The Laws of Nature

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sonabai, revisited

Friends, you could knock me over with a feather! A couple of days ago I posted about the role of intuition and used the example of Sonabai, an artist from remote, rural India. I learned about her story from a book written by Stephen Huyler, who has dedicated many decades of his life as an anthropologist and filmographer to the culture and people of this region. His documentary film of Sonabai and book are a MUST SEE/READ! To get to the point, Stephen Huyler read my blog and responded to it and our comments. I'm highlighting his remarks here, so you don't miss them:

Kathy and the rest of you, I am delighted to just find out about your blog and that you are focusing on Sonabai. You certainly have told her story well, Kathy, and you, Carolyn, are right about the way that Sonabai transformed her life, brought light, joy and fullness of being into it through her art. When I first visted her home in 2001, the friend that I was with commented that it was like walking into the Sistine Chapel. Not that it had anything in common with it stylistically, but that it was a complete and resonant sacred space. I was so completely changed by the experience that I have spent the past nine years of my life dedicated to portraying it to those outside of that remote region of India. I would find myself wide awake late at night just marveling at it.And yes, Sonabai's story is not unique. It is a human phenomenon spread throughout the world. People everywhere find within themselves the sparks creative inspiration with which to light up their dark experiences and change their existence. Sonabai's story and art are just particularly evocative, but this state of pulling grace from deep within ourselves,whether it is archetypal or original genius, is a fact of life and one that I fully believe needs to be heralded — particularly at a time when we are constantly being shown how we have all damaged our world and told that there may be no solutions for our future...
- Stephen Huyler, December 13, 2009

13 comments:

PAMO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
-Don said...

How cool is this?!? Thank you for sharing Sonabai's remarkable story and Stephen's wonderful comments. Isn't it great how small our world has become thru the internet?

-Don

hwfarber said...

I read this last night--very exciting. I wonder if solitude is a prerequisite for being truly creative. I will read the book.

Mark Sheeky said...

Have a feather! Isn't the Internet great? For me solitude can spark the need to create, because art is a form of communication and those with social needs can satisfy that need by painting and communicating with "everyone". Whether that art is "creative" is a different matter. For most of my adult life I had very little social contact, my best friend was a pen-pal then email pal I wrote and write to every couple of weeks. That's mostly changed now, thanks to my art, but I'm sure that those years have made me a better artist. I wonder what Sonabai would have had to say if she had been discovered earlier and lived beyond the initial burst of success.

Margaret Ryall said...

Oh, I'm so behind but my time is my own again. I feel like I missed something really important by not reading and responding to the initial post. I will backtrack and connect with it.

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Congratulations Kathy! The beauty and "karma" of sharing what we like and discover about other artists!

Stephen Huyler said...

What a wonderful blog! I am so involved with the issues you are discussing and love the many comments, insights and questions. I encourage any of you interested in learning more about Sonabai to check out www.sonabai.com. Although at the moment youmay need high speed to navigate it properly. It contains, among other things, a 7 minute version of the 30 minute film I just made about her, a narrated slide show about her, a 3 minute 'walk thru' of the exhibition of her art I curated at Mingei International Museum in San Diego (open until Sept 4, 2010), and a slide show of the same.

Now,in response to Mark: Sonabai did receive national and international attention for her art as well as being given India's highest accolade: the prestigious President's Award (india's version of the Nobel Prize) and yet it really did not affect either her or her art. She remained a quiet, withdrawn, truly lovely individual until she died two years ago. Her art was always joyous, colorful, whimsical and delightful despite both her earlier severe oppression and her later relative fame. I believe that her continued existence living in such an isolated area of India far away from thr hustle and bustle of urban life (when not traveling to exhibit her art) added greatly to this unique expression of creativity.

I look forward to further discussions...

Kathy said...

Hi PAMO and Don - yeah, this was great! The internet HAS shrunk the world.

Hi Hallie and Mark ... the role of solitude in creativity would be a great blog post! All of my creativity began during times of solitude and the desire to express through visual or musical modes.

Kathy said...

Hi Stephen, Thanks so much for providing us with the link to your website and for providing us with additional information about the San Diego exhibition. As I recall from your presentation last summer, Sonabai had no recollection of her trip to San Diego. Emotionally, she blocked out all the international fuss and events that surrounded her, and upon return to her home engaged in sharing her art form with others by teaching them and allowing them to work side-by-side with her on pieces she was creating. I was particularly struck by that story because the art world in which I exist is fiercely competitive. The closest I've come to a cooperative experience is this blog, where we support each other and freely share our ideas without fear of intimidation. That's why I keep blogging. Again, thank you for participating in our discussions and I hope you'll feel free to continue as we examine other issues associated with fine art!

hwfarber said...

I just visited the Sonabai site--how uplifting and amazing, beautiful woman with beautiful hands. I was struck by how her birds and trees are similar to those painted by Jonathan Winters (yes, the comedian) in his book of paintings, Hang-Ups. I look at his work when I need a reason to smile.

I wish I could see Sonabai's work up close and in person. A great discovery.

Carolina Moon Arts Studio said...

I agree that solitute can definitely play a role in sparking creativity. A recent personal situation which put me in a place where I spent an unusual amount of time on my art propelled me to not only express myself but also helped me to get to another level of artwork. I always say "Art saved me."

Carolina Moon Arts Studio said...

Thank you Stephen for commenting on Kathy's blog. It is so nice to have a real connection to the author of such a wonderful story and hear your thoughts and ideas.

Kathy said...

Thanks for commenting, Margaret and Peggy. Always good to hear from you!

Hallie - I didn't know about Jonathan Winters' paintings! I'll have to look them up. Thanks.

Carolyn - You've handled remarkably difficult situations with creativity and grace. You're a role model for us all!