate environment.  I said to myself "Let's bring Danforth & Ashland together & see what happens! After all people are both places are willing to learn, sincere volunteers and passionate about ART & aesthetics! It sure will be lot of fun!"

I voiced my idea to Julia, our museum's education coordinator, and as anticipated she agreed to coordinate the visit and gave a GREEN signal right away! This was the easy part. What was not so easy was the prepartions - study of temple's history, Indian worship rituals, temple architectural styles, connotation of sacred names, significance of weapons & vehicles of Indian deities - it almost felt like preparing for an exam but I did end up learning lots about Hindu religion, temple worship, significance of dieties etc in a very short time :)

Come April 24th (Yet another Sunny Saturday!), all Danforth docents assembled at Ashland temple in their trademark style - winsome smiles, sharp looks, open minds and dilated pupils! The tour began with discussion on history of Ashland Temple. Most of the docents were quite amazed to see sculpture carvings on temple's monumental Gopuram and I talked about about significance of carvings and their connotations w.r.t to Sri Lakshmi Temple. Next we discussed salient characteristics of dieties Ganesha, Lakshmi & Venkateshwara. The visitors were handed a hand out highlighting Ganesha Symbolism and it appeared that everyone found it quite informative & cool! As we walked inside the temple, all of us were thrilled to see so many cheerful people, highly disciplined temple priests and euphoric children racing on the temple's marble floor. The tour guide walked the group from one diety to the next giving related descriptions.

Snaps-Ashland Temple Visit

In the next hour-we learned about:

> Temple Regions: Mahamandapam, Garbha Graha & Hawan Place.
> Offering to Dieties - Flowers, Fruits, Food, Ornaments & Mudra.
> Significance of Directions - and science of Vaastu Shastra.
> Panchtatva Elements - Earth, Fire, Wind, Water & Space.
> Take Aways for visitors - Panchamitra (composed of Milk, Yoghurt, Sugar, Honey, Ghee), Prasadam, sacred water &Tilaka.
> Worship Rituals - Archana, Abhishekam & Aarthi.
> Vehicles of dieties - Mouse (Ganesha), Garuda (Vishnu) & Nandi (Shiva)

Throughout the tour, all docents stayed attentive, curious and seemed to admire temple's architecture, efforts of temple volunteers, worship rituals, devotion of visitors a lotl! As the tour ended, we stepped outside the temple and headed towards Dosa Temple (a pure Veg restaurant nearby) and relished plenty of Indian delicacies!

While I returned home with a boat load of fond memories today, the one that'll stay cached in my mind in the days to come is the overwhelming affection showered by members of Danforth community! EAST met WEST this Saturday and together they spent a remarkable afternoon indeed :D
The way to know life is to love many things.~Vincent Van Gogh
[Image Courtesy Verna]
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READ - Shall we?

When I walked into Framingham Library this morning, I was quite amazed to see it teeming with so many kids and their parents. Before I could deduce that gorgeous sunny day had something to do with it, my eyes were drawn towards this signage that read - "Celebrate National Library Week * April 11-17" and it all made sense right away!

As I navigated to my fav spot, I saw this kid voicing strong opinions to his father. It was quite evident that his father wanted him to pickup few good books whereas to the kid-READING seemed yet another TO-DO task with no apparent fun or relevance whatsoever! I was tempted to intervene & share my thoughts but I decided to stay quiet and jot down a quick blog post later. Here's why I think READING is so important:
  • Gear Shift: When you read something, you are essentially absorbing writer's thoughts. Once you get into a habit of reading, every time you pickup a book-you disassociate yourself from your thoughts and focus on those of the writer's. This gives you a fresh perspective. 
  • Relaxation: For people who stay at higher energy levels for a considerable amount of time (any examples?;)), reading helps them to take a pause, slow down, allow their otherwise hyperactive brains to relax.
  • Pattern Matching: Voracious readers consume so many works of fiction, bestsellers and articles. So at any point in time-they are better equipped at detecting patterns (situations, issues, complex problems etc.) and thus act blazing fast. Good Reading develops one's analytical & critcial thinking skills and pattern matching ability on a continual basis.
  • Vocabulary: When we give tours to ESL students at Danforth, we see that they have to apply lot of effort to absorb new words into their spoken vocab. One suggestion which we usually offer to them is "READ READ READ!". Reading pushes you out of your comfort zone, you are bombarded with new words again and again until you internalize them. The key however is to take a conscious note of new words.
  • Creative Thinking: Similar to anything else we consume (advertisements, movies, TV Shows etc), the books give you a new perspective about the things and lets you explore the world in fantastic ways. Writings by great thinkers are always interesting reads - you get to understand their "thought process", their "visions" and their "idea generation process".
I'd sum up by mentioning that pursuing Art, Music, Dance, Theatre or anything else one's passionate about is cool provided it is coupled with a daily dose of Fantastic Fiction, Instructive Nonfiction, Inspirational Biographies or Light Comic Books. To know more about benefits of reading, check out this thought provoking paper or take a look at the doodle I sketched in Danforth's 'Goodnight Moon' reading area where creativity just seems to flow naturally :-) Let's resolve to READ more in the days to come!
There is no substitute for books in the life of a child~Mary Ellen Chase
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Shine On...

