Bhagya arranged an Art Camp, an Indian phenomenon in which a number of artists are invited to get together for about a week to make work that will then be exhibited and sold to raise money for a cause. As some previous plans had fallen through, Bhagya decided to invite 12 of her CAVA students to participate for a three-day art camp.
We were invited into one woman’s home, painted bright green and the few material possessions neatly stacked or rolled into small spaces. We saw the smokeless stove with its ventilating pipe preventing many cases of illness and the new toilet, one of the first in the village.
We stopped for lunch at a nearby prosperous farm, owned by a “multi-purpose worker”, which is what men who help administer to the sanghas in their district are called. The farmer had drilled a well and consequently his 7 acres were green and thriving. I asked about seeds and pesticides, and heard that some seeds are heritage, but more and more are hybrids purchased yearly because the “yield is better.” Also that pesticides are regularly used, except on their personal vegetables. While it was hard to get specific information about it and my concerns about the pesticides and hybrid seeds were brushed off, it was very pleasant to sit in the cool shade of the house and eat lunch together.
On the way back to Mysore, we stopped to see a 2000 year old temple in the village of one the student’s grandmother lived, Sri Lakshmi Kanta Temple Kalale Nanjanjadu. Although the door was locked, the priest let us in. He took water from a stone well inside the temple—the first traditional well I have seen in use here. We all bent over the rim to see into its black recesses. One student thought he recognized a turtle, but it turned out to be a coconut. The priest gave us puja, a ritual lamp fire blessing of the black stoned deity in the far recesses of the dark temple. I felt the power of its blackness and reticence and the magnetism of the circle of fire as the priest waved his lamp and chanted. He then anointed us, pouring spoonfuls of holy oil and fragrant flower blossoms into our cupped hands.
Bhagya lodged us at the Mysore cancer hospital in cottages for visitors and provided all with ample meals, tea, coffee and all desired supplies. After the inauguration (lamp lighting, sung puja and a ritual signing of a blank canvas), the students lost no time in gathering materials and starting to work. They were hugely productive, finishing four, five and six canvases in two days. Unsettled about what I wanted to do, I settled on gouache portraits.
At night, we gathered around a fire and two of the students sang so beautifully. I only wished I understood Kanada, so I could get the jokes that were clearly flying around.
Singing and Drawing
We were all feeling quite fond of one another by the end of the three days, so the following morning, when Bhagya dropped me off in town for my last walk around before heading back to Bangalore, I was delighted that one of the students, Sunil was able to come with me to the Post Office and help navigate getting postcard stamps which had to be individually hand glued, a sticky, messy process.
I said goodbye to the cooks, especially Nagama, who quickly learned to brew my green tea to perfection and always beamed at me whenever I walked into the kitchen to deliver my empty plate after eating one of her excellent meals.
I gave a presentation on my work to a very tiny audience at one, Shanti Rd in Bangalore that evening and met the artist Biju Boze, who was really interested in how I was working with underground currents in earlier projects. He told me about the Indian concept, Vatsu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vastu_shastra, which I hope to explore further by returning to India and researching a project that will involve sustainable agriculture and the spiritual relationship of architecture to the land.