I have often walked through the canyons and mountains of Sedona and surrounding areas in awe of the natural beauty in this place I call home. There is no question in anyone’s mind that nature has carved and painted vistas that force you to stop, gaze endlessly and listen to the wind or breeze moving through the environment. I fell in love with Sedona’s beauty and quickly found myself connected, like so many others - through that beauty.
Today I spoke with my mother who has a number of acquaintances and friends in Japan, having lost contact with them many years ago; she is worried about their safety and wellbeing. Some of them had even lived with our family during their studies or work. They left behind art and books on the subject of Japanese art, culture and architecture that I often leafed through as a child. I found there to be a connection with the artists of Sedona and the artists of Japan, both ancient and contemporary. Whereas Western Europe, influenced by Mediterranean cultures and Christianity exalted mankind, Far Eastern artists, especially architects embraced and exalted nature. A few days ago nature heaved terrible destruction in Japan, destroying much more than infrastructure, homes, businesses, livelihood and worse: lives – it took away the art, architecture, the dreams and hopes of centuries of their civilization.
While I do not recall my mother’s friends from my early childhood or even before my time, her sadness had a deeper impact on me. I considered the connections to people I barely know, to the great losses of those things we have not had time to think about as people naturally come first. Entire towns were destroyed with the tsunami, taking with them centuries of art, cultural artifacts and architecture of temples and communities. I recall that the Japanese people predominantly practice Buddhism and Shintoism, using the latter primarily for ceremonies in life. Looking up the meaning of “Shinto” online I found it to mean “the way of the gods.” Shinto gods (kami) are “…sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility.” In concept, this is similar to many faiths, including our Native Americans, whose art we are honored to have close at hand. In fact, people of many faiths see inspiration in Sedona as do artists and architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright who designed The Chapel of the Holy Cross, nestled in natural rock. Imagine if suddenly an earthquake destroyed this area, including the art and architecture and natural formations that we admire and deem sacred.
In Shinto, nature is essentially a positive force despite being unpredictable - eventually good will prevail and all will be forgiven, if not forgotten. Art helps us to see our true selves and envision possibilities, to immerse ourselves in beauty and trust. Hope helps us rise above our fears and grief to see the beauty in our world and create magnificent wonders.
Relief plans are in place across the globe to help the nation of Japan and its people. Sedona Arts Center (SAC) is putting together a donation to provide relief to an organization that will inspire and give hope to the people to create and build what was lost. SAC is inviting a collector to donate a significant work to the May 21st 2011 Sedona Fine Art Auction. All proceeds from this donated piece will go to the Artists Help Japan fund. If you can and as you contribute to the humanitarian relief, please also add a donation to Artists Help Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Fund. The fund is founded by Dice Tsutsumi, an art director at Pixar Animation Studios. Dice was also behind the 2008 Totoro Forest Project to help preserve Sayama Forest in Japan and the Sketchtravel Project. Visit us online at SedonaArtsCenter.com for more information or to see what you can do to help. We at Sedona Arts Center send the Japanese people our heartfelt condolences and empathy for all their losses and wish for strength and a quick recovery.
Remember: grow; learn; conserve; preserve; create; question; educate; change; and free your mind.
About: Kelli Klymenko is an artist, a faculty member and the Marketing & Events Coordinator at Sedona Arts Center: a gathering place where artists can learn, teach, and exhibit their works at the center’s School of the Arts and Fine Art Gallery in uptown Sedona.