Advent: a Time of preparation, December 18, 2016

Preparation for the New Year, to continue living with new courage.

Hope is the essence of Advent, this is the time of renewal. Art is the embodiment of hope. Some artists use art to reflect the struggles of the day, but, without the element of hope, art cannot transcend the temporal and become a harbinger for the future.

Art carries within the act, within us, as we experience it, prayers for healing the world’s wounds. The essence of art is a sense of the Whole: a connection with humanity, nature, and ultimately, universal truths, which we can only intuit.

My Advent began with a re-arrangement of my small universe: my home environment which contains meaningful arrangements of decorative boxes, objects, ceramics, glass and pictures. These are changed with the seasons, to keep my mind fresh.   

Today as I put away the past, I chose, subconsciously, things made from many cultures from all around the world, many where I have traveled: Japanese ceramics, Chinese and Korean porcelain, turned stone bowls from ancient Syria and modern Pakistan (where I have not traveled; these were a gift), glassware from Romania (a gift from a young Romanian pianist) and Italy, a Buddhist bell from Thailand (purchased from the Freer Gallery in Washington), a Chinese glass snuff bottle with a painted motif of cranes (a gift to my sister from one of her students).

Cranes also grace my tiny, Korean celedon cup, a symbol of peace and longevity. A feather with a streak of sky blue nestles between small rocks from Mediterranean waters off the coast of Turkey, seated, like imaginary passengers in a small porcelain boat made by a Japanese student I met at the University of Florida, where we made pottery at a student union workshop 15 years ago.

Overseeing these metaphors for peace is a very special manipulated photograph with hand colouring by my friend, the artist, Diane Farris. It was made as one in a series she created after bombings and fires destroyed African-American churches in the South.
It features a church schema cut away, on one side, healing waters flowing around and inside, a lotus leaf, subliminally conjuring the peacefulness of Buddhist thought, with a ghostly iridescent-gold mist, delicate blue grey waves, overall bronze-tinted, tonally, with little contrast except for the outline of the church and its East- facing window. It expresses to me a prayer: perseverance, patience and ultimately, triumph over evil.

Lying near her picture is a portfolio I made, covered with handmade paper, its woodcut design, carved and printed by a Japanese woman master in the 1930s. It contains photographs my German-born father, John Koscielny, made from glass plates in 1925, as he traveled through Norway with his best friend, Harry Berger Nielsen, Norwegian violinist, a fellow student at the Leipzig Conservatory.  Diane Farris made contact sheets for me so that I would have a record of this journey by two friends. Years later, when technology made it possible, I scanned the original plates and printed them on Rives BFK, a wonderful French, handmade paper. These, I collated as a gift for my sister, now deceased. They have come back to me.

The message of all these lovely objects, created with discipline and love of material, is that their integrated cultures are a reminder of our common humanity. We can love one another, respect one another, and celebrate the infinite variety of human expression and religious worship. We are, after all, members of the same family.

Peace on Earth! Good will to all men and women and children, and animals, and the rest of the natural world! Pray for all the victims of war, prejudice, and exclusion.