WayMaking Artist’s 2019 Calendar by JulieV

2018 was the inaugural year for my limited edition calendar featuring photographs I have taken while in a state of mindful awareness, a state of being and creating that I eventually came to refer to as my contemplative photography practice.  More about that practice in paragraph 3 below.

Making the Calendar this year and last year:  As a creative act in and of itself,  selecting the images, assigning each to a specific month in the year and the design of the accompanying calendar page was so satisfying for me that I felt compelled to repeat the process for a 2019 calendar.  In 2018 I accompanied the images with poetic prose and poetry that felt somehow resonant with spiritual elements in the photographs.  In 2019 the images are presented wordlessly in my attempt to discover if they indeed are ‘worth a thousand words.’  Your feedback is welcome.  AND, I have a few more calendars left in the original run of 100 – they begin with February 2019 and end with January 2020.  Email me if you’re interested in purchasing one:  julia.m.volkmann@gmail.com —  $10 per calendar plus $2.50 to ship.  Tell me your birthdate and I’ll personalize it for you.

About my practice: Even before I found a way to label this practice, I had been explaining to the unfortunate souls who had to suffer my long philosophical ramblings on the subject that the act of taking the pictures afforded me an opportunity to be still and be totally immersed in the contemplation of the object or scene in situ; the quality of the light, the touch of air on my skin, the sounds of the place and the sense of being both observer and subject in the image, even if I was not seen  in the viewfinder.  My experience of capturing the image was actually an act of paying deep attention, which elicited in me a stillness, a focus, an awareness of the breath that everyday noise and bustle of life could never permit.

During my MFA IA studies at Goddard College in Vermont, my photographic practice was awakened again after lying dormant for some years. When I submitted a series of my photographs as part of my portfolio work for that semester, it became necessary to research this “thing” I was doing so that I could speak of this art practice in relationship to others’ work in the world – how it might be similar, where it differed, etc.  I was gratified to find Stephen Batchelor’s essay “Seeing the Light – Photography as Buddhist Practice” in Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art, edited by Mary Jane Jacob and Jacquelynn Baas (University of California Press, 2004).   I saw how Batchelor and I were aligned in our approach and experience, even though the work we produced was not at all similar.   Having read his essay, I was able to lay claim to the term “contemplative photography” as the way to refer to my practice.

About the cover image:  I took this picture on my way back home from Goddard College summer session in August 2014.  I had stopped at a local motel for the night.  The next morning this motorcycle was in the space next to mine.  I was stopped dead in my tracks by the message and had to dig out my camera to take the picture before I went across the way to get my free coffee and continental breakfast (i.e. dry sweet roll) prior to continuing my drive home.  When I feel most aimless or hopeless or clueless about whatever road I have found myself on  – be it spiritual, metaphysical or literal I try to remind myself of the value of exploring.  The straightest distance between two points is not  A way, or the ONLY  way, or the best way, to get where you’re going. Life happens on the journey.

 

Commencing Now

On Sunday, July 26th I participated in Goddard College’s commencement exercises on the beautiful Plainfield, Vermont campus.  In my mind’s eye I see in vibrant technicolor the beautiful souls shining through the faces of the faculty, fellow graduates, other students in the program and the alumni present, physically and in spirit via Facebook posts.  The final graduation requirement, fulfilled that weekend, was a presentation to the college community, giving an overview of the research and artistic work over the course of my studies.  I attempted to provide a thumbnail sketch of my portfolio, using this website as my visual and sonic tool for introducing small bits of the work produced.

The cover of my 173 page portfolio document along with its title, (I’ve nicknamed it my magnificent obsession) is shown here.

Microsoft Word - JM VOLKMANN DRAFT 5 Inc I & C 5.28.docx

In the portfolio’s introduction I included the following parable as metaphor for my spiritual and creative pilgrimage of discovery and becoming as an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary artist within my studies at Goddard College.   This is excerpted from Sacred Rituals, Connecting with Spirit through Labyrinths, Sand Paintings & Other Traditional Arts (Fair Winds, Gloucester MA, 2004) co-authored by Eileen London and Belinda Recio.

“A poverty-stricken rabbi from Cracow had a recurring dream about a treasure buried near abridge in Prague. Because his dream was persistent, he was compelled to travel in search of the treasure. When he arrived at the bridge, he discovered that it was heavily guarded, but having traveled so far, the rabbi lingered in the area waiting for his chance to search for the treasure. After several days, a guard approached him and demanded to know the nature of his business. Discouraged, the rabbi reluctantly revealed his dream and that he was there to search for the treasure. The guard admonished him, but then told him that he, too, had a recurring dream of a treasure, only in his dream, the treasure was buried under the hearth at the house of a poor rabbi in Cracow. The guard assured the rabbi, however, that he wasn’t foolish enough to go hunting for a treasure just because it appeared in a dream. Upon hearing the guard’s tale, the rabbi became exuberant, hurried home, and sure enough, under his hearth, he discovered an immense treasure.”(175)

Authors London and Recio state “The message of this parable reminds us that the sacred we seek is already within our hearts, but sometimes, in order to recognize it, we need to travel away from the familiar. This is the essence of pilgrimage—an inner restlessness that calls us away from home, to search for what the heart holds sacred. …Real or metaphoric, a pilgrimage (historically) had, and still has, the purpose of finding something that holds profound significance to the traveler, culminating in a deepened spiritual state or personal transformation.” (176)

In the weeks ahead, I will include excerpts from my portfolio to illustrate waypoints of my own creative and spiritual pilgrimage throughout my studies in Goddard’s MFA program in Interdisciplinary Arts.

Thank you, Goddard.

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FOOTNOTES

London, Eileen, and Belinda Recio. “Seeking What the Heart Holds Sacred.” Sacred Rituals: Connecting with Spirit through Labyrinths, Sand Paintings & Other Traditional Arts. Gloucester, MA: Fair Winds, 2004. 175-85. Print.

FLASH OF INSIGHT on THE ROAD

Flash of Insight Beckons Flash of InsightWhile driving to Vermont to attend commencement at Goddard College, I stopped at a rest stop along I 90.  After driving most of the day, its no longer clear to me whether I was in eastern Ohio or had just crossed into New York.  The late afternoon sun took my attention away from my road-weary body and I brought the Cairn to this site to bear witness to this ephemeral moment in time and space.  Refreshed, I continued on my trip and arrived at Goddard the next day.