Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recent Stories in the Media

There have been two stories in the media recently about Beauty of Water's activities here in Kerala. Thanks, Renu Ramanath for this October 2008 story in Artconcerns, and thanks Nita Satyendran for the November 6 2008 feature in The Hindu's Metro Plus, which ran in the Kochi edition of the newspaper as well as in this Trivandrum edition. Web pages eventually move or come down, so these links go the stories captured in jpeg format.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back from the Backwaters

Boat Boat Creation - photo by Shijeesh K.Seven students and two artist-lecturers from the Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts co-created a five-day, site-specific Beauty of Water workshop along with myself and our hosts Antony Caral and family of Cheriyam Thuruthu, a backwaters island near Varappuzha, twenty kilometers north of Ernakulam in Kerala, India. This 38-image slideshow shows highlights, and my downloadable journal provides a narrative of the workshop, which began on 12 October 2008. This photo was taken by Shijeesh K.

We returned on Friday, full of spirit and satisfaction. Students completed six major works, all in collaborative style. The theme was appreciation for water. The majority of the materials we used were locally obtained with an eye toward environmental sustainability. We ate fresh local fish every day, prepared by chef Jacob, shown with his son and daughter near the end of the slideshow.

The workshop culminated a learning series held earlier this year. Guest speakers on topics related to art and water visited the school in Mavelikara and provided presentations for about half of the school’s 160 students. Twenty-two students also spent one day making site-specific art at the protected freshwater Lake Sasthamkotta in July.

Paper mache fish in leaf-relief lily pad boatThe slideshow progresses in a pattern. The first section presents the major art pieces students created with some shots of the making of the art pieces, in no particular order. Images emphasizing people are grouped toward the end of the slideshow. I took all of the photos except those in which I appear, which were taken by Shijeesh K., or someone borrowing his camera!

The downloadable journal I kept during the week illustrates activities with a handful of photos that are not in the slideshow, and narrates some experiences from each day. I received permission from everyone at the workshop to share this electronically.

We recorded much of the workshop on digital video. Students are now drafting a proposal to submit to me for an artistic documentary film they wish to create with the footage. Meanwhile my little camera captured short videos, a few of which appear in the blog entry below.

Participants and Supporters: Principal of Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikara, Alappuzha district, Kerala, India, and internationally known artist, N.N. Rimzon, wholeheartedly supported the Beauty of Water learning series since its inception and gave enthusiastic encouragement for the workshop.

The following students co-created the workshop: Amal M., Aneesh V., Manjunath K.P., Pavel Suresh, Prajeesh P.P., Shijeesh K. and Shyne K. Artist-lecturers Shijo Jacob and A.P. Sunil facilitated the workshop with collaboration from artist Antony Caral and myself.

V. Sasikumar and lecturer Preeti Joseph supported the learning series and Preeti helped with workshop preparation. Antony and his family gave us our lovely art making location, including transportation to and from the island by boat, and the use of their homes during the workshop.

Beauty of Water Website

Friday, October 17, 2008

Three Beauty of Water – RRVarma Workshop Movies

The Beauty of Water workshop with fine arts college students in the Kerala backwaters was a delight! A handful of our experiences and some of the artworks were captured in the short videos shown below.

Still photos in the form of a slideshow will be available here shortly along with a photo-illustrated downloadable written narrative. The curriculum may also be published on the Greenmuseum website in the near future.

Beauty of Water Website

Friday, September 05, 2008

Completion of Lecture Component of Series at Fine Arts College

Rajan M. Krishnan with microphoneThe Beauty of Water lectures at Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikara has finished. Our final day earlier this month featured artist Rajan M. Krishnan, who shared stories of his development as an artist and images mainly from his recent show, Revisit, at OED. Readers may recall other entries posted here about Rajan and his art. Rajan is shown above between artist/lecturer A.P. Sunil, who helped with this series, and Renu Ramanath, author of Space Out, an excellent resource for keeping up with art happenings in Kerala.

Saratchandran with student SudheeshIn late August we had the fortune of hearing from C. Saratchandran, co-director (with P Baburaj) of the powerful film 1000 Days and a Dream which we screened during his visit. This excellent film documents the successful struggle in Plachimada against Coca Cola. Saratchandran is shown here encouraging student filmmaker Sudheesh, whose impressive film "Next," which comments on global climate change, we also screened.

