The Sacred Art of the Mandala

In much the way it did for Carl Jung, the mandala has been pursuing me.

In early 2014 I began using circles and circular forms in nearly all of my mixed media artwork- painting spirals behind photos of models, collaging gold halos out of metallic paper, and painting a large round canvas are just a few examples. I’ve been sketching geometric designs in circles, painting round woodcuts and trying to get the circle out of my system only to find it embeds deeper and I cannot get rid of it.

It did not occur to me that the circles could be anything other than inspired by saint’s halos in traditional Christian artwork until I stumbled upon the Sacred Art of the Mandala class at UC Berkeley. To learn that the mandala is ubiquitous and carries such significance is a revelation.

Before embarking on our first official mandala, the class was directed to look inward. In my minds eye I saw kaleidoscopic images of the Grand Teton Mountains, redwood trees, deep blue skies, and the rich red of a broken but beating heart. I saw images of my own photographs manipulated and repeated into graphic and geometric forms- vivid blue skies, pale hands reaching heavenward, golden forms, and the deep red of spilled blood.

Since we were in class, I was unable to print my own photographs, but found adequate representation in the magazines I brought along with me. I’ve long been inspired by mosaic work in European churches, and decided to take that sort of approach. I picked a piece of round cardboard from the supplies table. I was drawn to the already perfect shape and the idea of working within that constrained perfection to make something symbolically complete and whole on its’ own.

I  cut the sky into triangles (to feel like young mountains and represent the outdoors). This open space circles around me as a protection and source of life. I chose to use this particular self-portrait because it is an image I created very intentionally for exhibition, which speaks volumes about who I am on the inside and outside. The photo speaks directly of a bleeding heart and is titled Baptised by Blood. The mandala is overwhelmed with red which is lighter by my head- the lightness is inspired by my saint’s halos, but also gives movement to the piece and speaks to flowing blood.



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