“I didn’t like to do ordinary things. I wanted to be exceptional,” said senior Alison Fox, as she sat down at the long activity table and gingerly picked up a colored pencil. “After high school, I never did any drawing.”
Fox and others in the mixed-age group were trying their hand at creating mandalas – Buddhist and Hindu graphic symbols and designs used primarily in meditation, but also appreciated for their aesthetic value. The workshop, led by Evie Lindemann, Albertus Magnus College associate professor and clinical coordinator in the college’s master of arts in art therapy program, was part of a recent exhibition program and reception at the Whitney Center, a senior living facility at 200 Leeder Hill Drive, in Hamden.
Entitled “On the Spiritual in Art,” the exhibit was curated by Debbie Hesse, Arts Council of Greater New Haven director of programs and artistic services, and included a slate of resident and artist speakers as well as the mandala-making workshop.
“I try to layer and animate the reception with intergenerational hands-on activities so the event often feels more like a fair than a reception, creating a friendly, inviting atmosphere, especially for folks not used to attending art shows,” said Hesse.
Painting … textile art … printmaking …
… and animation media were represented by artists Colin Burke, Leah Caroline, Jessica Cuni, Kathryn Frund, Kayla Kirsch, Eva Lee, Evie Lindemann, Gerald Saladyga, and Aicha Woods in the well-lit, spacious venue. A concurrent exhibit and reception featuring the personal art collections of Whitney Center residents was also on display in the Resident’s Perspective Gallery, running contiguous with the “On the Spiritual in Art” show.
Among the guest speakers was Jessica Cuni, who teaches art at Wallingford’s Choate Rosemary Hall. Cuni discussed her processes in exploring biological patterning and the relationships of the micro and macro scales of the natural forms she juxtaposes in her compositions. Her sometimes dense and layered canvases bridge the vast imagery of systems not always apparent to the naked eye, with representational imagery steeped in metaphorical meaning.
Multimedia artist and experimental filmmaker Eva Lee, who participated in the artist forum, displayed an abstract animation installation of sight and sound based on “encounters on a walk through otherworldly territory.”
Her work is inspired by “what lies at the threshold of perception.” Lee finds inspiration and meaning in the spaces and forms found in the realm of the unseen, inquiries that have given rise to explorations of Buddhist philosophy as well as a deep interest in the neuroscience of the brain.
Lee will be giving a visual presentation entitled “In Search of Mandalas in the Himalayas” based on her Fulbright research project at the DNKL Tibetan Buddhist Center in Redding, Conn., on Feb. 1.
Lindemann’s informal mandala workshop engaged children and seniors throughout the afternoon with assistance from art therapy program graduate student assistants of Albertus Magnus College. At the end of the workshop, completed designs were displayed among the works at the two exhibits. Though pleased with her mandala, Alison Fox was happy to add her own work, an offering and testament to the end of a long drawing drought.