Dr. PS HarikumarEarlier in August we featured Dr. PS Harikumar of the Centre for Water Resources Management and Kunnamangalam, Kerala's water museum. Dr. Harikumar spoke to students about water in Kerala and around the planet. Students were initially puzzled as to the inclusion of a scientific angle within a fine arts college program. The collaborating leaders had agreed to do this as a way to provide multiple perspectives. Students began to put the larger picture together later in the series.

Latha Kurien RajeevLatha Kurien Rajeev led the lecture series in July with an engaging lecture on conceptual art, eco-art, body-art, and other contemporary movements, including social sculpture and the contributions of Joseph Beuys. Latha introduced the works of Ned Kahn, whose water sculptures were of particular interest. Students participated in a drawing activity, sketching plans for a Kahn-inspired sculpture. You can see from the picture below Latha's engaging way with students!

At Latha's LectureStudents are now on break for Kerala's Onam Holiday, with assignments of journal writing and preparing for a workshop we intend to hold at a water body in the backwaters area north of the school. At this intensive we will produce several collaborative pieces, some of which may be more permanent than those made spontaneously at our enjoyable, educational trip to Lake Sasthamkotta, featured in the entry below. The lower left corner of the photo here shows art history lecturer Preeti Joseph, in pink shall, next to artist/lecturer Shijo Jacob, both of whom helped lead the series.

Thanks to all these folks, as well as to college principal N.N.Rimzon, and V.Sasikumar, who took many of these photos and who supported the series behind the scenes in many ways.

Beauty of Water Website

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sasthamkotta with Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts

Student placing paper boats in a line at Sasthamkotta Lake, photo by V.SasikumarBeauty of Water and Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts have partnered in creating a unique series and workshop for senior students, focusing on artistic collaboration and nature in art, with emphasis on water. We launched on 11 July and the course continues, meeting most Fridays through the end of August, culminating in a week-long workshop at the end of September.

This week we spent a day at the internationally recognized wetlands site (via the Ramsar Convention), Sasthamkotta Lake in Kollam district of Kerala, exploring through a number of activities and discussions how to relate as artists and collaborators to this beautiful freshwater lake.

Here is a photo slideshow presenting highlights of our day. All photos are courtesy of V.Sasikumar -- thanks, Sasi!

Beauty of Water Website

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Red Stone Blessing

I wanted to bring thoughtful gifts to friends and Beauty of Water collaborators in India before returning from the USA. But there is too much consumerism in my native culture and I don't like to play the acquisition game. For weeks I put off the task of finding the right gifts, vaguely thinking I could get stuff at my last stop, Crestone, Colorado, where I would be coming for a rare family reunion.

When I arrived in Crestone, I realized the town is pretty small. There were no outlets for surgical-strike type of gift-getting... Maybe a can of beans at the local grocery/hardware store. My cell phone didn't even get reception... And even here I just couldn't bring myself to focus on getting more things.
Dad and Laura hiking in Sangre de Cristo MountainsMind you, I like the tradition of gift giving, and my friends in India had been on my mind a lot. I wished to honor them to the fullest extent. Nevertheless, when my last day in the USA came along, I opted for for a walk in the mountains over shopping. My hiking buddies, my father Dave and my uncle's wife Laura, are shown here.

On my way back down the trail, I thought about Beauty of Water a lot, and found myself internally wandering, looking at the stones in the path. Some stones seemed to call out to me, and I listened. I suddenly understood that they would make beautiful and far more meaningful gifts for cherished friends than the heavily packaged, overly marketed, absolutely unnecessary objects I was likely to find at airports in transit to Trivandrum.

As I began to pick up stones that especially caught my eye, I imagined that the remaining stones were saying bon voyage to those who would make the journey with me. In a sense they were becomming ambassadors from a wilderness on the other side of the planet, in a land once inhabited by Ute, Comanche, Navajo, and Pueblo tribes.

I came upon a bubbling stream and it also spoke. I washed the stones in that water, thanking the water and creating a ceremony of intention, joining waters from Colorado with water lovers in India. These fifteen stones are now ready to bring sacred connection to the other side of the planet. Here is the washing water on film.

Beauty of Water Website

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June Update

Meeting at Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine ArtsOn 10 June I met with Rimzon, Shijo, Sunil, Sivaraj, Preeti, and Beauty of Water collaborator V. Sasikumar, shown individually below, in a planning session for the experiential education series that Beauty of Water is presenting with Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikara. The two-month series begins on 11 July.

