Friday, October 7th, 2016
Theresa Antonellis is the Director of the Martha Gault Art Gallery at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches Art History. Theresa Antonellis earned her MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she was the Director of the Student Union Art Gallery. Ms. Antonellis graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She earned a dual degree in studio arts and art history and served as the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Assistant at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. In that position, Ms. Antonellis worked with the curator to research the wide array of campus collections ranging from cuneiform tablets, historic costumes and clothing, rare books, and archival materials as well as historical scientific instruments and mathematical models. This project formed the basis for an ongoing project to preserve these collections, bring them to attention of the faculty, and put them to use in the liberal arts curriculum.
Ms. Antonellis attended Vermont Studio Center artists’ residency in two consecutive years, 2014 and 2015. Her artwork has been exhibited at universities and colleges in New England, New York, and Ohio. Ms. Antonellis’ drawing and painting practice of breath-generating marks using body-centered meditations, culminates in organic abstractions that mark the time experienced in meditation and locate the space between the body and the mind, between natural and the abstract.
The visual associations viewers make include fabric, skin, landscapes, wind, water and topographic maps. When I’m making the drawings, my focus is on the materials and the process. There’s no intention of representation. I’m purposefully focusing on my breath, and all the interior bodily sensations of breath together with the exterior activity of mark making. I deliberately spread my attention around the body, to seek feelings of the breath. Immersed, I experience states of mind that are similar to those evoked by being in meditation, or transformative experiences. The drawings are generated by the mark making, tied to my breathing cycles. This distinction is vital. I agree with Agnes Martin’s declaration, “We cannot reproduce reality or represent it concretely. It is ineffable.” Knowing that reality is not to be made into representation brings us closer to it, as there is no desire to separate from it as subject/object. The experience of being connected, or of sensing connections, aids us in being at home in the world, and allows us to feel connected to the natural world and to each other.
The agency of my breath as it acts upon both body and mind allows me to sense and to feel subtle workings. The meditation drawings are records of breathing cycles, and also of feelings that affected or were affected by the breath. One single mark is made at the same time one breath is exhaled, so the drawings are records of time and maps of feeling. Was I distracted by an overwhelming mood or thoughts? The resulting drawing appears aggravated in texture. Was I truly focused on my breath and the process of linking each breath to each mark? The drawing has much more relaxed texture, and fluid appearance.
1. One line per one breath
2. Length of line limited by range of motion.
3. Each line is drawn as close together as possible, but not touching.
4. Lines are as straight as possible.
5. Every line is dependent upon the previous line for form, width, depth and length.
6. Rules 4 and 5 are interdependent.
7. No corrections are made and each mark is permanent.
With the exhaled breath, one individual mark is drawn.
With the inhaled breath, I reposition my hand.
The focus is divided equally between physical, mental and visual observations. My observations are focused on: breathing sensations, the mark-making, visual aspect of the drawing and the thought processes.
The variations in marks and rhythmic changes are due to bodily and mental limitations. The whole of the image floats up and down on the paper’s surface, depending on states of fatigue or energy. Where I lack concentration, the image looks a little broken. When I’m really focused, the lines are cohesive, and I can ‘read’ a record of breath. To me each drawing is a record of accomplishment, of myself being with myself. A record of time spent listening to my breath, observing my thought process, and mark making in tandem with and the process. The prolonged attention on body, on breathing, creates a space within myself, within the body and within the mind.
The ink used in Breathing Meditation with Oak Gall Ink is iron oak gall ink. The origins of iron oak gall ink may be traced to a recipe dated 500 AD, and its use was popular from the Middle Ages into the twentieth century, until synthetics replaced it in commercial uses. Many of the oldest surviving legal documents were drafted in oak gall ink, notably, the U.S. Constitution. Artists and writers valued the ink for its permanence and rare color. Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Leonardo manufactured and used iron oak gall ink. The galls are developed in oak trees when small wasps deposit eggs in the tree’s buds, causing little round growths around the eggs, to support the eggs as they mature. After a period of about two years, the galls may be harvested. To make ink, the galls are crushed and mixed with boiling water. Ferrous sulfate and gum arabic are added. The mix is filtered and ready to use after one day of brewing.
The violet-brown color of iron oak gall ink has deep associations to my passion for pen and ink, for correspondence, and travel, of letters and postcards. This hue arouses feelings for letters of handwritten text, for friendships and places bookmarked by such letters, made by my hand. The images arise from the ephemeral.
My method is literally one breath per one line. These paintings represent territories of the hand made and of the body. Every line in the painting represents an occupation of space and time, a testimony to having breathed, having been in the body, and having been here now. The breath itself has the singular quality of being subject to both conscious and unconscious control. At the boundary of the unconscious and conscious a threshold: a place and where body and mind meet. The mind may control the breath, but only to a point, and at that point (which always changes) the body must have the breath. I cannot will myself to cease breathing, but I may be able to will the body to longer or shorter breaths, or direct my attention to be aware of subtle breath sensations in my body. Every line is a response to the previous line.