Saturday, April 13, 2019

Variations on the Theme of Living

Variations on the Theme of Living

"My own discursive thoughts oppress me"

Detail - "My own discursive thoughts oppress me"

"There's Emptiness at the Center of Everything"

"Shrine to Endless Cycles"

"Shrine to Longing"

"Shrine to my out breath"

By Tom Wachunas

   “…My haptic meditation and the viewer’s contemplation of the result are intimately connected. Both are sensory experiences of repetition that can transform anxiety about impermanence, uncertainty and imperfection into curiosity about the mystery of what’s actually here in the present moment…” - Stacia Yeapanis,

EXHIBIT: PRACTICE –  works by Stacia Yeapanis / THROUGH May 4, 2019, at The Lemmon Gallery, located inside the Kent Stark Fine Arts Building, 6000 Frank Avenue, North Canton, Ohio / Gallery viewing hours are Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

   One of the most striking aspects of this exhibit is its paucity of works. The 12 pieces here by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis are situated throughout the gallery so that there’s an unusual amount of unoccupied wall space, leaving a plentitude of whiteness. Yet this apparent emptiness wants for nothing. It becomes an integral component of the exhibit’s contemplative character, allowing lots of space to ruminate. In this setting, the relatively few wall pieces on display acquire an uncanny largeness that belies their modest physical scale. And the air in the room feels charged with a potent serenity.

  If you string just the titles of Yeapanis’ five wall pieces and four zabutons (her hand-stitched meditation cushions) together, you might sense a beguiling spirituality at once personal and universal. It’s a lyrical, in-the-moment flow of consciousness that reads like a diary entry, or a poem: My own discursive thoughts oppress me. Come Back, Come Back, Come Back, Come Back. Nothing is Missing. Nothing is Wrong. When I stitch, I think about swimming. When I swim, I think about stitching. Perpetually wanting things different. However Long It Takes. There’s Emptiness at the Center of Everything. May I find stillness within change. I’m in Love with My Own Boring Life.

   Yeapanis has written in her statement accompanying this exhibit that her pieces are about “… a longing for stillness and a compulsion towards action…the sacredness of everyday cycles…”  She has constructed a symbolic iconography, airy and delicate, born out of the practice of repeated, cyclic actions. Her meticulous, focused process of making is a fascinating metaphor for mindful attention to the ephemeral moment.

    The dominant material in several of her works here is of a decidedly ordinary, even throwaway nature: toilet paper tubes. She slices them into lens-shaped loops, then connects them into tactile matrices of patterns intertwined with remnant threads from her zabutons. Collect, cut, connect, repeat.  Let’s get real for a moment and consider the types of cycles that we engage daily. Some are lofty, some lowly, some desired, some not. Toilet paper tubes. I’m reminded how much daily living requires repeated rituals that are simply necessary, however mundane: Eat, poop, wipe, repeat. This too shall pass.

   Then there are Yeapanis’ floor pieces, her shrines. One, Shrine to Longing, is a sumptuous sea of tiny, intensely colored upright cardstock scrolls seemingly emanating in undulant waves from a golden bowl. The piece evokes something indeed sacred - timeless and therapeutic, like the ceremonial sand paintings of Navajo shamans, or the spectacular sand mandalas from Tibetan Buddhist monks.

   Another, Shrine to my out breath, is an equally intricate sprawl of miniscule cardstock tubes, rings, gold leaf and beeswax sticks. Think of it as an interactive altar, awaiting fulfillment. Viewers are encouraged to make it so by placing one of the waxed sticks into the shrine, not too unlike lighting a vigil candle. Breathe in, breathe out, slowly. Repeat. Rites of passage.

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