Sunday, November 15, 2015

Leaping Heart Lydian

Leaping Heart Lydian, 7 x 5",  mixed media
I've been thinking about the heart chakra lately. It seems like a strengthening of heart would be good for our collective souls. The heart chakra is the 4th energy center of the body and the Lydian mode is the 4th mode. In the key of C, it begins on F. It has an interesting sequence with three whole steps before the first half-step. That surprising "leap" between the 3rd and 4th pitch seems to me a little like falling in love. This can be falling in love with anything: a new pursuit, a new home, a person or a new attitude and approach to life. You are going along and all of a sudden, your life is new. You have changed and perhaps that change is not your doing. Perhaps you wonder, 'Is this real?' The Lydian mode answers positively, as it finishes off like the maternal and nurturing Ionian mode.
   The metamorphosis takes place through the feverish solar plexus. We wrestle with our demons and shadows (sometimes this is a forced battle beyond our control) and our heart is renewed. This 4th energy center situates us between heaven and earth; between our conscious and unconscious. We find ourselves making decisions in a different way, from the heart rather than from the ego. The symbols of the heart chakra represent these ideas. The masculine triangle, points up to air and the feminine triangle points down to earth (the two create a 6 pointed star). Arnold Bittlinger, author of Archetypal Chakras speaks of simultaneous repose and movement as well as the connection of above and below. This connection is symbolized by the antelope which can leap high and far into the air, but must maintain a grounding with the earth. There is a wholeness with the combination of heaven and earth, conscious and unconscious. We have transversed becoming into being. I love that the symbol of this wholeness is the apple. The heart energy center absorbs the color green, between yellow and blue on spectrum. The color emitted by the heart chakra is rose.
     The attributes of the heart chakra are compassion, healing and centering. Let us hope for more heart in our world.
Lydian Lark, 7 x 5", watercolor/Neocolor II

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Solar Phrygian

Solar Phrygian, 4 x 10", watercolor/Neocolor II
    As I got to know the seven modes, it was the Phrygian mode that most grabbed me. It is both an instigator of, and outlet for, passion. As it turns out, the Solar Plexus is likewise a fiery, passionate realm of energy. Both the Phrygian mode and the Solar Plexus chakra occupy the number 3 spot and their job descriptions have striking similarities.

     Stella Benson, in her book The Gift of Healing Modes, classifies the Phrygian as an exotic mode. Hildegard Von Bingen used this mode to write many of her compositions. The Phrygian mode has been used for laments for centuries. It is also the basis of flamenco and tunes of Iberian origin. So, In my representation of Phrygian, I thought of fire and depth: a flamenco dancer swirling down and up again. When I was preparing for a presentation of brief, improvised examples for each mode, I played Phrygian chords and started hearing Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit. Seems fitting...
Phrygian Fire and Depth, 5 x 7", watercolor/Neocolor II
     In the Jungian interpretation of the chakras, the Solar Plexus is a fiery energy center where the conscious and unconscious, the root chakra and polarity chakra, are integrated as part of the path to individuation. This integration is an alchemic process that takes place through fire. Fire is the element for the Solar Plexus. In my representation of Solar Phrygian, roots and shadows enter the fiery yellow globe and come out as an organic, lavender presence. Lavender is the color that is emitted from the Solar Plexus chakra and yellow is the color absorbed by this energy center.
     This process strikes me as a very earthy interpretation of what we go through when we have a crisis and know we must change. It is a difficult, heated phenomenon, which we feel (often passionately). But, once we get to the other side, we know we have grown and we are in a better place. That leads us to the next level--coming up!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dorian Polarity

Dorian Polarity, 7 x 5", mixed media
photographed in shadows
Continuing with an exploration of the relationship between musical modes and the energy centers, or chakras of the human body; this post considers how the Dorian mode relates to the Polarity chakra. The Dorian mode, when played with out flats or sharps begins on D. The tone of D vibrates at the same frequency as orange in the spectrum, according to Kay Gardner, in her book Sounding the Inner Landscape. Orange is absorbed by the Polarity chakra and electric blue is transmitted by the second chakra. The vibrational frequency of this electric blue, or indigo, is the same as the tone of A, which is the fifth of D.
    I would like to pause here and note some patterns which are universally appreciated. The first is the beautiful quality of notes, separated by fifths when played together. Our ear understands this relationship so well, that it is used for tuning. The colors which vibrate at the same frequencies as the notes related by fifths are complementary. This means that they are opposite each other on the color wheel (e.g. red is opposite green, yellow opposite violet, and blue opposite orange). Interesting...

