Monday, July 6, 2009

Threshold

Submitted by Michelle (Ochniak) Wark
My gifted sister-in-law is earning a master's degree in art from Azusa Pacific University. Last night was one of the last steps in her long journey of research, education, self discovery, and artistic process. Her final exhibition at the Duke Art Gallery was an event that David and I felt privileged and so happy to attend.
While I consider myself crafty and even musically gifted, I don't really think of myself as a creative person. I don't possess the talent to make something from nothing. Or to make an artistic interpretation of a feeling/idea. Alyse, on the other hand, is amazingly talented in this way.

Alyse gave a beautiful talk about her artistic process and what inspired her installation. My paraphrase will not do it justice, but I will give it a whirl for the sake of the blog.

The art installation is based on scripture in Isaiah 61:1-3, "...he has sent me...to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes..." Alyse talked about the importance of family, home and the memories created by growing up with grandparents and parents who collected and cherished things. The fireplace below is a container for branches that Alyse collected from California Black Oak trees in her yard. They symbolize the grieving process - particularly the loss Alyse felt when her grandparents passed on - and the solitude and loneliness that one can feel when grieving.

Working through the grief, one can find beauty and joy on the other side.
The idea that grief does not have to be solely associated with death, but can be over the loss of a hope or a dream or even a time gone by resonated with me. About 4 years ago doctors discovered that I was experiencing early menopause and most likely would not be able to create a child with David. My grief over the loss of the ability to have children and be a mother took me a long time to process, but as many know, I have discovered the joy in knowing that I can be a mother-like figure to the children in my classroom, to my nieces and nephew and even to former students who are all grown up.
My adorable niece and nephew, Anna and Max.
My brother Michael, the artist and me.

If you live in the Los Angeles area I encourage you to visit Alyse's exhibition. Not only to see the amazing work she has created, but to let it inspire in you a "crown of beauty instead of ashes."

MFA Thesis Exhibition by Alyse Miller Ochniak
July 5 - 10, 2009
Duke Art Gallery
Azusa Pacific Univerty
701 Foothill Blvd.
Azusa, CA 91702

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