Akerman, Chantal, dir. News from Home. Carlotta Films, 2007. Film. This is a beautiful film made by a young woman during her time in New York City during the 1970s while she was trying to write a screenplay. She filmed her walking routes to and from work and other parts of the city—in a car, on the subway, on the ferry—and wove in spoken letters from her mother in Belgium. I particularly liked the spaces of recording sounds of the city. There was no dialogue except the words of the letters. I liked how she placed her camera in a stable position so that whatever was filmed created the movement. I liked the simplicity and beauty of the film. I also liked the letters from home telling her news of her family members abroad; the letters were spliced onto images of New York City.
Baas, Jacquelynn, and Mary Jane Jacob. Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Print. In its first section, the book contains a collection of essays written by contemporary art critics and educators that explore the relationship between Buddhist practice and contemporary art practice. It was an important book because it encouraged me to make a stronger effort of relating my own spiritual practice to my artistic one. An array of artists were contemplated: performance artists, musicians, poets, photographers, sculptors. Emptiness was a major topic throughout the book. The second section of the book featured a series of interviews with contemporary artists: Ann Hamilton, Marina Abramovic, Bill Viola, and Kimsooja, among others. The book guided me toward deepening my own spiritual and artistic practice.
Baas, Jacquelynn. Smile of the Buddha. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. Print. This is a study of Buddhist philosophy’s influence on latenineteenthcentury to modernday Western artists. The author uses her knowledge of Buddhism to analyze the work of important artists—such as Wassily Kandinsky, Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Cage, and Isamu Noguchi—and uncovers not often recognized influences of Eastern philosophy on their work. The most meaningful artist for me in this book was Odilon Redon, whose spiritual influence transformed his art practice from darkness to light. The book was important to me because Baas uncovered Eastern influences on artists whose work I was familiar with but had no previous understanding of the Eastern influences, except Isamu Noguchi.
Bardin, Garri, dir. Grey Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood. 1991. Film. “www.YouTube.com/watch?v=llT1zMFQa8”:http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=llT1zMFQa8 This claymation film was created by Russian director Garri Bardin. It is a takeoff on the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” It is very funny, musical, colorful. The toothless grey wolf goes to a dentist for new teeth. He swallows victims, who remain trapped in his stomach. They revolt and escape his stomach, leaving him chained. I enjoyed the claymation, the story, and the music.
Barthes, Roland. A Lover’s Discourse. New York: Hill and Wang, 1963. Print. This is a collection of thoughts, feelings, and discourses of the author being in love. It was an important book for me as it disclosed the intimate feelings of the author for another, while being alone without the other. It gave me an example of how one expresses love and the frustration that can result. I applied the reading to my attempts to articulate my relationship with the hawk, a love for sure, imagined and real.
Bergman, Ingmar, dir. Wild Strawberries. Janus Films, 1957. I watched three Ingmar Bergman films; the first was Wild Strawberries. It is about a retired professor, Isak, who has been asked to receive an honorary degree from his university. It follows his thoughts and memories as he travels by car to places of his childhood passed on his way to the university. The scenes trigger his memories and they become episodes bringing family, regret, and love into the present moment. The images, to me, are beautiful. The professor encounters his son’s unhappiness with him and the son’s wife, who doesn’t like him or his son, at the moment of encounter. The film presents the loneliness and regret of the professor reviewing his life. At the end, the story offers refuge to the professor, with images of a world he had long ago desired. Time disappears in the mind of the professor; he knows death is approaching, but the present moment brings past images within an instant of time. The past becomes his present, and so I interpret it as an example of a lifetime appearing in a moment of time. I very much understood the thoughts of the professor.
Bernard, Raymond, dir. Wooden Crosses. 1932. Film. This is the story of a French regiment in the trenches during World War I. Beautiful blackandwhite camera scenes show the horrors they faced as well as the companionship of the soldiers.
Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. London: Rupert HartDavis Ltd., 1967. Print. This classic features fiftyfour poems and illustrations of the writer and artist. I loved reading his simple, short poems and the illustrations that accompanied them. I liked to listen to their rhyme and the images they brought forth into my own mind. “The Tyger” was my favorite, perhaps because I memorized it as a child. Its meaning still escapes me, but its verse has been retained. It was an important book to me because Blake seems to have a very personal art practice of combining words and illustrations; the words act as illustrations, and the illustrations act as words.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novaro: New World Library, 2008. Print. The author examines mythology as it applies to modern and historical periods of human culture. He expounds on the hero’s path taken throughout civilization by certain individuals and their narratives. He illustrates a formula of the standard mythological hero’s path represented in the rites of passage: separation, initiation, and return, with legends including the Jewish story of Moses delivering the Ten Commandments at the base of Mt. Sinai and the Buddhist legend of the Great Struggle of Buddha. “As we soon shall see, whether presented in the vast, almost oceanic images of the Orient, in the vigorous narratives of the Greeks or in the majestic legends of the Bible, the adventure of the hero normally follows the pattern of the nuclear unit above described; a separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power, and the lifeenhancing return.” The book was important to me because it connected all human beings regardless of faith or culture to the author’s assertion of a hero’s path. Also, I enjoyed the stories and myths that he wrote about.
Catterson, Pat, choreographer. To Lie in the Sky. The Little Flower Theatre at La Guardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts, 2012. I enjoyed watching this dance performance. As an interdisciplinary work—the music, the words, the movement, the film, the costumes, the dancers—it is an interpretation of how we all might be traveling together on earth with our different and shared perceptions of our existence. I was particularly interested in Catterson’s willingness to change settings. The work was important as I had just begun the program at Goddard and was still seeking examples of interdisciplinary work. Catterson was a graduate of the program. It made think of my own need to change my methodology of working. I asked afterward: How do I transform the reading, the writing, the researching into the elements of creating art?
Cave, Nick, choreographer. The Herd. Creative Time and MTA Arts for Transit, 2013. Mr. Cave is a Chicagobased artist. This was terrific. Fifteen sculptural lifesize ponies from raffia colorful fabrics and materials stood in two large spaces at Grand Central Station; then at appointed times, they came alive, as colorful dancing ponies. Students from Alvin Ailey Dance got inside the sculptures and moved in choreographed dance by William Gill, a Chicagobased choreographer. Harpist Mary Lattimore and percussionist Robert Levin accompanied the dancers in various rhythms as the ponies walked, trotted, and galloped. Each pony had two dancers. At one time they broke apart and danced joyfully and then regathered as one. The height of the station’s ceiling gave the performance a deep feeling of space even as people crammed together to see. The music reminded me of ponies chuckling and snorting and also, combined with fanciful, colorful costumes, took me to an imaginary land of beautiful, joyful ponies that somehow had appeared and come alive in front of my eyes. Children’s laughter mixed with the drums and harp. The children were delighted and laughed, as did adults around me. The ponies had magical personalities, expressed by their movements and bodily gestures. The sculptural costumes were beautiful, a raffia material, of different colors, and the faces of the ponies were a different material, stitched with embroidery, entertaining the spectators with their charm and innocence.
Cocteau, Jean, dir. Beauty and the Beast. Criterion Films, 1946. Film. I saw this beautiful movie on Hulu Plus. Poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau adapted the 1757 fairy tale written by Jeanne Marie LePrince de Beaumont. It was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The father of three daughters takes a rose from a castle garden after a storm. The beast that owns the castle requires the death of the father or the sacrifice of one of his daughters. The youngest, Belle, goes to the beast and offers her life. The beast and the girl fall in love, and the beast lets her go. The beast turns into a handsome man whom Belle had loved before. Black and white. Wonderful music. Cocteau also used puppets occasionally. It was out of this world.
Colburn, Martha, dir. The Triumph of the Wild I and II. 2008. Film. www.marthacolburn.com. The imagery in this stop motion film was graphically beautiful—and at times violent and so fastpaced that I had to give it all my attention: sight, hearing, emotional flexibility, or pull the curtain open and leave. It was a mixture of collage, drawings, paintings, cutouts, film clips, and puzzles. The film was accompanied by a piano piece that worked well synchronizing the music with the pace of the images. It chronicles America’s military conflicts, including the American Revolution, World War I, and World War II, the Viet Nam War, and our recent conflicts in the Middle East.
Elliot, Adam, dir. Harvie Krumpet. Melodrama Pictures, 2003. Film. www.YouTube.com/watch?v=vdlyYvyTuTA A somewhat sad but inspirational story taking place in Poland and Australia, this claymation film features simple animation and staging. Harvie twitches, touches people on the nose, is teased, tortured, home schooled, but he has a passion for learning facts. His parents are burned to death, and the Nazis invade. He moves to Australia and becomes a migrant worker. He falls in love and marries; his wife dies but their daughter becomes a lawyer. Harvie has cancer, but he seizes the day, until the end.
