Category Archives: mandalas

Hi-Desert Milestones

"2020 Suite No. 2" - Carraher 2020

2020 Suite No. 2
2020.  Acrylic and ink on canvas. 14 x 11 in.

The venerable Beatnik Lounge in Joshua Tree has reopened and is holding its first IRL show since March 2020.  For the “OOOF” show – “Olly Olly Oxen Free” – curator Deb Tobin had some guidelines that resonated fully in the desert this summer of 2021:

The call for the hide-and-seekers to come back to the base.
The cartoon sound of a punch to the gut.
The sound of being greeted by 110ºF Mojave desert salutations.
It should also be noted that 2021 is the year of the Metal Ox in the Chinese zodiac, so those oxen can come in free too.

As one can see in the virtual exhibition on the Beatnik website, the submissions run rather wild and unrestrained – no surprise.  Included is No. 2 from my 2020 Suite (see No. 1 here and No. 3 here).  

Joshua Tree happily supports a permanent floating population of a kind of beatnik strain, and there seems always to be a venue to fill their needs and house their productions.  It changes names, proprietors, and sometimes location, but defining boundaries across time are few.  Its current incarnation is the Beatnik Lounge which, in my version of local history, has its roots all the way back in the early or mid ’90s with Jeremy’s Cappucino Bar, a tiny coffee room in the strip mall between Sam’s Indian Pizza and the radio station.  Jeremy then moved it over to its current roomier location in more central JT, where, as I remember it, the words “Beatnik Lounge” got added to the name.  Due no doubt to its prehistoric age I find only one reference to Jeremy’s on line (a characteristic blues jam with JT musician Clive Wright), and it is probably from this second location.

At some point the sign changed and it became The Red Arrow Gallery, which is when the arrow (not as big as the original 15-footer in the gallery’s old location up the highway) appeared at the roof-line.  The Red Arrow put more emphasis on the gallery but retained the refreshment bar along with performances and readings, and many a memorable, free-wheeling event was had. 

And then, somewhere along the line, the name became Beatnik Lounge once again (Jeremy having many years since decamped Back East), and so the spirit continues in its eclectic, welcoming, opposite-of-uptight floating way.  Welcome back, Beatnik, and congratulations on making it through Covid Year. 

However, just down the block, Gallery 62, the flagship of the cooperative Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, will sadly close its doors at the end of October.  The collective show of the annual Open Studio Art Tours will be the final exhibition.  The Council and the Gallery have made it through the last tough year and a half, but the rent is just too much at this point.  They will retain JTAG gallery, though, so all is not lost.  And it appears that the Art Tours will be proceeding as planned this year, after being derailed in 2020 by everybody’s favorite pandemic. 

And if I may be allowed to note one final local and quite personal milestone:  cooling has returned to my studio.  Last weekend the unit fired up and ran perfectly, and I’m so grateful to say that peace, quiet, and moderate temperatures are now supporting my creative efforts.  I could not be happier.  In honor, I post the first of the Mandalas, subtitled “Nandi Wanders the Universe”.  

"Mandala I (Nandi Wanders the Universe)" - Carraher 2021

Mandala I (Nandi Wanders the Universe)
2021. Acrylic on canvas. 12 x 12 in.

Mandala II

"Mandala II" - Carraher 2020

Mandala II
2021.  Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 in.

I’ve been doing short photo shoots in the studio despite the heat, because with Open Studio Art Tours coming up in October I have to get going on this.  For lighting reasons I shoot after dark, so the worst of the heat is over for the day.  So I’ll have some newer paintings to post, including this one from my Mandala series.

When I posted about the new Mandala series before I mentioned that I felt several needed more work.  Mandala II was one I had doubts about.  It ended up with major modifications and I do not regret undertaking them.  It’s a much better piece now.

Mandala II is dynamic, not static, which doesn’t agree with everyone’s idea of a mandala.  And yet it is that acknowledgement of dynamism that gives me peace in an unstable world.  It is my hope that it helps bring more peace and compassion into a world that sorely needs it.

Mandalas

"Mandala IV" - Carraher 2021

Mandala IV
2021.  Acrylic on canvas. 12 x 12 in.

So there’s 12 of them so far, these mandalas.  I’d been working on them in late winter and spring, then actually set them aside a number of weeks ago.  I needed some distance before assessing.  Looking at them now, I believe several need more work.  We’ll see how that turns out.  But I’m feeling reasonably confident now that I’m on a worthwhile track.

Obviously I’m not staying with what is more popularly understood as a mandala, a “geometric configuration of symbols”.  I’m eschewing symbols completely, and “geometry” would apply in only the loosest interpretation of the term.  The idea of an “aid to meditation and trance induction” is maybe closer to the mark.  Whatever, as usual my approach is more poetic than academic, and the discovery of the purpose of my projects often comes after they are begun, not before.

Anyway.  Color is the founding and guiding element of these mandalas, and this particular one goes further than most of them in use of color.  But I should warn you that it was a challenge to reproduce the original colors digitally and this result is frankly exaggerated.  The actual painting is a little more subdued.  Satisfying, though.