     What I personally love about the Dorian mode is that it is a gentle minor mode and much of its character comes from the interplay between the d minor chord and C major chord (think of Scarborough Fare). It is just so pleasing to traverse between those worlds! It makes me think of walking through the woods with dappled sunlight; shadow and light.

     The second chakra, the Polarity chakra is also about combining shadow and light. Our conscious world is evident in our Root chakra and our Polarity chakra reveals what is hidden in the shadows: our unconsciousness. Our whole being exists in this energy center. In his book Archetypal Chakras, Arnold Bittlinger refers to Jung's interpretation of the chakras as the path to individuation. Our unconscious is revealed through our shadow side and projections. This shadow side links to the d minor of the Dorian mode.

In the Dorian Wood, 5 x 7", watercolor/Neocolor II
      My illustration for the Dorian mode was of the woods; a sort of magical wood with bright and shadowy places. No doubt I was under the influence of Joanna Mell and her description of the Dorian mode in her book Modal Musings. The forest seems like such an appropriate visual for both the Dorian mode and the Polarity chakra with its hidden and exposed qualities.

     I'll include an image of Dorian Polarity without the shadow of the blinds (it all seems so appropriate!) I hope you are enjoying this exploration of the relationship between musical modes and the chakras.
Dorian Polarity, 7 x 5", mixed media

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ionian Roots

Ionian Roots, 5 x 7", watercolor and Neocolor II
One of the outcomes of studying to become a healthcare musician is that I am seeing connections that I had never noticed before. The world seems to favor certain patterns and in their beauty, repeats them over and over again.
   While focusing on the musical modes, I realized that they could be naturally paired with the 7 chakras, or energy centers of the human body. That idea was spurred on by a chart created by Kay Gardner for her book, Sounding the Inner Landscape. An obvious starting point is that the Ionian Mode is typically described as C major. The musical pitch assigned to the Root Chakra in Gardner's book is C. Aha!

Iconic Ionian

The Ionian mode is neutral to the  Western ear. It is made up of a progression of notes which we anticipate; think of do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. We could consider it as the baseline of diatonic scales. You can read a little bit about the Ionian mode in my blog from March 19, 2015, Iconic Ionian. The scene I painted to represent the Ionian mode contained all the elements needed for human life. These elements also appear in the most universally appealing paintings, so there is something fundamentally and materialistically necessary about the Ionian mode. Stella Benson, in her book The Gift of Healing Modes, points out that this mode is sometimes referred to as a "maternal" mode. it provides the sense of a "safe haven".

Likewise, the Root chakra is home to our founding energy. Our lives are grounded in the elements necessary for life and these elements are the concern of the Root chakra. For me, this makes a connection between the Ionian mode and the Root chakra. The chakras are linked with colors from the spectrum (vibrations, once again). At the lower end of the spectrum is red. The Root chakra absorbs the color red; and according to Kay Gardner, it transmits a turquoise color. Recently, in a discussion with friends, it was suggested that the perfect representation of the Root chakra could be beets, with the red root bulbs and turquoise (green) leaves. That will have to wait for the autumn crop! In the meantime, I invite you to join me on this exploration of the musical modes and chakras.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It is All Coming Together

Brackets for our newly-covered entryway. Designed
by Graham Pohl of Pohl Rosa Pohl and built by
Montgomery Construction
     We have a house project happening right now and it is providing appropriate visuals for my current thinking about work/creativity and life in general. We will be integrating two households into one, making for less upkeep work, and more flexibility visiting far-flung family (and them visiting us). Our resulting home will be more supportive of all the activities we enjoy. Our love of making things will be sheltered comfortably under one roof; we will have our industrious cottage!
     I have decided to embrace all my interests and make joyful use of past and present pursuits. I can "paint" landscapes with my little harp and illustrate my imagination on paper using all the materials I have accumulated. I can design a vest with pockets to carry essentials while playing harp at hospice. It is quite remarkable how naturally this has all come together. Friendships from decades past have been rekindled; at just the right time with just the right inspiration and lessons. I will have a roomy atelier that allows the intermingling of art forms.
     The day can be met looking over the back yard and the sun serenaded with a song over the front. The sensitivity that has gone into this project is a wonder. The design is so perfect that from the beginning I could envision creatively integrating interests in this one beautiful space. I am so grateful to Graham Pohl of Pohl Rosa Pohl Architecture and Design. The care and skill that have gone into crafting the new spaces are exquisite; many thanks to Robert Montgomery, Daniel Shute and John Donahoe of Montgomery Construction.
Early evening shadows--I hear a song coming on!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Art a la Mode

