Zahradní ateliér - Situace na dvorku / Garden studio - Situation in the backyard




Mind Trips: Explorations of Inner Space by Southern California Artists

Louise Lewis, April, 2003


"I believe deeply that we must find, all of us together, a new spirituality.  This new concept ought to be elaborated alongside the religions, in such a way that all people of good will could adhere to it."  Dalai Lama1



In October of 2002, the Art Galleries of California State University Northridge (CSUN) introduced the work of Czech artist Vaclav Vaculovic to the California public.  Entitled The Soul of the Sixth Sense, the exhibition revealed the spiritual orientation of the artist, and by extension, of the Forfest Festival in Kromeriz, with which he has been closely associated for several years.  During his brief visit to CSUN, Mr. Vaculovic invited us to present an exhibition of regional artists for the Forfest Festival of 2003.  Given the relatively short time to organize such a show, an e-mail was sent to the more than sixty Southern California artists teaching currently in the CSUN Art Department, with the expedient requirement that all works be on paper, not to exceed twenty-four by twenty-four inches.  Ultimately sixteen artists were able to participate; their works reflect directly or indirectly the title/theme of the exhibition.


"Mind Trips" was first used in the United States as a New Age term in the 60s and 70s to signify the imaginative forays of the counter culture. In their music, poetry, art and multi-faceted activities, the generation of flower children, or "hippies", reacted against the politics, economics, religion, and cultural practices of mainstream society.  Promoting their alternative vision, they sang the praises of Mother Earth, civil rights, affirmation of the inner self, and universal peace in a  global community.


In the last decades of the twentieth century, the zeitgeist of the 60s and 70s was replaced by a new rush to materialism, accompanied by the growth of media and corporate monopolies.  Environmental abuse, repression, greed, and warfare continued unabated.  Against this decidedly anti-new age backdrop,  "mind trips" is still used to refer to a collection of intellectual, spiritual, and psychological thoughts of the human mind.  The search for hope and meaning is the goal of these trips into inner space..


Los Angeles has always had changeable boundaries, multiple centers, an international population, a stunning array of geographic wonders--ocean, mountains, desert--and a Mediterranean climate.  Each of these resources contributes to the rich tapestry of belief systems permeating our area.  The artists in this exhibition, as part of a regional wealth of human achievement, serve as both visionaries and teachers.  Among these artists there is strong interest in ecology, feminism, civil rights, ethics in contemporary science, and tribal, ancestral, and cultural guideposts to self-discovery.




Great Spirit, give us hearts to understand;

Never to take from creation's beauty more than we give;

Never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed;

Never to deny to give our hands

Fir the building of Earth's beauty;

Never to take from her what we cannot use.

Give us hearts to understand

That to destroy Earth's music is to create confusion;

That to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty;

That to callously pollute her fragrance

Is to make a house of stench;

That as we care for her she will care for us .  Amen

from United Nations Environmental Sabbath2


Kim Abeles has dedicated her career to public art and the soul-strengthening process of human collaboration.  The urban environment and nature’s desecration by human intervention are the most prominent leitmotifs in her work. Crown of Thorns translates an icon of Christ's suffering into a metaphor for machine-age violation of Mother Earth.  Wreath in Rust intertwines and parallels the possible extinction of human DNA helix with the decay of film archives. 


Samantha Fields also indicts the transgressions to the  planet when our species plays god.  She subverts human attachment to colorfully idealized animals, characteristic of children's toys.  The initial appeal of Frog and Dolly is upended when one notices the monstrous distortions of Dolly's two heads or Frog's malformed limbs.  These are the outcomes of genetic mutation through environmental pollution or laboratory experiments.


John O'Brien provides cautionary scenarios against tampering with nature, wittily revealing supernatural underpinnings of scientific phenomena in modern labs. With a network of fine white lines he alters textbook images of scientists. In Gremlin Series C, a plasma surge produces more than charged currents for Niels Bohr, and in Gremlin Series L, solar waves radiate from spectral images on the board, virtually erasing the presence of the scientist George Hale.


Joyce Campbell sees the inherent beauty in aspects of science, first studying the microcosm of bacterial cultures and more recently of  photographic emulsions.  The infinitesimal scale of subjects she studies is usually contradicted by mural size prints. For this exhibition she has reduced the scale of the prints, without losing the aura of magical transformation. Mindanoa and Marianas mesmerize the viewer with their breathing forms, despite there non-organic origins.





Lesley Krane has enlisted her art in a personal journey of healing. Recently recovering from cancer, she became sensitized to the reality of human frailty, expressed in the skewed perspectives of her photographs.  The disorienting view of a chicken (from the series Farm) and of the disfiguration of her own after radiation treatment (from the series Ablation) indicate the malaise of changed visions.  She confronts and attempts to repair these visual anomalies with hand-stitched lines.


