Dichotomies: Begging and Offering Bowls

27 03 2017

Bowls Ann27 March 2017

I knew I was in the right place when artist Ann Grasso mentioned Big Magic, a book I’d blogged about, at her recent opening of Begging and Offering Bowls. Then she referenced Arrival, a movie that friends had encouraged me (and then discouraged me due to its potential to tap into a personal tender point), to see. I felt we were kindred spirits!

Grasso provided her definition of bowls, which she perceives as circular instruments that allow content to enter and leave. She sees begging bowls as icons of the poor and needy. On the other hand, offering bowls, generally filled with water, symbolize generosity. These she painted appropriately with watercolors. Grasso described part of her creative process as the “Overnight Mind” that takes ideas and makes connections she can see clearly the following morning.

Bowls struggleAnn believes titles can offer entry into the piece, particularly abstract art. My favorite of her begging bowls is this one above. I like the sense of space and distance, continuum and juxtaposition, the textures and color tones. Her title, Struggles, surprised me as I didn’t feel any conflict within the work. Then I remembered my reframing of The Myth of Sisyphus: instead of struggling to push the boulder up the hill, I envision it as a sled ride down. Perhaps that could be applied here, with its meaning depending on if one is looking up the hill at all that must still be covered, or downward and envisioning jumping from bowl to bowl along the way.

Grasso’s work was inspired by a trip to Vienna where she clearly saw the dichotomy between the haves and have nots. Gold-encrusted churches and buildings were juxtaposed with prostrate beggars and their bowls on the sidewalks. Interestingly enough, this irony is evident at her gallery exhibit itself. Her artist’s statement say, in part: “Religious institutions…are constantly assaulting either through guilt or advertising. Their aim: increase their earnings with our money.” These words are positioned on the table next to the Free Will Donation box of the hosting religious institution!

Bowls Free willWhen I mention this dichotomy to Grasso, she smiled and noted that people had added money to one of her three bowls on display that was identified as an offering plate. We both laugh and shrug our shoulders. Kindred spirits again.

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