Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Art Spotlight: 'Numinosity'

The word “numinous” describes a sense of sacredness and wonder, a feeling that you are in the presence of the divine. Many people experience this in church.  Indeed, many temples and cathedrals were specifically built to help inspire this feeling of otherworldly awe.  Stained glass windows, elaborate sacred artwork, flickering candlelight and pungent incense can help transport us to that reverent state.
            Many people experience this in the natural world, as well.  The majesty of towering mountains, sculpted canyons, primeval forests and multi-hued sunsets can fill us with a sense of peace, joy, awe and often, humility. 
            I recall one night on a camping trip far from the city lights.  As I stepped out of my car and looked up, my breath was literally swept away by the most densely star-studded sky I’d ever seen.  This glimpse of the vastness of our universe both humbled and exalted me.  It made me acutely aware of how minuscule I am compared to the Whole of Existence, but it also filled me with a profound sense of awe and wonder at the immensity and beauty of it all, and reminded me that I am a integral part of it.
            This piece celebrates that numinous experience, which for me speaks of connection, reverence and harmony with the Universe.
            At the center is the symbol for Aum, said to represent the first vibration of creation that made the Universe manifest.  Male and female figures radiate from it, joined by entwining roots.  Each figure has two pairs of arms.  One pair performs the Namaste mudra, a gesture of reverence and greeting.  The other pair of arms reach up to become leafy branches that connect and embrace.  A snaking spiral represents kundalini– the energy of consciousness that resides in all of us.  A halo or nimbus glows around each figure’s head, indicating divine nature.  
            Lotus flowers bloom between the figures, each with an open eye at the center – an icon of spiritual awareness. 
            The figures embrace four symbols; a sun, moon and star (which represent the celestial heavens beyond Earth), the Keys to Heaven (A Christian symbol representing access to Heaven) and an alchemical sign that combines the Four Elements of the Universe; earth, water, fire and air.
            Four more symbols are surrounded by swirling flames. 
At top is the Flower of Life, a visual expression of the connections life weaves through all sentient beings.   
Next (moving clockwise) is a West African adinkra symbol called “ASASE YE DURU”, representing providence and the divinity of Mother Earth.  
Below is a nautilus shell spiral, representing the Golden Ratio – also known as the Divine Proportion.  This mathematical constant underlies many forms in nature, art, music – even our brainwaves. It is a sort of formula for balanced, harmonious and beautiful forms.   
On the left is another adinkra symbol called “NYAME DUA”, or “tree of god”, which represents god’s presence and protection.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Join Us at the Food Truck Chowdown!

We'll be at the Los Angeles Food Truck Chowdow on June 11th.
We're bringing Calliope The Wonder Wagon and a bunch of gypsy art!  There will be live music, family activities, art, shopping...and over 50 gourmet food trucks offering a huge variety of tasty vittles!  A portion of the proceeds go to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Debut of our Gypsy Mystery Art booth!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth at the Paseo Spring Fest!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Inspiring Documentary Films

            Over the past year or so, I've been taking advantage of Netflix, and more recently, Hulu, and have been seeking out and watching a lot of documentaries.  I’m a sponge when it comes to information and learning about our world, and I feel very fortunate to be living in a time when many discoveries are being made, new tools to observe and understand the Universe are being developed, and information is more widely shared and accessible than ever before.
            The following films have broadened my perspective and exposed me to new ideas, or perhaps simply presented basic ideas in more comprehensive or spectacular ways.  Some have social implications, some spiritual, some historical. Some are hard to watch. Some literally took my breath away.  Some have given me glimpses into aspects of existence and ways of life I’d never considered before. I try to absorb some of the more esoteric ideas with both an open mind and a healthy dose of critical thinking, and the more I learn, the more I see how things connect and fit together into the Big Picture.
            All of these films have given me food for thought, which I have been contemplating and processing, slowly developing an ever-expanding concept of how the Universe works, our place in it, and what it all means.
            If you’re seeking to expand your knowledge of the world, I recommend the following films, which can be found on Netflix, Hulu, or on the internet:
David Attenborough’s Life series:
            Life in the Undergrowth
            The Private Life of Plants
            Life In Cold Blood
            The Life of Birds
            The Life of Mammals
            Life on Earth
Attenborough in Paradise
The Queen of Trees
The Story of India series
Connections series by James Burke
The Nature of Things: Biomimicry Parts 1 and2
Dirt, The Movie
Food, Inc.
Quantum Activist
The Nature of Existence
Fractals; Hunting The Hidden Dimension
10 Questions for the Dalai Lama
This Emotional Life series
Lord of the Ants
We Live In Public
Disney’s Oceans
The Human Machine
Fractals; The Colors of Infinity
Wild China series
Alex Grey: Chapel of Sacred Mirrors
Exit Through The Giftshop
Nova Science Now: How Does the Brain Work?
Nova Science Now: Can We Live Forever?
Nova Science Now: How Smart Are Animals?
I Like Killing Flies
National Geographic: Skin
National Geographic: Guns, Germs and Steel
National Geographic: The Incredible Human Machine
National Geographic: Moment of Death
Water: The Great Mystery
Unmistaken Child
Solitary Confinement
The Buddha
The Human Face
Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037
Rivers and Tides
Between the Folds
Witch Hunt
Jesus Camp
Urban Explorers: Into The Darkness
Egypt: Engineering an Empire
The Meaning of Food
Word Wars
The Phoenix Lights
Deliver Us From Evil
The Blue Planet series
The Cosmic Journeys series