As I visited Ashland Temple today, even though I saw what one would normally expect in any Indian temple-devotees lining up to offer their prayers, temple priests doing routine rituals and children racing on the temple's marble floor and so on yet something appeared quite different!

The environment seemed to exude extremely positive vibes. Upon closer observation I noticed a small group of temple volunteers perched on wooden chowkis and engaged in active conversation as they worked together to prepare flower bouquets! Each one of them seemed to truly enjoy the activity and I couldn't stop myself from staying at a distance:) I expressed my curiosity about flowers & floral arrangements in particular to the volunteers. An elderly gentleman (a retireed Accountant), smiled and in turn asked me why I find flowers so intriguing? When I shared my vivid memories with him, Mamaji (other temple volunteers addressed him as Mamaji) appeared very happy. Next he voiced that following characteristics make flowers special:
  • Unconditional: Unlike nature's other creations, flowers spread fragnance unconditionally & all the time.
  • Simplicity: Human beings in general shy away from using basic primary colors in their lives (clothes, homes & environment) & create artifical colors by complex manufacturng processes that suit their tastes. Whereas most of the flowers are composed of basic primary colors & their simplicity makes them so elegant.
  • Spontaneous: A flower won't postpone blooming 'coz a certain day is too hot, too cold or too rainy. They do what they are meant to do!
  • United We Stand: Like two distinct people, no two flowers are alike, yet all flowers come together to form a beautiful arrangement, which is not achievable by any individual flower alone!
  • Energy: Flowers capture nature's beauty & present it in a form that amplifies positive energy and gives viewers warmth and comfort. Try sketching a colorful flower sometime, pay close attention to the drawing process and you'll understand this yourself.
Upon returning home, I attempted sketching my vision of a perfect flower and more than the doodle(above), it was quite cool to take a conscious note of thoughts that crossed my mind during the drawing process :)  Here's some additional info in case you wish to learn more about floral arrangements-linklink or link. Till sooner...Shine On ! :D

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.~Oscar Wilde

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Oneness Simplified...!

Whenever I share my museum ventures with my acquaintances in India & New England, few common questions they pose are:

  • Why do some people spend so much of time in Volunteering?
  • Does one person's contribution matter really?
  • How are differences of opinion resolved in a non-profit setup?
  • What are the incentives for people to put in their energies & time week after week?
And my usual response to these Qns goes like "People are always the same everywhere. They do things that make sense to them w.r.t. their values, goals & motivations. True incentives for volunteers is usually HAPPINESS & I havn't yet come across a sincere volunteer who's NOT happy, happier or happiest as the case may be :). And yes amazing things can certainly be achieved with collective efforts".

Two interesting events happened earlier this week, that reinforced my belief of ONENESS. One - I moved in to this remarkably aesthetic (Thanks MJ & Henry!) house - the kind that gives you extremely +Ve vibes and two - I shadowed a memorable ESL tour at Danforth.

