It’s all about the “Woo Woo”

By Stacy Davies

Posted November 10, 2011 in Arts & Culture

Recently I’ve been watching some YouTube videos by spiritualist Eckhart Tolle, whose book A New Earth is one of Oprah’s favorites, and thinking a lot about what he calls “being present.” Many philosophers—especially Buddhists—talk about being in the present, about not turning your brain into a cacophony of chaos by allowing echoes from the past and fears of the future to invade at every turn. This also includes over-analyzing the present moment itself—that one right there, or, wait . . . yup, that one too! (Speedy little things.) It also means not over-thinking every little thing to death, allowing your brain to lead you around by the theoretical nose until you’re practically pretzelized with confusion, irritation and angst, sucker-punched by your own stupid, aggressive thoughts. What creeps.

So, after listening to Tolle for about a week (not, you know, every hour of every day, or anything, and I have not shaved my head—yet), I embarked on some behavior modification to reclaim my present moments, one of which included deactivating my Facebook account. (Bets are currently being waged to see how long I last.) After all, being on it only made my world seem smaller; if I know what you had for dinner tonight right down to the flavor of croutons or that you had your tubes tied this morning, I don’t know, it makes everything seem so trivial, like under a magnifying glass, like going into the ant hill with the ants instead of looking at them from afar, you know, with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. After all, the more mystery, the more the world opens up with unknown horizons, unknown adventures and unknown casseroles. “Less is more” quiets the cacophony.

Last month, before I’d embarked on this particular revelatory jump, I’d seen Joy McAllister’s exceptional, oil abstractions in “Paradigm Drift” at the Main Street Gallery. Abstracts are not always the slice of lime in my gin and tonic, but there was something about these works that appealed to me—their color and composition—and something else that I couldn’t explain. Now, on the other side of my recent rehab, I saw her work again and realized what that extra something was: presence.

Much like listening to a piece of instrumental music or staring at a flower or sunset, the feeling of being present without the need to think about or name what you are experiencing also comes from art. McAllister, in fact, writes in her artist statement that her new work actually emerged by turning her previous mode of thinking about her work inside out, moving “away from creating within a concept, and instead toward creation as the concept.” It’s therefore no coincidence that her organic display of structure-less creation was instantly enveloping.

The work itself speaks directly to the light and form we find all around us, much of which is often muddled or hidden by our industry and overactive minds. Driven by an instinctual inner genesis, McAllister’s knife and brush lay on texture and pigment in what might be called a super-conscious state—she’s already equipped with years of skill and no longer needs to question the technique but merely allow it to be the mechanism through which her creativity flows. The results are glorious and constitute her best work to date.

Now, I’d be out of a job if I didn’t describe the imagery itself, so forgive the step out of “presence” when I write that within her “formless” forms we find grand, sweeping landscapes of mountains, valleys, chasms and peaks, and a fusion of vibrating soulscapes merging and melding into a synthesis of chromaticity and candescence that positively wows the senses. One might even suggest that within each image resides the energy from which it was created, and staring at it quietly for a few moments might briefly transport you out of this clanging, wily world.

My friend Tamara calls this type of talk “woo woo”—which always makes me laugh, because if anyone else besides me were writing about vibrating souls and present-tense brain rewiring, I’d probably think they were an asshole. (You’re therefore welcome to think that of me, without repercussion.) McAllister’s work can weather my woo woo or anyone else’s, of course, and if you can bring yourself to silence your phone for a few hours (the world will not end), go feed your head something you can’t get from tweeting and fill your soul with the white noise of the now. You might just hear something new for a change.

“Paradigm Drift” at Main Street Gallery, 252-C S. Main St., Pomona, (909) 868-2970; Open Tues.-Sat., 10AM-PM.


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