Leaving the past: Mandalas help mark turn toward the possible

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

  • MICHAEL TILLYER

For the Gazette
Published: 1/2/2021 1:44:30 PM

In November, I had the good fortune to show work at the Anchor House of Artists in Northampton. I was invited to create mandalas that I have been making out of found materials.

There was room for seven small mandalas, about 2 feet each, and a large mandala. I spent the last part of October scavenging materials in the meadows and the woods and found some beautiful stuff: corn flowers, goldenrod, the heads of ornamental grasses, flowers of all sorts, pine cones, feathers, birds’ nests and many stones. I was able to use these in addition to my ongoing collection of shells, seaweed and wooden pieces.

The materials were transported to Anchor House and the mandalas were constructed over a few days. I had never created more than one mandala at a time, so this was a novel experience.

Each piece had a wooden base underneath and the bases were covered with thick black cloth. Things were added and subtracted, new ideas were tried and kept or abandoned. I found the process deeply satisfying. The ephemeral aspect of the mandalas allowed me to think freely, to react spontaneously and to make them and then let them go.

Well, sort of let them go …

What I did not anticipate was how attached I had become to the materials. They are beautiful and the “extra” materials, those that were not used in the mandalas at Anchor House, made themselves at home in my studio. They covered the floor, filled bags and boxes and hung from push pins above the windows.

It was like a pointless herbarium, an homage to the ghost of October past, and everything got drier and drier as time went on. The exhibition closed, but I was still walking around piles of potential mandalas that were not going to be made and were starting to drop bits everywhere.

I had become emotionally attached to dry weeds. How crazy is that? Can you spell f-i-r-e-h-a-z-a-r-d?

Christmas Eve day was just lovely. It was mild for December and not windy. I got up determined to accomplish something of significance, and the first thing that greeted my eyes in the studio were those lovely, fragile, very dry materials.

I cleaned out the burning bowl in our side yard, brought out armloads of grasses, flowers, corn stalks and seed heads and lit a little tinder in the bowl. It seemed like the perfect way to celebrate leaving fall and to embrace the winter that is coming, to give up what was done and go on to what will come.

We are in a time of transition; from dark to light, from infection to vaccination, from fear to hope, from forced isolation to reunions, from confrontation to cooperation. Let’s hope that we are smart enough to embrace the change.

Out with the old, in with the new ...




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