 I've also just discovered Documentary Heaven, which I plan on thoroughly exploring!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New! Art Spotlight: Mini Prints

Introducing my new Mini Prints - 5" x 5" prints, perfect for small spaces, or for mix-n-match groupings.
These Minis are each hand printed in shimmering gold on beautifully textured fine art papers in a variety of rich, vibrant colors.  Each one is signed and includes a small certificate describing the symbolism within each original design.  Some of these are totally new designs, and some are smaller, more simplified versions of my larger, more complex pieces.
Minis are sized to fit into square 5" x 5" photo frames, some suggestions:



There are also multiple-opening frames available that would accommodate a trio of minis:
I have 6 designs avialable so far:

'Eternal Cycle':
Mystical oroboros, symbolizing cyclic nature, eternal return and self re-creation is combined with the sign for Infinity. The Wheel of Samsara represents the notion of reincarnation and the Endless Knot connotes infinite wisdom and interconnectedness. The 4 Elements (Air, Earth, Water & Fire) are represented by alchemical icons. The spiral signifies evolution and expansion, the Recycle sign suggests renewal and rebirth, the Yin-Yang symbolizes balance, and the adinkra symbol ‘hye wonhye’ represents imperishability.

'Lotus Blossom':
The Lotus begins life at the dark, muddy bottom of a pond, growing up toward the surface to eventually break into the light and blossom into a beautiful, fragrant flower. According to Buddhist lore, this process reflects the soul's
journey from the darkness of ignorance and materialism, through experience and learning, into the uplifting radiance of enlightenment.

A figure performs the namaste mudra, a gesture of greeting and deep respect, surrounded by lotus blossoms, which represent spiritual growth and purity.

'Soul Mates':
A celebration of “soul mates”; two people who feel a deep connection to each other, whether they are close friends, lovers, partners or family. Two hearts intersect, cradling a single soul and sharing a pair of wings. A Celtic knot binds them together, a flame of passion and warmth glows between them and their roots intermingle. Ivy represents friendship and loyalty.

 'Good Karma':
The concept of Karma is essentially: "You get what you give." - a cosmic system of reciprocity and balance.  Interwoven hearts at the center radiate arrows of positive energy, which interact with other forces and return love to the center. Encircling is an ouroboros -  a mystical symbol of cyclic nature, eternal return and self-recreation. 

'Heart and Soul':
The Heart represents the Self, the Soul and the seat of emotion. Wings connote freedom, divinity and the ability to rise above our troubles. A Spiral Flame signifies warmth, light and passion. The Endless Knot is a symbol of infinite wisdom and the interconnectedness of All Things.

 Each Mini Print is only $12 each - making them truly affordable for adorning your space or giving as a special gift.
Browse the available selection here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/cristinamcallister

Friday, May 6, 2011

Portraits of the Fallen: Army Private First Class Hannah L. Gunterman

Several weeks ago I was approached by a friend who curates art shows in Los Angeles. She invited me to participate in a project commemorating fallen soldiers from California.  Each artist would be assigned a soldier and sent a photograph of them, from which a small (5" x 5") portrait would be painted. This portrait would be part of a public memorial display, along with several hundred others.

I'd recently been thinking about participating in a public art, and I decided to go for it.

I didn't realize how much it would impact me.

The soldier assigned to me was:
Army Private First Class Hannah L. Gunterman of Redlands, 20.
Based: Ft. Lewis, Wash.
542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: September 4, 2006
Taji, Iraq
Married, 1 child

I was sent a photograph and a link to this page: 
Wanting to learn more about this young woman, I typed her name into Google and found several articles related to her death.  What I discovered broke my heart.
For awhile, the tragic nature of her story sort of paralyzed me.  Thinking about this beautiful young woman, gone at the tender age of 20 years old, lost to her family, husband and young son, who had gone to war for our country and ended so tragically, filled me with such sadness, anger, confusion and heartbreak.  I can barely imagine the grief of her family.  I never knew Hannah, but her story tore me up inside.
I struggled with how to express all of it, how to honor her in the face of such heartache, and posted on Facebook about my situation and dilemma.  Thankfully, my friends offered me sound guidance, urging me to focus not on her death, but on her life, and her service to our country.
Ultimately I decided to paint a straightforward portrait - one that strives to capture the sparkle in her eye, her playful grin, her vibrancy.  
We hear the statistics about soldiers dying in wars all the time, but until we get a glimpse of their world, their deaths and the impact of their loss on their families, it's difficult to truly value the sacrifices they make for our freedom, and for the freedom of others.
This assignment has changed me profoundly. It's made me more aware of, and more appreciative of the risks our servicemen and women take to keep us safe and free. It is easy to enjoy our freedoms and comforts, to take them for granted and feel entitled.  But freedom is not 'free'.  There is a price, and our soldiers are willing to pay it so the rest of us don't have to.  That is a tremendous gift, and one we should all honor.
This portrait will eventually be displayed somewhere in Los Angeles, at a place and time as yet undetermined.  I will post the details when I get them