Forche, Carolyn, ed. Against Forgetting. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1993. Print. This is an anthology of poetry covering many historical wars, genocides, and struggles for freedom all over the world. All of the poets were in the extremity themselves and wrote poetry while in the extremity of circumstance. It was an important book for me as I reviewed the cruelty and atrocities that humans inflict on others and the fearless poetic responses as remembrance. This is the most powerful book I have read. It put my life in context, from relatively safe and secure surroundings, to those of upheaval, pain, and suffering.
Gablik, Suzi. “The Reenchantment of Art_. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991. Print. New paradigm of art practice: caring, engagement, meaningful art, ecological responsibility, and community involvement. The author calls for artists to restore an interaction and connection between the humanity and the earth that she feels has been lost in our culture. She asserts that artists have largely become object makers without regard to audience understanding. The book was important to me because it suggested another form of artistic intention rather than form, beauty, object, and emotion that I was familiar with: the making of art that engaged an audience and had social consciousness.
Gallico, Paul. The Snow Goose. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977. Print. This is the story of an artist recluse living in a lighthouse who befriends a young girl, who brings a wounded snow goose to him for help. It is a love story: the artist, the girl, the snow goose. This is a book of meaning to me as it was a favorite of my father’s. I first read it in elementary school. I have revisited it many times throughout my life. It tells of the relationship between the snow goose and the artist who cares for her and the deepening relationship with the girl who brought the snow goose to him for help. It also tells a story of war, as the artist sails his small boat to Dunkirk to evacuate soldiers. I think it is simply and beautifully written. It was a good example for me to study in my relationship with the hawk.
Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Heart of Wisdom: An Explanation of the Heart Sutra. Cumbria, England: Tharpa Publications, 2001. This is an explanation and commentary on the essential Mahayana Buddhist concept of “emptiness.” I studied this book in the Buddhist teacher training program, with which I am still involved. It is an important book for me because it was my first introduction to the Buddhist vision of the dreamlike nature of all things and the relationship between mind and world. It was a difficult book to understand and explores the Buddhist concept of mind and its relationship to reality. Basically, Buddhists adopt the view that things do not exist the way they appear; they exist outside the mind as opposed to being imputed by the mind.
Gyatso, Kelsang. Ocean of Nectar. Cumbria, England: Tharpa Publications, 2003. Print. This is an explanation and commentary of Chandrakirti’s Guide to the Middle Way, an important Mahayana scripture explaining the wisdom of emptiness as presented in Buddha’s perfection of Wisdom Sutras. It presents the stages of the Bodhisattva path to full enlightenment—Very Joyful, Stainless, Luminous, Radiant, Difficult to Overcome, and Approaching—as well as guidance to realizing “emptiness.” It is an important and difficult book, and I enjoy how it suggests viewing the self in an uncommon way; the self does not exist as we perceive it. I have examined and tried to understand the precept in my art practice.
Johnson, Buffie. Lady of the Beasts. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1990. This book reviews the Goddess as portrayed in art and religious artifacts and her relationship to sacred animals found in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe and throughout the world. I was most interested in the chapter about sacred birds and the hawk’s relationship to the Greek Sun Goddess, Kirke, who was believed to be a hawk. In Latin, Kirke means hawk, circle. The sun has been compared to a hawk circling. This reading was meaningful to me because it placed my interest in a long lineage of wonder.
Kalatozov, Mikhail, dir. I Am Cuba. Milestone Films, 1964. Film. A beautiful film about the revolution in Cuba that brought Fidel Castro into power. It examines different stories of characters leading up to the revolution. The first is about the Americans taking advantage of the Cubans in a bar, and later in romantic situations. It shows the disrespect that the American tourists/businessmen had for the Cubans. Then it switches to a sugar farmer who loses his house and crop that he was working on as a tenant farmer. The farm was sold to a large American company without regard for his future or wellbeing. Then there is the story of students rebelling and protesting the inpower government, which leads to the death of a student, a revolt, and funeral procession. Finally, a farmer living in the mountains with his young family joins the rebel cause after being attacked by planes, which had ruined his home and injured members of his family. The film had beautiful imagery. It was important to me because the structure of the film was like a book with different chapters that I recognized. It was one of the first films I looked at with the mind of creating visual narratives in my own work.