V.SasikumarFor many months Sasi has been thought-partnering with Beauty of Water, taking photos, and conceptualizing a documentary film to go along with project activities. He is also helping coordinate the series in Mavelikara. Thank you, Sasi!

Shelley SacksLast weekend I met with Shelley Sacks in her office in the Social Sculpture Research Unit at Brookes University in Oxford, England. She generously gave her time and attention, as well as academic guidance and encouragement. I am applying to enter her program as a part-time Ph.D. student next year.

Now I am in the USA for a few weeks, visiting beloved friends and family, continuing Beauty of Water work from remote. All is well!

Beauty of Water Website

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Art and Environmental Activism: A Few Resources

The Center for Civic Participation in Detroit, Michigan, has been researching the creative power of arts and culture as a catalyst for action, and has published eighteen essays through the Community Arts Network under the project title, "Bridge Conversations: People Who Live and Work in Multiple Worlds." Caron Atlas, Javiera Benavente and R. Lena Richardson conducted this project. Metadata about the project is also available.

There is also an Art, Nature and Environment Conference at Falmouth, UK, called Artful Ecologies 2 that has a great lineup of speakers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May Commentary

The Earth is in the news more and more. There is a minimum of one story about water every day in the newspapers here. My heart goes out to anyone experiencing loss from the earthquake and cyclone.

Kerala's summer is nearly over. Students are beginning a new school year now. This will be my first near-full year in South India (I will be in the USA for four weeks starting in mid-June). The temperatures and humidity have been a fascinating experience for this newcomer. Now I understand why everyone says that the monsoons are nice. I'm still learning the rhythm of the seasons, and how people organize themselves around that.

On this note, classes at Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikkara will start in the first week of June. I am looking forward to actualizing the course we are co-creating, which explores collaboration, and nature in art with emphasis on water. The college offers tracks in sculpture, painting, and applied arts. We have designed many experimental and experiential activities already, and more are emerging that will provide rich opportunities for discovery, learning, research, skill building, and more.

"We" in this case includes lecturers Shijo Jacob and A.P. Sunil, principal N.N. Rimzon, Beauty of Water collaborator V.Sasikumar, and myself, with student input of course. Sasi will be filming happenings as the course evolves.

Other Beauty of Water activities continue in development with Keralite leadership and partnership. Each activity is in creative stages. Drop me a line from the Beauty of Water website if you want to weigh in in any way.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

United Nations Seminar on Art Changing Attitudes Toward the Environment

"...the universal language of art serves as a catalyst that can unite people in thought and action, and can empower individuals, communities, and leaders to incorporate environmental values into social, economic, and political realms..." READ MORE FROM THE UNITED NATIONS WEBSITE

Beauty of Water Website

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Article in New Indian Press Newspaper on Beauty of Water

[This entry was modified on 19 November 2008.] An article about Beauty of Water appeared in the Trivandrum edition of The New Indian Press (The Indian Express) on 22 April 2008. It is captured here in jpeg format. The interview was held in mid-March, and therefore names of some important contributors to the project were not included, such as artist T. Kaladharan. Involvement of others named in the article may be a bit overstated, but that was my mistake. Overall I am delighted with the way that senior reporter Reema Narendran stayed true to the actual project mission and activities. Beauty of Water welcomes this and other press coverage!

Beauty of Water Website

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Flowing Like Water

April has seen unseasonable rains in Kerala, and correspondingly, Beauty of Water is flooded with fantastic happenings! We have not posted lately simply because of the deluge of developments! Here are some hints...

We are partnering with a fine arts college to offer a course focused on collaboration and nature in art, with emphasis on water; we are partnering with a well known senior artist to host a professional art camp and subsequent show; we are co-developing curriculum for several childrens camps focused on water and expressive arts; we are planning film documentation; we are considering a village project; a new co-lead may join in coordinating in all of these areas; and of course, our main focus remains a high-quality collaborative art piece on the theme of appreciation for water.

Names and faces of the corresponding leaders will be published soon on the Beauty of Water website and in our electronic newsletter.

Beauty of Water Website

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Womenscape: Contemporary Expressions on Being a Woman

The Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation presented a two-day workshop for women art students at Kanakakunnu Palace in Trivandrum last week. The title of the workshop was "Womenscape: Contemporary Expressions on Being a Woman," and an exhibition of the artwork was held at the Museum Auditorium from March 23-25. Acrylic paint was the medium. Media students, primarily female, covered the workshop with written stories and video.