Violet Blunt also focuses on healing, consulting annals of folk medicine to envision a natural and humble form of cure, the blueberry. Having defected from Communist Poland with her mother in the 1970s, she takes on the challenge of contemporary life as mother, stepmother, sister, immigrant, artist, teacher, muse, and diva.  In focusing on an elementary unit of nature, she counteracts these roles in a search for personal balance.


Death and ritual are universal aspects of human existence.  Cheryl Dullabaum reveals her grief and prayer in her Vigil series, created at her dying father's bedside.  Adopting an ancient ritual calendar based on the lunar cycle, she created one work a day, the twenty-eighth work on the day of her father's death.  She juxtaposes art historical images of the Virgin Mary and Christ with details of landscape, textile patterns and other items of shared memories between a father and daughter.


Ruth Anderson has practiced solitary rituals at the advent of the full moon for some seventeen years. References to ancient and tribal rituals and female energy are essential aspects of her art.  In one image the full moon is centered between four elements of nature--earth, wind, fire and water.  In another, the moon is tugging at the biological forces of the earth.  Both images suggest a strong synergy and cyclic parallels between earth and its younger satellite.


Kat Skraba creates rituals through her performance art.  She becomes psychologist/actor/artist in elaborate tableaux whose formal elements are major statements on their own.  This exhibition includes stills from two performances, The Invisibility Project and Sleepwalking.  In these works, she unravels the constraints that clothing styles impose on women and the underprivileged, and suggests psychic solutions from alternate realities.


Fantasy is the captivating force in the book illustrations of Laurel Long. Tales of magic and imaginary places are the lore of children's literature. Beguiling illustrations serve to nourish their visions and attest to the power of visual influences in shaping a child's memory. Long adopts the refined illusionistic style of the Northern Renaissance. The otherworldly details of her images invite and entice moments of enchantment, as evidenced in  The Mightiest Heart and The Magic Nesting Doll .



Representation and interpretation as human mental endeavors underscore the paired photographs of Kyungmi Shin.   Green Box is a manufactured mesh structure on the interior ceiling of a Belgian shopping mall, the color intentionally suggesting elements of nature.  Bicycle on the other hand, reverses the human/nature juxtaposition, by intimating that the natural green vine has indeed captured and paralyzed the mechanical object.


Sarah Whorf also explores the interconnection of seemingly unrelated objects, events, and  memory.  Through collage and printmaking techniques, she recontextualizes symbols, ideas and forms of a personal vocabulary. She eschews precise meaning .  In both Inhale, Exhale, Repeat and Durer Ingested: Wasp Nest, delicate abstract patterns are overlaid with seemingly unrelated objects, defying the viewer to comprehend any particular message.


Collage, process and pattern are  also basic attributes of Bee Colman's work. Her primary medium is textiles, where she applies her familiarity with the global contributions of women to the field in her sculptures and wall hangings. Paper, as it shares with textiles its origin in fibers, is a natural medium for Colman.  Here, Cosmic Blocks and Polka Dot Blocks merge symbols and patterns in an abstract reference to her muse who aids in the conquest of creative obstacles.


The instinct to right wrongs and to expose dysfunctional aspects of human interaction is an enduring part of the art world canon.  Seth Hill composes digital photo collages using reproductions of art historical icons to accentuate the hyperstimulating impact of the mass media.  Vermeer is teamed up with Egyptian hieroglyphics and Quaker Oats labels, in a visual world  run amok.  Our challenge is to rearrange it into a meaningful discourse.


The collages of Beverly Decker in this exhibition are social commentary on the recent events in Afghanistan.  In Petrified  #1 and Petrified #2 people embrace, simultaneously expressing grief and  joy.  Decker contrasts  the Yin and Yang of events, and is inclusive in portraying both sides of this human tragedy.  The intensity of feelings in this politico-religious conflict is highlighted by the scraped graphite surface of the images.


Caroline Maxwell traveled to artists' colonies in Capetown, South Africa, for a month last year, and drew an image a day to record her impressions of the moment.  For both of these works, she drew a figure adapted from a photo of a running soldier, rotated it, and immersed it into either a rural haystack or an American Indian encampment.  These enigmatic and disturbing visions are commentaries on the inequities of the human condition whether in Africa or North America.


The map of human belief systems shows a mutable terrain, a landscape where crisscrossing journeys of the mind can reveal new discoveries, re-acquaint with former realms, and form an infinite network of potential explorations.  Artists are cartographers and Los Angeles is one hub of the topography.   In this exhibition, artists have mapped some of their mind trips and  discoveries in inner space.


The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed;

The deed develops into habit;

And habit hardens into character.

So watch the thought and its ways with care

And let it spring from love

Born out of concern for all beings.

The Buddha3  




1Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, Life Prayers.  San Francisco:  Harper, 1996,  p. xix.

2 Ibid.,  p. 112

3 Ibid.,  p.13