Iconic Ionian

In the Dorian Wood

Phrygian Fire and Depth

Lydian Lark

Mellifluous Mixolydian

Lent in Aeolian Mode

Lunar Locrian

     On Friday, July 17, 2015 my exhibit, Recollection will have its opening reception in conjunction with Lexington's Gallery Hop. Recollection is my DIY retrospective of the last 20 years of painting. My most recent work takes a little different turn; I am creating paintings inspired by musical modes. I am studying modes in my pursuit of becoming a certified healthcare musician through the Therapy Harp Training Program. I thought it would be fun to demonstrate the modes on my little Rees harp. During the reception, from 5 - 8 pm, I will from time to time give into this inclination. I hope you will join me at the MS Rezny Studio/Gallery, 903 Manchester Street, in the Distillery District of Lexington. You can tell me if my representations of the modes are on target!

   I will also have my harp on hand for the pick-up and drop-off day, noon - 3 pm, August 8th. This will be the last day for work for notBIG(3) to be delivered and the last day for Recollection. So it can be a pick-up date should you be a new owner of a Recollection painting. I will send you off with a song, a la mode!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Recollecting Twenty Years of Painting

Looking back on 20 years:  Echo, 14 x 22", watercolor/pastel on paper
paintings by Kathy Rees Johnson
MS Rezny Studio/Gallery
903 Manchester Street
Distillery District
Lexington, Kentucky
7-7-15 to 8-8-15

Recollection is my DIY retrospective exhibit and thus it gives me the opportunity to look back (and forward!) at my work as an artist. The act of organizing the show at the MS Rezny gallery has distinguished three eras in my artistic career:

1) Beginning, falling in love with the landscape:  My first painting in 1995 (At the Shore, below) was a landscape, even though, at the time, I found landscapes rather difficult.  That same year, I began taking annual pastel workshops with Fay Moore. For the third workshop, we focused on landscapes. The combination of using an underpainting with pastel and the pastoral subject matter lit a fire under me. Painting the landscape became a natural! This joyful rendering also had the effect of improving my eye, helping me to appreciate the landscape. It was also a way to remember favorite places. One such favorite place is Lyme Park, outside of Manchester, UK, represented above in my painting, Echo. 

The first painting: At the Shore, 15 x 30", acrylic on canvas
2) Strengthening family links:  Almost a decade into my painting career, I began making paintings from old family photographs.  An odd thing happened shortly after my paternal grandmother died; my father and grandfather arrived at my home with boxes of old family photographs. I did not question why they brought them to me, but I'm glad they did, because a few short years later, my father died in a tractor accident. As it turned out, that year, the theme of the annual pastel workshop was "memories". I took in photos from the family stash and realized this was a wonderful way to meet and remember my paternal ancestors.  While working on this series, my mother died and I knew that the same work could help me process my feelings around that loss, as well.

Outstanding in Their Field, 14 x 14", watercolor/pastel on paper

3) The future; sating a longing while embracing the present and past:  Making paintings from old family photographs certainly gave me an understanding that life is fleeting. We are here but a short time in this particular form. As I was approaching 60, I developed what I call my autumnal longing. There was a desire to do something new, see new sights, but also to be totally at home. How to do this? Well, I had harps that I kept strung and tuned. I realized that I could create soundscapes that could take me anywhere I wanted to go. Also, I could use music in a healing way. I enrolled in the Therapy Harp Training Program and became immersed and entranced with musical modes. This lead me to the exercise of illustrating the modes (please see my previous blogs), combining my love of creating images and making music. The final era is represented by the seven musical modes.

Going up: Mellifluous Mixolydian, Lent in Aeolian Mode, Lunar Locrian

I hope you can join me on this retrospective journey at MS Rezny Studio/Gallery! The opening reception is Friday, July 17th, 5 - 8 pm (Lexington's Gallery Hop night). On Saturdays, there will be Recollection Sessions. These are opportunities for you to come play with watercolor/pastel to create your own Recollection. All the materials are provided. There is a $25 materials fee. Please bring any photo references you might want to use. Recollection Sessions are: July 11, 18 and 25 and August 1st. Looking forward to seeing you!