The semester is coming to a close, so naturally there are a million projects to finish. Symposia, portfolios, papers, and reflections make pre-finals week one of partial madness and partial sleep-deprivation-initiated genius culminating in some form of productivity, hopefully.
One project I’ve been madly working to make presentable is a life-size self-portrait for my painting class. Life size. Life. Size. So, you can imagine with what haste I was painting in the few brief moments I could steal before painting class began this past Tuesday. The last few classes were dedicated to working on these self-portraits, so I assumed I’d be able to toil over the monstrous painting for the next three hours uninterrupted. But, just as the class finished setting up easels and palettes, Professor Betsey Batchelor arrived with Otto (her terrier dog and spunky sidekick) and announced that the class absolutely could not miss seeing the Anonymous Shiva Linga Paintings exhibition at the Arcadia University Art Gallery.
So, half-relieved to remove myself from my work and half-anxious that I left it so unfinished, I went to the Gallery with my classmates. Betsey gave a brief description of the works, mentioning that they are objects of worship and meditation.
The room was filled with dark egg shapes on found paper. They were striking, but similar. I mistakenly assumed I understood them all after only cursory observation. But, Betsey’s passionate proclamations—“Look at that color!”—prompted me and my classmates to engage further with the pieces, spot differences, and compare how minute variations changed the overall feel of each piece. They were not created as pieces of art. They also were not intended as personal expressions (they were anonymous—not the best way to express individuality). The creator was not creating from the artist’s perspective or even an artistic perspective. They were objects for getting lost. They allowed for an ephemeral state of mind at the time of creation.
The results, though somewhat similar, proved astoundingly nuanced and thoughtful considering their creation was not meant to culminate in an art object. The blue ring surrounding a dark egg made it glow. In another, the orange splattered behind the black egg shape made it warmer. Others included colorful markings. Some felt atmospheric, others crisp. Some housed a world and others were a part of a world unto themselves.
Taking the time out of a hectic week to get lost and truly appreciate what I saw—to force myself to stop making cursory judgments because it seems the most efficient way to get results—revitalized my perspective. There are beautiful things to cherish in the seemingly mundane or ordinary. Those who created the Shiva Linga paintings understood how necessary it is to gain distance from the busy world and remember small beauties.