Marin Arts & Culture MAC_JUNE_upload - Page 45

I was introduced to the idea of wabi- sabi through O’Hanlon Center for the Arts a couple of years ago. The iconic art center in Mill Valley has had a 14-year tradition of hosting an annual wabi-sabi gallery show, and I had the good fortune to persuade Mr. Koren to speak on the concept in O’Hanlon Center’s gallery. I had hopes of gaining some insight into this elusive concept, something alien not only to me, but much of Western culture, so often obsessed with the “new and shiny.” Wabi-sabi, I discovered, is the exact opposite. It is about seeing the beauty in the old and rusty. The idea of having a wabi-sabi show is credited to Joan Sadler, who was a devoted student of Ann O’Hanlon. Ann, and her husband and sculptor Richard O’Hanlon, traveled to Japan in the ‘50s to study the art and calligraphy there. The O’Hanlons’ lives and art touched on the spirit of wabi- sabi. Their handmade studios and the simplicity, serenity, and unpolished elegance of their home and property displayed a reverence for nature. So it is no wonder that one of the first places to spotlight the wabi-sabi concept locally was the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts. Joan Sadler was quick to recognize its particular resonance with the core philosophy of the center, that emphasizes opening our senses to the natural world around us, and noticing and finding beauty in the simplest and least pretentious of its elements.  The O’Hanlon Center website page dedicated to wabi-sabi says: “To understand wabi-sabi, we have to grasp the concept that beauty is not in the object, but rather in the experience of it—the mood, the atmosphere, the feeling it evokes—a feeling that even the Japanese refuse to try to define.  Its scope is not limited to art, but becomes an overall approach to life, to the magic of everyday living. In essence, it invites us to quiet contemplation, encouraging us to slow down, look closely and be patient.” Joan, who intended to co-jury this year’s show, passed away in March at the age of 95. This year’s wabi- sabi exhibition will be dedicated to her. One of Joan’s photos was chosen to announce the show both at the center and on the cover of the June Mill Valley Arts Commission ArtWalk program. Joan’s co-juror, writer and assemblage artist Abby Wasserman, will be joined by artist and wabi-sabi student Elaine James to select from the works submitted to the show. Both jurors are facilitators at the O’Hanlon Center, and both have a deep interest in the aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi.  Elaine James has visited Japan twice, first in 1967 when she spent several weeks in Tokyo and a then a few months in Kamakura.  Her studies have been with Yoshiko Wada at Fiberworks in Berkeley and at San Francisco State in the ‘70s when she studied historical tea ceremony and literature in translation. I asked Elaine to offer some pointers as to what wabi-sabi is: “Wabi-Sabi is strongly present in Japanese Tea Ceremony:  “Each Meeting, Only Once”—“Ichi-go, Ichi-e”— expresses the importance of the aesthetic. We are meeting to drink tea, and it may be our first time, our last time, our only time. This meeting place, this picture, this scroll, this image, this tea vessel, this cup, this tea, this fire, this water, this body is here now and may be gone by tomorrow. The place, the furnishings, the service are often old, they may be cracked, they may be rusted, they have a worn loveliness. This poem by Fujiwara Teika was written during a period of war and expresses the aesthetic and the mood of Wabi-Sabi: Casting wide my gaze Neither flowers Nor scarlet leaves A bayside hovel of reeds In the autumn dusk Personally, I am curious how summer, the season associated with bright colors and life bursting out, was selected for the annual wabi-sabi show. Late winter or autumn seems more fitting, since wabi-sabi is typically associated with the very beginning or ending of things. Perhaps it is a reminder in the middle of the year that this season too will pass, that all things age and move to impermanence and there is great wonder and beauty in that. We invite you to experience Bay Area artists’ Western interpretation of the wab-sabi aesthetic at the 14th Annual Wabi-Sabi Exhibition in the O’Hanlon Gallery at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, 616 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley, June 1-22. Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 3pm and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. The opening reception will be on Tuesday, June 6, from 6-8pm., with an Artists’ Roundtable Dialogue starting from 4-6pm. MAC MARIN ARTS & CULTURE 45