"From Blooming Roses"
My friend and fellow artist, En Tze, invited me to participate in a very special exhibit taking place in Penang, Malaysia earlier this year. Being involved in this project was a huge honor. Not only because one of my favorite artists invited me to join, but also because it was my first exhibit. My first exhibit was an international one! I never considered showing my art in my own hometown, let alone in another country!
Not to mention it was pretty cool to have my artwork displayed alongside two more of favorite artists Olivia Rose (who once drew a portrait of me) and Striga (Zuzana Csatai, a personal friend of mine).
De Rosis Nascentibus was a contemporary and lowbrow art exhibition showcasing the artworks of eight artists from around the world in the theme of roses. (I being the only U.S. based artist - cool!)
The title of the exhibition is a Latin phrase which carries the meaning "from blooming roses." Now, if you know me, being involved in a project with a Latin title is beyond favorable to me. Everything sounds so much cooler in Latin.
The exhibition did an excellent job showcasing the mysterious natures of roses. They were explored through many different mediums; portraying messages of love, life and death through each artists' individual little eye.
Now, at the time En asked me to participate in the exhibit, I was experiencing a great struggle with myself as an artist. Particularly as a filmmaker. I was in the middle of shooting of one of my most ambitious films to date (the trailer can be seen here) and after trying to shoot three separate times, it was obvious absolutely nothing was right. For the first time I began to seriously doubt myself as an artist. It seemed that all of the planning and preparations in the world would be absolutely no good for this project. It was like it wasn't ever intended to exist.
Was I meant to do this? Have I come to the end of my journey? Is this a story I was never supposed to tell?
But then I realized something.
My suffering and pain is what made the project all the more beautiful. It gave a whole new meaning to the story. The plot naturally shifted to what I was feeling during that time and I didn't realize this until we finally completed shooting. Without that suffering I endured, all of that self doubt, the project wouldn't be what it is coming to be - which is some of best work yet.
I immediately knew what I was going to draw.
I asked my dear friend and muse Liliana if she could pose for me remotely. She happily obliged.
Look at her amazing garbage bag dress! Isn't she gorgeous?
I am a HUGE fan of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain. The film project I mentioned above was heavily influenced by it and the inspiration soon started to spill over into this art project.
The Fountain is about so many things (you really have to watch a few times yourself), but what speaks to me most clearly about the film is that suffering and death motivates us in ways money nor any material can. It helps us to be stronger, to learn from our mistakes, and to ultimately experience something beyond ourselves. Something bigger. Through suffering, we must face our mortality. In short, the will of humanity has the ability to transcend above time and space.
I started to adapt what the film said to me in quite a literal way. Even directly drawing inspiration from the tree of life scene.
It took me quite a long time to draw just these three pieces (I planned on drawing five, but I was cutting it close to the deadline) and I was very fussy about them. I tend to be very particular and a tad anal about my work. So I think with this being my first exhibit and it meaning a lot to me, I unintentionally pressured myself even more so than usual. It was very hard for me to color them as well, as I usually leave my work black and white, but part of the beauty of a rose is its color. I couldn't rely on shape alone for these pieces.
I first tea stained and hung the pieces to dry over night.
(I went to visit my mom the night I did this, so she was pretty confused when she saw dying girls hanging in her shower.)
I then went over the roses in a layer of watercolor pencil, washed the lines over with water, and then filled anything else in with watercolor paint.
The end result:
Let's be honest.
It's hard to figure out most art. I realize that sometimes art comes off as ambiguous and sometimes that is its intention, but I'm personally not a fan of ambiguity. It leaves room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation if it's not done well. My work means something specific. So to tell people that, I wrote a short essay explaining my intentions:
To put it simply...
This series is about the beauty in sacrifice, suffering, our fragile mortality, and how these things shape the human condition.
Just to clarify; I don't wish suffering upon anyone. But I do wish that those who experience the kind of pain that causes your ribs to enclose, crushing the heart... (ahem - everyone at least once in their lifetime) to handle it with grace. To allow it to be humbling. To use it as a tool for good rather than a tool for demise.
There are events that have taken place in my life that I do wish never happened. At the same time I know that if my past were to play out any differently than it did, I wouldn't be the person I've come to like a little bit today.
This is getting a little winded. So let's look at some photos from the event.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this project possible!
I promise my readers the length of this art entry is a rarity! They will be less winded from now on!
The original framed HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW pieces can be purchased via email at email@example.com. Prints and posters of the series can be purchased here.