The Onion Girl: Peeling Away the Unnecessary

Photo by: ©Beth Ortman Studio

Photo by: ©Beth Ortman Studio

First I took away the label of "artist" and then I thought about what to purge next... This is the idea that came out of the fog as I have been working out defining my quest to pull my dharma out from the shadows. 

My idea of dharma is about aligning oneself with their purpose. What I am here to do. For me, dharma involves merging the micro and the macro, the personal and the universal. I have been looking at the minimalist culture for awhile and in addition to the removal of stuff and excess, I am also looking at the paradigm for how to build each day around dharma. Minimalism can also be about refining and peeling away the layers of the ego, the false self. These layers are like an onion. Each layer represents fear, addiction, personal stories, false selves, etc. Instead of buying things, or looking outward for some level of comfort or internal affirmation, I have been stripping away those notions in order to look inwards at purpose. It is tough. The foundation is unsteady and I am starting to venture into the realm of faith.

When watching TV to numb us no longer works and boredom rears its ugly head, what are we left with? A consumer culture wants to remind us that we are missing things, that we are incomplete. We have stores, Container Store, for example, that tell us how to store our unwanted or unnecessary things. A box store of boxes. And it is a wildly successful place. There are things to buy, successes to achieve, money to make. But if we look around honestly, we can recognize that these make up the very things that make us unhappy.

This is super overwhelming and it is a tough place to be when trying to work out a way that does not involve this stuff. If we look inwards and ask "What am I here for?", there is a responsibility of choice to follow that voice or ignore it. For me, over the last 2-3 years, I have made this a priority. It is not something that happens over night and it is not something that will be a light switch solution but it is a wildly rewarding hardship.

I am asking these questions: What does your day look like when the need to run in circles working for others is removed? What does it look like to work for yourself? What can you remove in order to utilize time and within those hours align with your purpose? What are you doing each day that will elevate your reason to be here so that others are part of that energy? What does a day look like when you remove the "self" and use your purpose in a universal way? There is something really important that comes from this. The idea of personal self opens to universal self. Our actions affect each other. If we are kinder to ourselves, we are kinder to each other. For me, my path belongs to defining how art breeds compassion.





Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles: humans caring for art


from the book: Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles  |  National Gallery of Australia

from the book: Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles  |  National Gallery of Australia

I was struck by the flurry of care in this image during the receipt of Jackson Pollock's pivotal painting, "Blue Poles" to the Brisbane Town Hall in 1974 - taken in the above photograph by an unseen person monitoring the scene from above the action.

Just to the inside of the door there are 7 men moving the painting inside the main area. One can think there are an equal number, if not more, on the other side of the door. Everywhere reporters and photographers are capturing the moment. I think about the creation of the wooden crate - the care that went into it to make sure this piece was not torn or ripped, dented or broken. The sheer weight of the crate. The amount of wood necessary to build a shell of protection. The amount of money, men assets it took to get it from the US to Australia. It had to cross in a plane? A boat? Was the temperature maintained to a perfect degree? How did the paint breath as it moved from climate to climate? How was this piece suspended in the wooden crate to ensure the canvas held?

Why do humans care so much for art? Art in itself is not going to provide shelter, food, water or sex - referencing Maslow's hierarchy here. Art is an opinion, a subjective statement - a way of life for some and a commodity to others. Though this painting is a historical look into a shifting of the way we perceived art at the time, it is still a mystery to some and a disgrace to others. It is something that has and always will cause controversy. The man who created it was plagued with depression and alcoholism, yet he had the grit to pursue his authentic vision.

What is it that as a collective consciousness we would take the care of such a thing that physically adds no value to our bodies?

How does art affect the human soul? What is it about a soul - this unnameable, intangible, untouchable thing that surges with emotion when coming in to contact with something so esoteric as a painting that we may intellectually never understand? At the time, his particular art represented a shift in a way of traditional painting and it was symbolic at the time to a pretty seismic shift in what was considered to be art. It became a captured image of energy and emotion caught in a jazz-like reference. There was little at the time to prepare for this explosion of energy, angst, color and splatter.

I go back now to why the above black and white photograph struck me. It made me proud and feel good about the inherent care that was provided to a dead man's vision. A relic that caused questions, controversy and open hatred. It meant that there was a select mindset that values art. Art that that elevated our human condition from a physical realm to a spiritual one. By taking care of art, it says that we value what we create. We support co-creation, the bringing into the world something that did not exist before. We value culture. As an artist, this made me content.


~ b


detail from Blue Poles

detail from Blue Poles