Wednesday, May 22, 2013

342/365: Wabi-Sabi Inspiration

I've been looking through my old pieces of art and contemplating my artistic "voice." I've been contemplating the design elements that appeal to me in the art and decor I surround myself with and that which catches my eye in the world. My aesthetic is becoming more clear to me and it reflects my love of nature and all things old. Dripping, staining, smudging, peeling, cracking, tearing, sanding and general destruction of any pristine surface- that is how I interact with my art materials. The colors of nature, patina and rust are most present in my work. I love messy art journals with faded text, haphazard marks and built up layers. My home decor is a mixture of rustic and vintage. It is all coming together.

I recently came across an actual art form that perfectly captures my appreciation for natural simplicity and flawed beauty. It is called wabi-sabi. A centuries-old Japanese philosophy and aesthetic, it is derived from Buddhist teachings that revolve around the acceptance of the impermanence and imperfection of life, such as in natural life cycles.

In nature, wabi-sabi presents itself in many different ways: as rust and patina on metal, cracked and peeling paint, splintered or decaying wood, moss growing along a path, leaves turning colors and flowers fading and wilting. In my art it has presented itself as layers of color and texture peeking through to create a rough and aged surface. For me it adds an element of weathered intensity and a rustic aesthetic that has long appealed to me. I love to mimic the game that nature plays as it works through it's cycles or attempts to reclaim man-made surfaces.

Wabi-sabi textures and colors catch my eye in surprising places in my environment that most people pass by. I capture them with my camera phone to use as inspiration for my mixed media layered backgrounds, or I print the photos themselves and use them as collage elements. Today I sorted all of my wabi-sabi finds into an album on my camera phone. It turns out there are a great number of these "swatches" in my collection that I had forgotten about. It's gotten to the point where my nearest and dearest don't bat an eye when I stop mid-step to take a picture of a patina-colored sewer grate, cracked wood floor or rusted dumpster. "It's for art," I say, and that is enough explanation.

In ancient Buddhist teachings, wabi-sabi acknowledges the three realities that nothing is perfect, nothing is finished and nothing lasts. This adds a sense of peace and release to my mixed media explorations when I create to achieve a wabi-sabi effect. Experimentation and working with mistakes becomes a valuable part of my process. 

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