Painter in Womenscape workshopI was invited by organizers Latha Kurien Rajeev and Dr. Mini Nair to host an interactive session with the students, which was an honor. I took great pleasure in the experience, and enjoyed being among the participants, who asked excellent, challenging questions. I was impressed with the deep engagement I witnessed, and it was a delight to see the paintings in progress. I had already encountered one of the students in the ceramics studio during production of Rajan Krishnan’s oRe piece.

Here are a few photos from the second day of the workshop. I regret that I did not obtain all of the names of the people pictured. Jyothi M.V. is shown in the first slide with her painting; Greeshma Gopalan from Raja Ravivarma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikkara is shown second; and fellow student Remya R.S. is shown third, with a painting of a boat on the sea – note that the wind is catching the sail against the direction of travel. The women were responding to the theme of being a woman artist today.

Beauty of Water Website

Change in Leadership

Santhan N.V., former art lead for Beauty of Water in Kerala, has cleared the way for a new director to step into this important position. Santhan gave a great deal of consideration to this work over time, provided valuable input, and generously connected us with other wonderful people who have supported the project. I wish him well in his new career opportunities, and encourage others to watch this rising star. Meanwhile, I am in touch with outstanding new candidates, and excited about the prospects coming forth. More on this interesting evolution coming soon!

Beauty of Water Website

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happenings in March: Anitha Sharma; Funding Request; Bharathapuzha River

Anitha SharmaI have been continuing to connect with Beauty of Water collaborators around Kerala. Here is friend and collaborator Anitha Sharma, environmental educator and activist engaged in numerous activities with schools and organiztions throughout Kerala. One of the areas Anitha focuses on is wetlands. We are in discussions about how her work and Beauty of Water can be brought together in several future events and programs. More specific sharing will be posted here as time goes on.

In other news, Beauty of Water is now requesting funds! We have tallied our essential requirements and have created our first fundraising goal. Believe it or not, a mere $8500/Rs.3.4 lakhs will get us to completion of the Keralan art contribution. To support this visionary work, simply send a check made out to IHCenter/Beauty of Water to P.O. Box 923, Malibu, California 90265 USA. It is that easy. Alternatively you can give online. Thanks in advance for collaborating with this work in an extremely constructive manner!

And here are some photos taken by thirteen-year-old Narayanan C.R. (Appu, in blue) and me, at the Bharathapuzha River, also called the Nila. This is the second largest river in Kerala, and it runs through Palakkad, near the home of Sreeja, pictured here with niece Nivathetha. Sreeja's daughter Ammu is teaching me to dance, and playing alligator near some women I didn't meet. Sreeja and her family are performing artists who have built a house of pressed mud as a part of an emergent program for bringing arts, environmental education, organic farming using traditional Keralan seeds, care for seniors, and basic good living together in one place. Our first Beauty of Water art-making event will be held at this place in April.

Women washing at the Bharathapuzha RiverAppu, Nivathetha, and Ammu

Ammu and LizaSreeja and Nivathetha

Beauty of Water Website

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Photos from Rajan Krishnan's "oRe" Show

Rajan Krishnan in purple shirtHere is a truly gorgeous fifty-two image slideshow from Rajan Krishnan's oRe/Substances of Earth-I show opening that took place on 19 January 2008 at Bodhi Art in Mumbai, including nice shots of the installation pieces. Rajan, in the purple shirt here, provided me with these photos, which were taken by Ajilal. The first image in the slideshow includes writer Renu Ramanath, seated and looking up, Rajan's wife and creator of SpaceOut.

One of many compelling aspects of the installation that is made of thousands of small clay pieces is this: more than one hundred people contributed to its making! An excellent article about the exhibit, including an interview with Rajan, is available on ArtConcerns. I have also mentioned this work in postings last December and January.

Beauty of Water Website

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Collaborative Art - IN REVISION

Last night I posted an entry about collaboration in art. Eight hours later I took it down. It annoyed even me in its self-referentialism. Additionally, to understand what I see as potential for collaboration in art making, experiential information is needed. That is harder to capture in writing. I am working on a revised version of this entry and hope to post it soon. Meanwhile, here are some links I find interesting that are on or near the topic.

An introduction to David Bohm's "On Dialogue" and the larger writing (I am not certain if that is the whole text of "On Dialogue" or not) contain a description of a collaborative process, as I see it. publishes an essay by David Barrett that says this: "...if you believe art to be about individual creative expression, you aren’t likely to take up collaborative practice, whereas if you believe that art is - for instance - a language of decipherable metaphors whose purpose is to explore aspects of contemporary society, then there is no ideological reason why you should not work collaboratively."

