“My work is more about stories than art itself,” suggested soft spoken Lancaster artist Carol Galligan following an interview concerning her exposition at the Lynden Gallery in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. A trip to China and a spiritual experience with Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism—along with reading Chinese poetry and viewing the country’s poetry left a strong mark on her work. “Perception, not ‘I’ is what is important to the Taoists. The titles to my pieces are quotes from my collection of Chinese poetry. I love the idea that the arts were considered forms of spiritual practice in traditional China. When I’m working in my studio, I refer to this as praying.”
--I guess that explains the name of the exhibit.
--The series you saw at Lynden Gallery was originally shown at the Lancaster Museum of Art under the title “In Search of the Tao.” Years have gone by…I now know that one does not go ‘in search of the Tao.’ It’s simply everything! Actually, I wanted to entitle the show as “My Heart is a Taoist.” If there is more to be said I leave it up to the viewer.”
Galligan’s in Asian culture began around a decade ago when she began taking courses in Chinese poetry, art history and brush-and-ink painting at Frabnklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, previous to her trip to China.
Taoism traces its origin back to the sixth century BCE and is concerned with the harmony of opposites, the relationships between the individual and society and nature. There is also a feminist bent to Taoist philosophy which Galligan finds illustrative.
The works exhibited at the Lynden Gallery are in scroll form, reminiscent of Chinese painting and poetry, while incorporating elements such as ribbons, strings, pieces of leather. “One of my scrolls, which I exhibited at Harrisburg Community College a few years back, is 30 feet long.”
We include with this interview Galligan’s statement on art.
330 Devon Drive
Lancaster, PA 17603
Artist Statement: MY HEART IS A TAOISTS
Taoism is indigenous to China, dating back as early as 500 B.C.. The Taoist understands that ‘being’ is simply the universe…..the ten thousand living and non-living things in constant transformation. Taoism is radically feminist, comparable to practices centered around a Great Mother who continuously gives birth to all things in the unending cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
I know very little about China and its history and traditions. However, what little knowledge I acquired has influenced my work immensely. I was inspired to visit China. My Heart is a Taoist is an attempt to interpret what I experienced….a multiple of colors based only on memory; the beautiful ability to combine numerous patterns and making it work; the attempt to interpret what I experienced on scrolls, having viewed many scroll paintings by ancient Chinese painters and poets. I wanted to see and experience for myself the mountains…..what the painters and poets experienced that influenced the wonderful work of these artists. Traditional belief was that spirits of the dead lie in mountains, and virtually every mountain had its resident ‘God.’
The series of work I produced that followed “In Search of the Tao”, is called “Mountains and Waterways”……another series based upon memory of my trip to China. Once I figured out how to go about painting a mountain, I haven’t stopped. That was ten years ago. Again, the influence behind every mountain painting was/is based upon memory. I recall vividly to this day, my trip down the Li River. I remember being all alone on the top bridge of the boat that took us down the Li River. Below, several people were enjoying their dinner, some were singing, others simply drinking their wine and enjoying the ‘party.’
I went up to the top ‘bridge’ of the boat. I was alone. I could hear the water splashing against the side of the boat. The night was clear and warm. I don’t remember a full moon, but it was a clear, bright night. THE MOUNTAINS WERE ASTONISHING!!! I was in awe! That memory has been instilled in me. When I returned home, I knew that one day I would produced a series of work based upon that one experience. It took a few years of simply working with colors, patterns, and memory of the courses I took on Chinese painting and history, but it all culminated in my trip to China. When I returned home, the first series of work I produced was “In Search of the Tao” which prepared me for the following series “Mountain and Waterways.”
I have a love for Chinese painting and poetry. Taoists’ poems rarely use the word ‘I’. Perception, not ‘I’ is what is important to the Taoists. The titles to my pieces are quotes from my collection of Chinese poetry.
I love the idea that the arts were considered forms of spiritual practice in traditional China. When I’m working in my studio, I refer to this as praying.