[Lynn with ESL students in Outspoken Exhibit]
Speaking of ESL-the acronym stands for English as a Second Language and comprises of people who are not native English speakers but try very hard to develop English language  proficiency. Now generally speaking learning English might would seem just like another task but when I participated in the ESL tour - I realized that it's not that easy after all. Due to limited exposure to English language, these students constantly look for avenues to stay in learning environment (evening schools, libraries, weekend classes etc) to build vocabularies, get a command on spoken English and practice lots.

In the tour I shadowed on Mar 31st, there were two ESL classes both comprising of cheerful students sincerely willing to invest their time to learn new words, interpret artworks and enjoy our tours. As Lynn began the tour in Masako Kamiya's gallery by probing students with "What's going on here?" & "Which masterpirce you like the most?"-the audience was engaged right away. Next she explained them what abstract art is in very simple & easy-to-understand English. As I stood their taking my notes-I could see students smiling, nodding heads & trying to absotb new words & art concepts.

After about 15 minutes, Lynn directed us all towards the Bridges Across Cultures gallery on 2nd floor and what was fun to observe was the emotional response of the students as they got off the elevator and walked in the gallery. Their instant reactions were-"Holaaaa-Waaaoow!", "Ahaaa", "Look at people", "Look at temple!", "Heyyy we have this in our country!" - in short everyone's face was lit up in this gallery.

15 minutes later, we walked into Danforth's permanent collection where the scale & realistic depiction of an important life event in the masterpiece titled "A Village Funeral in Brittany, 1891" by Charles Sprague Pearce held us all spellbound for several minutes. In the last 15 minutes of the tour, Lynn took us to Meta Fuller's gallery where we learned about sculpting process, Meta Fuller's life and the fact that Fuller Middle School in Framingham was named after this talented sculptress & her equally accomplished husband!

[ESL students with their pencils, drawing pads & passion!]
As the tour ended, Alex, teacher of one of the ESL group gave this drawing exercise to her group. The idea was to draw anything based on the tour they just participated in. Like myself, initially most of the students were surprised & hesitated in participating but with a little encouragement and plenty of pencils & drawing pad around (thanks to our volunteers!), everyone jumped right in to give their best shot at drawing. You can ascertain for yourself how engrossed students were. To me this was ONENESS in action-people from different ethnicities & socio-economic backgrounds under one umbrella working on a common interest(Art!)-it was just so nice to be present there observing how ART can make people do interesting things!

As we bid warm good-byes to ESL students & their teachers, we handed them FREE museum passes so that they can visit Danforth again with their families and join us in interpreting & enjoying ART! On behalf of our docent team (Lynn, Marty, Roseleen, Kathleen, Ellen, myself & our tours' orchestrator-Julia), I can declare that it was certainly an evening well spent :D Oh and in case ONENESS interests you as well, here are some non-art avenues who advocate & practice this principle of human connectedness- ONE.ORG, Oneness Univ, Global Oneness Project etc. 

I don't say everything, but I paint everything.~Pablo Picasso
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Give & Get !

One of the several things that continues to intrigue me is the science of symbols. Symbols appear to be incredibly powerful and quick way of communcation. Few notable (and well designed) symbols can stir up instant emotions in our minds. Apple logo for an example creates euphoria, ultra simple ONE logo makes one emphathetic, yin-yang symbol evokes contrasting feelings, red octagonal STOP sign evokes urgency and so on.  I recently finished reading 'Man and his Symbols' by Swiss thinker Carl Jung. In the book author emphasizes the importance of balance, harmony, color & context in deciphering any symbol and the impact of these characteristics on human mind. His views on Art Therapy are quite interesting too and I hope to read few more books on the subject to better understand science of symbols in the days to come.

Anyways it's Friday and with a great weather forecast, guess it's time to head outdoors (zoo, beach, botanical garden, whale watch, trekking, camping etc) and truly enjoy the sunny weekend ahead! And in case you plan on going shopping too, grab this shopping pass (Thanks TJ!). In addition to a cool campaign (love the logo design), the idea that GAP'll pass along 5% of the purchase amount to WWF is ingenious indeed!
Art is the triumph over chaos.~John Cheever
[Image Courtesy © GAP]
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Shopping for Art

