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'Stream' Created Through Patience and Meditation
By Karen Bossick
The art of meditation and the art of breathing infuse Dana Lynn Louis’ art with an indelible uniqueness.
Louis employed her reverence for breath into the glass she blew as she created dozens of glass prayer beads for her sculpture “Oscillation,” which hangs from the ceiling in Friesen Gallery at Sun Valley Road and First Avenue N. in Ketchum.
And she meditatively strung hundreds of crystal beads together to complete that and other sculptures.
“As a yoga instructor I’ve always been in touch with my breathing as a way to move us through life,” said Louis, whose work is collected internationally. “But my breath became particularly significant 17 years ago when my sister was dying of lung cancer. That really propelled me into using art as healing work. I created an uplifting positive work for a place where kids got chemotherapy.”
Louis has spent this past week on a ladder at Friesen Gallery painting the wall behind her “Oscillation” sculpture. Using a small brush and acrylic paint to create the effect of gold leaf, she started with a small circle and meditatively worked outwards..
A round mirror imposed over that painting features tiny prayer beads drawn onto it.
Louis walked into the middle of her prayer beads.
“I think it’s important being able to be in the prayer beads given this difficult time on planet politically and environmentally,” she said.
The Portland artist will be present to discuss her exhibition, titled “Stream,” during tonight’s Gallery Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 10.
Louis has a few large fragile sculptures suspended from the ceiling in the exhibition.
“Constellation” is made of crystal beads and mica discs that resemble sand dollars. The suspension references Louis’ interest in Tibetan Buddhism and its concept of suspension, the intermediate step between life and rebirth after death.
“I have a lot of interest in layering. And my works are about spaces in between, as well. Space is important both physically and symbolically—space can reference many things. And, as you can see, my sculptures are transparent, as well.”
In addition to her suspended work, Louis is exhibiting a new work that she just brought back with her from Senegal where she spent several weeks as an artist-in residence.
Louis took some fabric with her not knowing what she might do with it. The day following the presidential election she was so despondent that she dyed the fabric black, then wrapped herself in it, sitting in the studio for a day.
Finally, she told herself: “You can only cry so long before you turn this into a positive.”
She layered the fabric with gauze, then meditatively began painting cellular matter on it. The cells resemble a vase with an organism growing it.
”I had never made anything on fabric before,” said Louis. “But it pays homage to the village of Sinthian where she was living and the connectivity between the people of the village, their medical center, their agriculture and art.”
Louis is also showing a few examples from a daily diary she began that she called “Landscapes of the Inner Eye.” She took photographs of clouds and other things in the natural world, then drew wispy lines on to it via computer to depict the energy she felt. Dana then printed the images on metal.
“It’s about collaborating with nature,” she said. “I haven’t Photoshopped any of these.”
Louis will invite viewers to write things they wish to clear from their lives or the world on a card during her exhibition at Friesen Gallery. She will do the same at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts where she is creating meditative art with videos she shot of moving clouds for The Center’s “Contemplative Practice,” visual arts exhibition, which opens March 31.
She will lead a ceremony to burn the envelopes, sending the collected prayers and wishes on their way during the Sun Valley Wellness Festival over Memorial Day Weekend.
“The Clearing” stemmed from a 2014 show she did at Lewis and Clark College in Portland.
“I offered envelopes, thinking people would want to clear themselves of their ex-husband or their cancer. They began asking for more. They’d say,’ I’m going to Afghanistan to help women to get their voice back. Maybe I take them there.’ Pretty soon we had 3,000 participants all over the world.”
Louis also plans to create light projections outside the Sun Valley Inn during the Wellness Festival and teach a workshop about the way she uses her artwork in hospitals. Recently, for instance, she did a public art project for the Oregon State Hospital--best known as the setting for Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”--to humanize the setting.
“We strung beads to create a waterfall. And we had a dialogue in which I encouraged them to write words they would want to share with others about their lives, their dreams, their potential,” she recounted. “Those words are now etched into the glass of the building, greeting people as they walk in.”