This time, before I left for India I really searched hard for an idea for my art project. I have been working constantly and consistently for many years on refining my craft- drawing, photography, collage but this year I was determined that the idea itself would deepen.
Just so you understand, I have been searching for something authentic to communicate in my art for a long time. My thought process, until now, had been that I’m far too white and middle class - way too posh, for my life to be of any interest. My way around this was to tell other peoples stories, to illustrate other people's myths and beliefs. I found them to be intriguing and exciting and often a learning experience. However, something always scratched, tapped, in my head that this wasn’t enough.
So, this time, I sat down and really searched myself for inspiration.
What is really personal to me? “Teaching, Art, and India.”
What do I know really well? “The inside of my head” came back the answer, ” but that’s really confusing and messy” I laughed and went back to Teaching, Art, and India.
My idea started to develop into a reasonable project, I was going to concentrate on a part of Indian culture, and through acting and drawing the kids were going to reveal part of their story. The photographs and drawings would be illustrations of an aspect of their world.
This decided, I picked up a copy of The Bhagavad Gita. What could be more representative of Indian culture than the 700 verse, first known, the philosophical script of time? Little did I know what a trip this was going to become.
As The Bhagavad Gita was to be the theme of my art project, I didn’t just read it. I annotated, I drew, I diagrammed, I reread, I discussed, I ruminated and I visualised it. Something defiantly clicked and I was suddenly very excited about this book.
I was eager to start the art project with the Indian children, reflecting back I still did not realise quite the journey that I was embarking on.
My lesson plan was for the kids to act out the battle scene of The Bhagavad Gita. Then for them to redraw from photographs of their enactment. The final outcome a large collage of these drawings, theses warriors representing the Dharma Yudhha - the righteous war. The righteous war is really an allegory of the ethical and moral struggles of life, the battles that go on inside one's head.
One of the essential messages of The Bhagavad Gita is that we are all connected.
I was suddenly very conscious and aware that the knowledge of The Gita had become my knowledge. A total transference of thought. I had packed up this THOUGHT and taken it with me to India.
And - BOOM, there it was. True connection between me and the forty kids in the classroom. Symbiotic collaboration. Without my presence, the kids could not have created the artwork, and, more importantly to me, without their energy and spirit no drawings or photos would exist.
The project was no longer an illustration of The Bhagavad Gita - it was The Bhagavad Gita.
CONNECTION came into being through the artwork, the drawings were not symbol of this connection, THE DRAWING IS THE CONNECTION.
The trust and faith I had in the students was matched by the trust and faith that they had in me created truly authentic pieces of art work. This experience was the art.
Another essential message of The Bhagavad Gita. is Love, not just to love, but BE LOVE.
Now back in America, when I hold a small cut out warrior drawing in my hand I FEEL this connection, I feel LOVE. It is a feeling that arises from within me. THIS IS THE POWER OF ART.