Last Friday I learned about 'Amazing Things Arts Center' group in local newspaper and attended an independent artist exhibit listed on their site. I procured two paintings by a local contemporary budding artist (He sure wasn't a Picasso or Van Gogh but his bubbling energy & devotion to his true passion interested me a lot!). Even though visual appeal of both artworks played a vital role in my quick purchase decision but what's interesting was that the process left me with so many more intriguing questions. Questions such as:

  • As an art collector, how can one ascertain a reasonable estimate of an artwork?
  • How can one establish authenticity of an artwork-especially when the transaction is being done online or say from an art dealer,museum or art gallery.
  • Do such transactions have some kind of post purchase warranty/guarantee concept?
  • Is it advisable to shop for artworks in real world or online auctions?
  • Is there a way that an art collector can get a candid opinion (with a decent consulting fee) from some trustworthy art-historian before signing the check?
  • Say if certain painting or sculpture really engages an art collector, is there an easy way he/she can connect to the artist and know about his other works?
[Margo Leavin Gallery, with works by Willem de Kooning and John Baldessari]
I spent a Sunday afternoon in Framingham Library researching for trustworthy sources where as an newbie art collector one can get several informed & unbiased opinions about artists & artworks. I saw books (thanks to Lib's cordial staff) that give you pointers on what aspects to see in good artworks, how to find a good art dealer, how to do background checks of auction firms etc. And that's when I saw this "2010 Art Show" flier in the 'Visual Art, Fine Art, Graphic Design' shelf.

ADAA seems the single perfect answer to most of my questions and I am quite positive that some of you might the website interesting too! And while you are on ADAA's website, take a look at their Collector's Guide-a very well drafted primer on shopping for and understanding ART! Happy Reading folks :D
I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.~~Vincent van Gogh
[Image Courtesy © Artnet]
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Geometry and Art...

Can they go together? Well decide for yourself by taking a quick look at Macoto Murayama's computer generated floral creations exhibiting highly meticulous design, near perfect geometry & ultra-delicate organic textures.

There's something mystical yet instantly inviting about  creations from Japanese designers & artists. Based on my exposure to Japanese artwork so far, objects seem to be embossed/engraved/located in an uncluttered, balanced and harmonic space that appears to give calm & positive vibes to the viewer.

Hope to see some of you at "Drop Into Art" or at Beth's Krommes book signing event at Danforth this Sunday. Ciao!
[Image Courtesy-© Pink Tentacle]
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Festival Of Colors !

While I forwarded hundreds of HOLI snaps from emails of friends and relatives from India to my friends here earlier this morning, the email responses I received back were quite interesting. While most of my acquaintances here admired the vibrant colors and ecstatic expressions in all the snaps, some common questions were-What's the significance of HOLI?, Why use colors to celebrate?, Why head out in groups to celebrate?, What's with the crazy facial expressions? Well, you can always lookup wikipedia for a detailed description but here are some quick pointers about HOLI also known as Festival Of Colors:
  • Structure: The HOLI celebration spans across two days. First day is known as Holika Dahan and the second day is known as Dhuli Vandana.
  • Timing: Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (~Feb/Mar). Usually at this time of the year, farms and fields are in full bloom and people thus get into festive spirit and expect a good harvest ahead! Also, singing, dancing & merrymaking serves to rejuvenate the otherwise impassive moods and spirits that prevail during winters.
  • Cultural Aspect: Like many other Indian festivals, it marks the victory of good over evil. Here's a short version of ancient story:
"Once upon a time there lived a ferocious king called Hiranyakashipu, who wished that everyone worshipped him. To his surprise, his son Prahlada worshipped Vishnu instead. Angry Hiranyakashipu then tried several ways to kill his son for his utter defiance but Prahlada would miraculously survive every time. Finally, the evil king asks his sister Holika, who had a special gift to escape from a fire unscathed, to enter into fire with Prahlada on her lap. When the fire commenced, interestingly Holika burns and Prahlada stays unharmed due to his sincere goodness, clear heart & pure spirit."

