There is much that is temporary in art as well as in life. As an artist, I am intrigued by those who create work of such a temporary nature. Some artwork is far more fleeting than others. Yet, are we not temporal creatures? Let us explore the parallels.
Temporary Art in Zimbabwe
First of all, a Zimbabwean creative, Peggy Masuku, paints her family’s huts. It takes her six months to gather the materials, create her paint, listen for the design and apply the paint. Bold and beautiful splashes of brown, black, gray and red adorn the exterior of their home. Since she uses ant hill soil, clay and ash to make the paint, it is of a perishable nature. When the rainy season starts, her artistry washes away, returning to the soil from whence it came. While her hut itself is a bit more durable, somehow her painted creation is reminiscent of the creation and destruction of an ant hill. Each is beautiful, intricate and purposeful in their own way. Both are vulnerable to the elements. It is ironic that the necessity of life giving rain water is what leads to the demise of her designs.
Here is an article with photos of Ms. Masuku’s award winning hut paintings. https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20210826-zimbabwes-contest-that-celebrates-the-artistry-of-women
Art of Tibetan Monks
Secondly, I’ve puzzled over the monks of Tibet who create fascinatingly detailed and colorful mandalas of sand. Typically these contain multiple lines of symmetry as well as all the colors of the rainbow. These take painstaking work. In fact, prior to and during the creation, it is a very meditative practice. A team of monks, who have trained in sand art for several years, typically take a number days to carefully place the sand. At the end of the process, the sand is immediately swept away to signify the impermanence of this life. Here is a very brief time-lapse example.
Sometimes it is puzzling to me how these artists could create these pieces knowing that their efforts would soon be demolished. When I make my art, I delight in viewing it for times to come. Yet, I fully know this physical reality is a temporary situation. Our youth is fleeting. Slow poke suckers don’t last forever. Any hair dresser would tell you that even a permanent wave is not permanent. Art is, alas, just as our earthly bodies, only temporary.
Matheson and Art
The temporary does affect both art and life. However, this perishable nature doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t make an effort with my art as well as my life. I’ve always been fascinated by the book, What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. This book has an extensive bibliography of numerous religious texts from around the world. I do not begin to know the exact source of his information as I’ve not read all of these resources.
What struck me as profound was what the book had to say about art. Matheson’s book speaks of art being influenced by the realms beyond. The perfect forms of anything we create is there. We are inspired (more or less) from the other side. He tells of grand, other worldly museums which house the most perfect forms, even and especially of the master artists! The quality of our earthly art is dependent upon how well we can connect to our inspiration.
The two examples of art I provided for you gave me great joy and pleasure to view and contemplate. I’ve no doubt that a part of the value of art as well as life is in how we make others feel. Perhaps some permanence may be in the memories carried on to the life everlasting. May we always remember our joys and pleasures!