Thursday, September 1, 2016

Interviews with Transformative Artists - Rafael Ortiz

This morning, out of the blue, I received a call from someone who wanted to know if I knew Rafael Ortiz.  I haven't seen Rafael since 1992, but his name always evokes respect for his genius and vision.  The caller wanted to know if some drawing by Rafael was "worth anything", and I found his mindless greed and lack of any effort to understand what Rafael was disturbing that I hung up on him.  I am sorry that something from his hands and imagination are in the hands of such a person.   But there is a synchronicity in here, ravelled threads of a long ago coming forward for weaving, for my attention.  There is, I believe, a buried treasure here, and perhaps I have a responsibility to it still.  

"The Fifth Chakra" by Beth Ames Swartz from "A Moving Point of Balance"

Last week I received a call from my friend Vernita, who I also haven't seen in many years, who used to be the Director of Artist's Talk on Art in Soho in the 90's, and in 1990 she helped me organize a talk on Art and Spirituality with ATOA that featured Rafael Ortiz, Beth Ames Swartz, and Alex and Allyson Grey.  
Alex Grey "Universal Mind Lattice"

Our phone call was mostly about the profound need to revive that Conversation about art and spirituality in the face of an overwhelmingly mercantile art world.  And hanging up I thought about the passion I had to pursue my book project (SEEING IN A SACRED MANNER:  Conversations with Transformative Artists) back in the late eighties, and how supported I actually felt in my quest, often in quite miraculous ways.  (But that is another story (a pretty good one, actually, of what can happen when you give yourself up to a  worthy project...........)

It was my privilege, after finishing graduate school in 1987, to share conversations about art, spirituality, and cultural transformation with some extraordinary artists. Travelling across the country to meet  them in New York City, in Arkansas, or in California I realize now I was also trying to understand my own reasons for making art.  The art world I had just come from seemed soul-less to me, full of abstractions that seemed to spiral into mind-boggling incomprehension, and often very cynical.  I wanted to find those who where driven - inspired - by a passion and a vision that went beyond the intellect, beyond "cultural construct", and certainly beyond money.  

"Your work is about your life" painter Kathleen Holder told me,"and if you are fortunate enough to do great work, it not only is about your life but it transcends your life and touches many others. "  

"Sympathetic Magic" Kathleen Holder
Although I was never able to publish these interviews these artists so graciously granted me in a book, several were published in a few small periodicals. I have never felt right about them simply disappearing into my files, and perhaps this strange synchronicity of hearing from Vernita, and then that man wanting to know "what it's worth".....means it's time to share them again as I may. 

So I may post some of them in upcoming posts, and I think I will make a point of posting them (I have permissions) on my pages at Academia.Edu.  Although these interviews took place some 27 years ago, these voices are  potent and universal.  Perhaps they can help other young artists on their paths, just as they so graciously helped me.

They are Worth a great deal.  

"Hands"  Lorraine Capparell

" Within the participatory traditions in art, there is no passive audience. That's a recent idea, which is part of the compromise, the tears and breaks from arts original intentions. The ancient art process was a transformative process; it wasn't a show, it wasn't entertainment.  Art becomes entertainment within a culture that objectifies. If one can enjoy that transformative experience, and certainly in early cultures it was enjoyed, you could perhaps say it was "entertaining". When you say entertainment now, what is meant is that it doesn't change you in any way, what it does is to help you to forget.
We need to see ourselves again as part of a brilliant, shimmering web of life. An artist at some point has to face that issue. Is the art connecting us and others in some way, or is the art disconnecting ourselves and others? I think it's not enough to just realign ourselves personally either - our art should also do that for others, and further, it must happen outside of the abstract. It must be a process that in its form and content joins us with the life force in ourselves, and in others.  And that's not going to be easy. But I do believe that secrets and solutions exist in native cultures of the world. They spent thousands of years uncovering those possibilities, and enough has survived through different traditions for artists to find more than enough inspiration"
Rafael Ortiz




Rain-in-the-Face said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Couldn't you self-publish these conversations? It sounds like a fascinating project. I'm going to send you an email with another option.

lauren raine said...

I actually did, on my website and via Academia.Edu now. Thanks for your encouragement! I'm actually thinking it might make an interesting small book, and perhaps with some interviews with current artists as well. The conversation about art and spirituality very much needs to open again.