Indians celebrate this event (known as Holika Dahan) by lighting a small fire and praying together with their families on the day prior to Holi.
  • Colors: On second day (Dhuli Vandana), people head out from their homes in morning and splash water colors & dried colors (gulal) on each other. Kids chasing each other with water color filled ballons is a common sight. in communities get together and form tolis (small groups) and playfully apply colours and exchange greetings as they hope along from one house to another. The idea is to drench everyone around you and have pure uninhibited fun!
  • Social Aspect: By late afternoon, people head back to their homes to clean themselves up and get some rest. Later in the evening, people put on new traditional dresses (sherwanis/sarees as the case may be ;)) and visit respective friends to exchange sweets, greetings and well wishes. The idea is to reconnect with those who matter most to you and strengthen your emotional bonds with everyone else.
That said, do check out "Celebration of Colors" (An excellent rendition of true spirit of HOLI by a truly amazing photographer!) by Poras Chaudhary to visualy capture HOLI. As some of you set out to splash colors of happiness, colors of friendship, colors of love and colors of success to your loved ones - here's me wishing you a very joyous HOLI :D

"Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions."~Pablo Picasso
[Image Courtesy-© Poras Chaudhary]
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Decoding Diptychs with Mori Insinger

The concept of Duality has intrigued physicists, mathematicians, economists and even common-man since time immemorial. Interpretations of people may be radically different but in simple terms duality is about interchangeability of subject's role/form/shape/behavior based on interpretation of an external unbiased observer. Whenever we see an artwork, an illustration, a photograph or a design-we usually process the information in its entirety and base our interpretation of artwork on colors we see, positive and negative spaces we observe, proximity of objects (esp. in photographs) we judge and mood the artwork elicits etc.

A while ago, while browsing my ART journal, I came across the word DUALITY (I had scribbled it many times on the same page!) and I was instantly reminded of talk by Mori Insinger, a Boston-based fine art photographer, at the Danforth Museum on 31-OCT-2009. I logged onto the artist's website, downloaded the photograph and once again found Mori's work mystical and very engaging. I decided to connect with Mori via the web to understand this series of photographs (Mori refers to them as DIPTYCHS) and relate it with what I've learned about ART so far.

Diptychs are dual-frame images that emphasize not just the elements in the photographs but even the space surrounding them. Mori writes:
  • "The Diptych Format is a way of consciously showing the context of a setting as much as the central 'subject' itself".
  • "The implicit boundaries and inherent grooming within a setting are part of an aesthetic which speaks to how inhabitants within an environment present themselves unto others."

Based upon my conversation with Mori, here's a brief summary this specific Diptych, which I found simply fascinating:

  • Setting: The images for the diptych "Ginza District, Tokyo, Japan" featuring an upper-class fashion boutique, were made on a late summer evening in 2006 and the print was made in 2007.
  • Balance: On one hand bright lights, subtle feeling emanated by glass, concrete, stone, and asphalt gives this Diptych a tangible & tough look. On the other hand transparency of the building and amalgamation of bright & dark colors gives it a warm inviting tone.
  • Perspective: Eyes are drawn towards the diagonal lines emerging from center on either side and a sense of depth is developed right away.
  • Contrast: Image on the left of the boutique shows the street buzzing with people and activity as against the serene lifeless image on the right hand side.
  • Relationship: The image as a whole makes the viewer ascertain and evaluate the nature of relationship between organic (people) and inorganic (building, lights) elements.
  • Aesthetics: Fashion Boutique, the central element in the Diptych, together with distinctive boxed glass windows, concealed lighting and surrounding void space gives a sense of style and aspirations of upper-class fashion enthusiasts.
  • Energy: This Diptych certainly has a profound visual energy, which results in instant analysis process by the viewer (What's going on here?)

In our tightly packed suburbs and cities, it can be difficult to spot the 'beautiful subjects' that live in our midst and perhaps that's why most of us escape to far flung places when we take vacations hoping to break away from our otherwise fast-paced complex lives. But the moment we realize that we share cities with several other elements - animals, museums, playgrounds, shopping malls, schools and churches etc. and that we have an important role to play in this grand ecosystem of life, we start developing a deeper connection with nature, with fellow human beings and with our environment. In that respect, Diptychs are just the right messengers and reinforce the fact that our environment is much more than a simple combination of the tangible things we've acquired (vehicle, house, music player) and we can learn to become a part of this beautiful, complex, and exciting world once we start observing aesthetic subjects in our immediate environment!

