"I love working with a variety of subjects. What catches my eye is light and color. Realism allows me to play with an infinite number of scenarios. My abstractions are simply a magnification of reality, still dealing with the same issues found in my figurative and descriptive work."
- Kat O'Connor
One way or another, all art is collaborative. It collaborates with the more than human world, with the world of possibilities, with historical circumstances, with local settings, with memories and hopes, with the materials from which it is made. No artist is an island. She is always making something from what is given to her, including (after it has happened) her own experience.
Visit Kat O'Connor's website. Let your eyes rest and yet widen in her portfolios of water, horses, urban scenes, landscapes. She is "magnifying reality with focus on light and color and playing with different scenarios." In the vision of integral spirituality developed by process philosophers and theologians, C is for connection, P is for play, V is for vision, and W is for wonder.* The work of Kat O'Connor is a vivid example of connection and play, vision and wonder, plus more.
Consider the two images offered above. When art collaborates with the more than human world, it often begins with an artist's experience of the felt energies of the place at issue: the aliveness of the rocks, for example. The aliveness is not simply a human projection onto the rocks. It belongs to the rocks themselves. At least this is what we in the world of process philosophy and theology believe. We believe that wherever there is energy, there is feeling, and that the feeling flows forth into the world in the ways that the rocks present themselves. Nature is alive through and through, filled with continuous creativity and value. We humans dwell within, not apart from, a larger network of mutual becoming. Colors are what feelings look like.
The aliveness also belongs to the artist. She does not simply receive the feelings, she interprets and highlights (magnifies) aspects of what she sees, so that we, too, can see. This is part of her role as collaborator. She is a teacher. Her aim is to help us see.
This vocation -- to help us see -- is immensely important in a troubled age such as our own, where we might otherwise fall into despair at how we, as human beings, treat one another and the more than human world. Part of the problem is that we have inherited a way of understanding the more than human world that ignores its aliveness, presenting the overly abstract image of nature as lifeless and dead. In the world of process philosophy and theology, we speak of this as a "mechanistic" understanding of nature. Kat O'Connor helps break the spell of this illusion. With her sensitivity to light and color, we ourselves come alive to nature's aliveness.
The purpose of this coming home is not for personal satisfaction alone. It is not simply that we might be happier as individuals. It is that we might find the energy to collaborate with nature, too, helping build communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, diverse, hospitable, humane to animals, and good for the earth, with no one left behind. These communities are the building blocks of humanity's best and perhaps only hope: an ecological civilization in which people live with respect and care for the community of life.
- Jay McDaniel, July 19, 2020
* The spiritual alphabet used by process philosophers and theologians at the Cobb Institute for Community and Practice is adapted from one of the world's largest interfaith organizations: Spirituality and Practice. Click here to see the alphabet as a whole.
Bringing Life to Life Gratitude to my Sister-in-Law Nita Gilger
The rock formations at Plaza Blanca are a geologist dream come true. Many of the formations are sandstone with eroded fins which are greater than 50% volcanic ash embedded with shales and layered with mud and fluvial conglomerates of river deposits with all sizes of pebbles or cobbles. There is Proterozoic quartzite which was created when there were no land plants and the only life on earth was soft-bodied multicellular organisms in the ocean. I mean, we're talking possibly 2.5 billion years ago. Talk about history and power!! Wow!
Maybe that is more information that you wanted to know, but oh my, what a treasure of a place. Plaza Blanca is not known by everyone who tours the well-known Ghost Ranch and Santa Fe area. It is not obvious from the main highway. In fact, you must work at finding it and getting there, although many do. Several movies have been filmed there and at the nearby Ghost Ranch. These include The Magnificent Seven; City Slickers; All the Pretty Horses; Cowboys and Aliens; and many more.
Perhaps that is the way of many mysteries. We must look harder and search deeper. I walked along these magnificent rock walls with my artist sister-in-law, Kat O’Connor, a notable and award-winning New England Artist. Kat teaches art students how to paint in this amazing area, I found myself carried away by her insight, creativity, and deep respect for nature and place. I loved listening to her descriptions of how she guides her students there and the varied experiences they have had there. Some reactions have been very emotional and some physical. Most students seem to feel something very special about Plaza Blanca and its various gifts.
I find myself standing amazed at the gifts of the earth. After sharing such a magnificent hike with Kat, I know, even more than ever, that for humanity to be alive and a caring, feeling, loving, and evolving people, we MUST have ART and ARTISTS. We desperately need music, literature, paintings, sculptures, and symphonies. We need to immerse ourselves in nature and the arts to find our humanity and enhance our level of compassion in the world. In our pandemic time when the world seems to be spinning out of control and our choices of travel and interaction are limited, I commend the arts as one way to be enlivened and hopeful. The arts also help us to be real and in touch with our feelings.
We were excited to recently receive one of Kat’s amazing paintings of Plaza Blanca. It is so much more than my photographs and speaks to the power and beauty of art. We will display this wonderful piece proudly in our home as reminder of beauty and the power of nature. It will flood us with life-giving memories and hope of a time to come when those kinds of hikes will be part of our lives again.
I give thanks for Kat, an artist and teacher who brings life to life. I give thanks for The Arts. I give thanks for nature and all its remarkable gifts. I give thanks that we are created with souls that intuitively know how to drink in beauty and power----NOT brute force, but power of the most enlivening kind. I give thanks for Plaza Blanca and the mystery it provides.