Lye, Len, dir. The Birth of the Robot. ShellMex Oil Production, 1936. Film. www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIuFc0ghQWo When the world was turned by hand—and Venus made her lonely music amid the stars—so begins this short surreal stop motion animation by New Zealander Len Lye. What turns out to be a promotion for the Shell Oil Company begins as a fairy tale. A driver and his spunky animated car are roving around the Egyptian desert, climbing up and down the pyramids; an angel is tossing musical notes from the sky; carousels of joy and fantasy are spinning in the sky. A sandstorm arrives, bringing demise to the driver and car. The angel above showers them with drops of oil, and the driver resurrects from a parched skeleton lying in the desert into a shiny, steel hero of might. The scene changes. Airplanes fly above, roads cover the planet, and a robot directs the production and drilling for oil in the desert. The film ends with, “Modern worlds need modern lubrication—lubrication by Shell Oil.” It is a wonderfully animated film with objects, figures, and shells all moving to music.
London, Jack. The Call of the Wild. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1963. Print. This is the story of a dog stolen from his comfortable home in California and taken to Alaska to be a sled dog during the Gold Rush. He transforms into a tough, hardworking sled leader and eventually hears his calling and becomes a member of a wolf pack. It was an important book that I revisited after many years because the author portrays the dog’s voice and mind, which in turn forms a relationship between the dog and the reader—so it helped me with my connection with the hawk.
Malkin, John. “In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You.” Shambhala Sun, July 2003. www.shambhalasun.com. This short transcript of an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh was important to me. I have been moving deeper into the practice and though I know the actual practice emphasizes interconnectedness with all aspects of life and existence as perceived by the mind, it is tricky to navigate—especially relatively inexperienced as I am—through the concepts of emptiness, impermanence, and selflessness without becoming selfabsorbed, and I have sometimes been lost in the concepts and therefore not seen a clear path of engaging the practice in a social manner. Thich Nhat Hanh speaks very clearly: “Buddhism has to do with your daily life, with your suffering and with the suffering of the people around you. You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time…. Meditation is about awareness of what is going on not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you.”
Phillips, Joseph C., Jr. Changing Same. Perf. Numinous. Ecstatic Musical Festival, Kaufman Music Center. 16 March 2013. This composition from Joseph Phillips spoke of events in his life, memory, and music of others that had great influence on him. I understood that he felt his music was an expression of emotion, mixed with personal memory and experimentation. I loved listening to it. I heard sounds that reminded me of the seventies and eighties. I suppose an artist always starts out from his or her own world and invites others into it, which may lead the listeners on their own personal journeys. He introduced each of the pieces with a short explanation. He mentioned Curtis Mayfield, Angela Davis, Roots, James Baldwin, Prince, Bach, Barack Obama, and “Alpha Man” (his comic strip). I understood his music to be an attempt to put together visions, thoughts, ideas, people, and music important to his life into an experimental opus of personal meaning for all of us to enjoy.
Purves, Barry. Stop Motion. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Pub., 2010. Print. This was a great book that I will continue to use as a resource. First of all, it gave me a simple definition of stop action: “a cinematographic technique whereby the camera is repeated stopped and started.” The book has a lot of photographs of scenes from stop action films, and he recommends films, giving me a large collection to continue to look at. He constantly refers to actual examples for work, scenes, and techniques from an array of filmmakers. He covers six basic topics: what is stop motion; focusing the idea; the puppets; preparations, tools, and techniques; movement; and performance. Under the topic of focusing the idea, he writes of approaching the story. The most important rule of any form of storytelling, he says, is that you must keep your audience interested in your characters and situations. This requires the exploitation and thorough understanding of the medium in which the tale is told. It is possible to achieve prolonged audience interest through a whole range of techniques, including fast pacing, contrasting rhythms, and increasing tension; exciting plots full of peripeteia and suspense; an unfolding mystery or constant revelations about the characters; and an escalating series of spectacles and effects. He stresses that stop motion can be included as one of the elements that intrigue an audience but that it is not a narrative element in itself. One must develop a story.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Trans. M. D. Herter. New York: Norton & Company, 1954. Print. This is a collection of letters that the poet wrote to a young man interested in becoming a poet. It features beautiful and clear writing on dedication, loneliness, and love as well as one’s art. It was an important book for me as it showed the poet’s sensitivity to responding with compassion and kindness to someone he didn’t know beyond the content of letters between them. I was moved by the letters’ clarity and beauty. Rilke wanted to guide the young poet and by doing so revealed his own character, which was perhaps the most important gift the young poet received.
Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Trans. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Cumbria, England: Tharpa Publications, 2008. I love this poem, which takes one through the entire Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment as beautifully composed by Shantideva (AD 687763), a renowned Indian Buddhist master. The poem aided in my study of the Heart Sutra, which I was studying concurrently. The main poem details the precepts of a Bodhisattva, all intentions motivated by compassion. The book has simple wash and ink brush stroke illustrations and simple, poetic language. It is one of my favorite readings.
Singh, Tarsem, dir. The Fall. Roadside Attractions One, 2006. Film. www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbzNrThw_gA This film features beautiful cinematography with film footage from many countries: Egypt, China, India, Turkey, South Africa, Spain, Bolivia, France, Italy, Cambodia, Turkey. It tells the story of the friendship between an injured young girl and a stuntman with paralyzed legs in a hospital. The stunt man tells the girl a wonderful, imaginative story of five heroes who each have a grudge against an unkind ruler. Recommended at residency, I loved this movie.
Spaid, Sue, and Contemporary Arts Center. Ecovention: Current Art to Transform Ecologies. Cincinnati, Ohio: Contemporary Arts Center; Ecoartspace, 2002. Print. This book about ecovention, a topic I had not heard of before, was interesting because it had aspects of my work in landscape architecture and examples of how changing the intention of the desired result of an effort can radically change the path one travels on, as was shown in the examples of the artists’ work in intervening with ecology. This has appeal to me because it opened my mind to alternative methods of having a dialogue with nature, which is what I am hoping to achieve someday.
Starevich, Irene, and Ladislas Starevich, dir. The Tale of the Fox. 1937. Film. www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMBOjEDNG08 This animation film was based on a French fable about a rascal fox in an animal kingdom. Eventually he is brought to the court of the Lion, after killing a chicken, and then the kingdom is declared vegetarian. Very funny antics and story. Wonderful animation with puppets. Incredible scenery. My favorite scene featured frogs at night, with the moonlight reflecting off the lake.
Tarkovsky, Andrei, dir. Ivan’s Childhood. Mosfilms, 1962. Film. This is a beautiful but tragic film, the story of a Russian boy during World War II whose parents and sister were killed. He seeks revenge against the German soldiers. Flashbacks and dreams tell much of the story of Ivan’s youth. Viewers enjoy beautiful photography of lakes, fields, and marshes in the moonlight. The soldiers protect Ivan, but he insists on continuing to spy. The big reveal at the end, which we learn from found documents in a jail: Ivan was hanged.
Uzuri, Imani. Placeless. Perf. Numinous et al. Ecstatic Musical Festival, Kaufman Music Center. 16 March 2013. Imani Uzuri’s singing voice took me through an emotional experience of height and depth, speaking to me of what it means to be alive without telling me by the sound of her voice. She explained her work was inspired by the Psalms, the Sufi poet Rumi and African A merican Spirituals. The piece that resonated with the most, was her piece called Hush Arbor. She introduced the work by explaining a hush arbor was a secret place created by enslaved African Americans located in the woods where they would compose songs, worship, socialize and plan rebellion. The title moved me immediately, and the image of a secret gathering place in the woods, where singing, prayer and communion took place protected by the trees and nature, and all were hushed. Her singing took me there into the woods, with her friends and family, huddled as precious beings singing their about their lives, hopes and anger, asking for help and guidance from a greater source than any of us. I loved listening to all of her work. I felt very fortunate to have been able to listen and enjoy.
Wenders, Wim, dir. Wings of Desire. 1987. Film. This is a movie about an angel that inhabits Berlin with other angels. The angels can hear all the voices and thoughts of mortals. They inhabit a city, ride on subways, perch on top of monuments and tall buildings, frequent libraries, and go to shows and the circus. They become involved with others emotionally, but they don’t speak. The angel wants to experience the world as a person. He falls in love with a trapeze artist, breaks from his immortal life, and joins her. With English subtitles.
Zollner, Frank. Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings. New York: Taschen America, LLC, 2011. Print. The book contains a beautiful collection of the artist’s paintings and drawings. It was a reminder to me of his amazing talent. I was particularly interested in his sketches on flight.
Within these letters I explore precepts of Buddhism such as emptiness, impermanence and transformation through sculpture, drawing, video, writing, and photography. These letters also tell a story of a personal journey and a deep relationship developed through a synthesis of artwork, spiritual practice, and dialogue with another.