While you are on Mori's website (spc. aspiring photographers)-do check out Mori's other impressive projects (Landscapes and Panoramas) too. His ability to capture vibrant colors, unseen objects and put them all together to create visually inspiring photos is extraordinarily inspiring indeed!

"What is important to my work is the individual picture. I photograph stories on assignment, and of course they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling."Steve McCurry

[Images Courtesy-© Mori Insinger, Dedon]

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Embrace Life...

What an incredible visual way to convey to communicate a simple yet powerful message of "SAFETY FIRST". Sheer genius indeed !
"The world is but a canvas to the imagination."~Henry David Thoreau

Celebrating Love!

Valentines Day can be so much fun! Like Christmas, it seems to offer just the right opportunity to step away from our busy lives and express our sincere affection towards people we value most in our lives-our parents, our siblings, our cousins, our friends and those who exhibit positive vibes and encourage us to become better individuals year after year.

We did a small exercise in Ashland, MA this Saturday - the idea was to create a mini-clip of max 15 sec duration to convey the essence of Valentines Day. We were simply amazed at the clips participants (mostly kids) came up with! Interesting thing to note though was the profound use of flowers (sunflowers, lotuses and roses), hearts, green leaves and vibrant colored butterflies. With no formal ART training, kids naturally seem to associate LOVE with nature's beautiful creations and with bright colors-I wonder how or why? But yes-it was just amazing to be amongst kids, who usually stay curious, bold, cheerful and sporting, yet again!

{VDay - 2010}
As you set out to celebrate Valentines Day in your own special way, for a moment disconnect yourself from your problems/worries and bond with the individual(s) you are with, give him/her/them your 100% attention and if possible perform some selfless act of kindness just for fun! Believe me you'll remember it up until next Valentines day :) And if you intend on staying home and spend Feb 14th as just another normal day, check out some cool websites centred around deep human bonding and love-Lovelines, Wefeelfine, Team Love and FreeHugsCampign etc.

Happy Valentines Day :)
"Good works are links that form a chain of love."~Mother Teresa

[Image Courtesy-© Lovelines]


Going Solo...

Ever since I came to Framingham and attended a guided tour at Danforth Museum of Art, I was keen on giving a tour myself perhaps sometime in Winters of 2010. Looks like the opportunity came well in advance :) I was supposed to shadow a tour today but owing to some last minute changes, I learned that I am supposed to conduct a Public Tour solo! Now, being excited about ART or reading ART books is one thing, doing a public tour is an entirely different experience. You don't know about your audience's background, you have near zero idea of how much time viewers would like to spend listening to you, their moods or state of minds, their expectations from museum etc-there are just too many variables in the process, which can impede a new docent's enthusiasm and confidence in more than one ways :D

Anyways at sharp 1 PM, as the tour commenced, I took the viewers into (my fav) Morgan Bulkeley gallery and after brief introductions started probing visitors with questions. The VTS style worked yet again and within 5-7 mins I could feel a personal connection with the viewers, which simplified conducting rest of the tour. We discussed what artworks can tell us about people, lifestyles and beliefs from various times and cultures. We shared a common concern with our modern day consumeristic culture, which seems to be a visible impediment in our collective progress towards living a happier, healthier and adventurous life.

The tour lasted for about an hour and we covered works by Morgan Bulkeley, Gerry Bergstein and David Arinson in the hour long tour. In retrospect, I'd say I had a great time, learned so much more about the artworks I've seen almost 20 times by now, exchanged some great ideas and carried with myself a bagful of pleasant memories for the days to come.

For the benefit of those of you who haven't visited us yet, in short here's a quick snapshot on our Public Tours:
  • Danforth Museum offers docent led public tours on first-weekend of every month.
  • Museum admission is FREE with Museums On Us™
  • Our tours are full of surprises and we try hard to meet expectations of our visitors.
  • Public tours stress critical thinking, observation skills, and creative evaluation through close examination and discussion of artworks from our permanent and rotating exhibits.
  • Our museum is handicapped accessibleand we give extra attention to special needs of our visitors.

Hope to meet some of you in person at the museum soon :)

The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.~Sigmund Freud

[Image Courtesy-© FraminghamNavigator]