The website Gridcosm " a collaborative art project in which artists from around the world contribute images to a compounding series of graphical squares." Be sure to scroll down the page to see the images.

The Living Pulse is a collaborative sculpture that a friend in San Francisco has helped organize.

An essay called Observations on Collective Cultural Action says this: "The individual's signature is still the prime collectible, and access to the body associated with the signature is a commodity that is desired more than ever - so much so that the obsession with the artist's body has made its way into 'progressive' and alternative art networks. Even 'community art' has its stars, its signatures, and its bodies."

Beauty of Water Website

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Beauty of Water Collaborators

Meet Harachi, artist, healer, and vibrant soul, native German with many years in Austria, recently in Kerala, India, aiming for new adventures in Mallorca, Spain. Harachi and I met in Kumily and found great inspiration in each other's ideas, history, and art projects. Harachi is joining Beauty of Water, with many possibilities for collaborations to come. Welcome, Harachi!

Below you will find photos of a river nearby in Tamil Nadu where Harachi and friends were visiting for part of a day, in conjunction with a wedding. She motivated the whole group to perform a site clean-up, picking up plastic bottles and other trash before they stopped to enjoy and relax. I'm sorry but I can't give photo credit -- not sure who took these lovely images.

cleaning up rivercleaning up river
relaxing after cleanupwaterfall in river

Now meet Peter Musa, from Cameroon. This photo was taken by his friend, Ngeh Julius. Peter is an artist, writer, founder and director of Mus'Art Gallery in Kumbo. From his new brochure: "This journey [of opening a gallery] started when our dad decided to start traditional wood sculpturing. I call it traditional because the art was done according to how Nso' carvers of Bui Division in the North West Province of the Republic of Cameroon did their wood carvings. He started in a nearby bush a few metres away from where we lived then... ...Today, Mus’Art is expanding and diversifying its collection. We want to fully represent the different art forms of the western Grass-fields of Cameroon. We also want to preserve and promote the traditional music and dance of this region. It is important to do this things, if we want up-coming generations to associate with our arts,crafts, culture and music." There is much more to this story that I haven't included here, and much more to knowing Peter. Beauty of Water is delighted to join with Peter in new collaborations.

A third new collaborator, S. Anitha, will be introduced in a forthcoming posting. Anitha is an environmental activist and educator working throughout Kerala. Our affinities are vast and we delight in this new connection.

Beauty of Water Website

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Art Happenings: Kerala; Mumbai; Pongal in Chennai

I have been traveling in the past weeks, attending art events and connecting with Beauty of Water supporters.

On January 12 I had the pleasure of seeing Santhan's solo show opening at Kashi Art Café in Fort Kochi. Enthusiasts from near and far came to see his wonderful works, including Terry Berger, shown with more beloved friends and Beauty of Water supporters, from left to right, Ruth, Sylvi, Henry, Terry, and Adam. Terry also recorded Santhan's show, and included its *written documentation on Santhan's website, which Terry built last year.

In Chennai I experienced Pongal, the harvest festival that brings five times the number of people to the beach as compared with what may be seen in this photo I snapped from a bus.

In Mumbai Rajan Krishnan opened oRe/Substances of Earth-I at the newest Bodhi Art Gallery. This amazing work was in progress in December when I visited the terra cotta studio and got to make a couple of clay pieces, as described in an earlier posting. Unfortunately the gallery's website does not show Rajan's three- and four- dimensional works (there is an installation that includes a film). If I find images online I will post a link.

Friend, writer (formerly for The Hindu), and wife of Rajan, Renu Ramanath, is keeping an arts blog that is well worth a visit called SpaceOut, listing the cultural events happenings in Kerala, with programme announcements, reviews and links. *Renu authored the documentation for Santhan's show.

Beauty of Water Website

Friday, January 04, 2008

Sreeja's Play

My good friend Sreeja is a playwrite here in Kerala and she and her amazing people staged an original play recently in Kalamassery, near Kochi where I've been staying lately. These sixteen photos capture the spirit of costumes, colors, action, and drama, including post-show fun, albeit with photographic challenges due to the low lighting and no flash. The theme has to do with a young woman's choices about how she will live her life after the death of her husband. Sreeja is wearing a yellowy orange top with pink and red necklaces. Santhan and I and some of the beautiful small girls shown here, performers each in her own right, took these pictures.

Beauty of Water Website