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An Open Window, 30×40 inches, Oil on Panel, September 2016, $1,290.

Living in a Chinese city that is majority Muslim, there are mosques on every corner like there are churches on every corner in the United States’ Bible belt.  Though I felt very comfortable with many aspects of the new culture we were living in, the mosque was a place of mystery for me.  As a foreigner, woman, non-Muslim, and non-native speaker of the language, there were parts of it I couldn’t be part of.  The parts I could participate in were still mysterious to me.  I think for many of my Muslim friends who grew up in secular China, Islam was also a mystery, despite their families’ best efforts to teach them and pass down their religion and heritage.

There are pockets of the Chinese Muslim community who are pious and focus much of their energy on learning Islam and the Quran.  The women are separated from the men in their learning, and this is the scene I came upon, walking down the street passing a neighborhood mosque.  The students, all older women, were focused intently on the teacher as she spoke.  It was a warm day, so the window was open and I was able to capture the moment unnoticed.

Over my seven years living there, I had the privilege of getting to visit mosques regularly to celebrate friends’ weddings and baby showers.  After some time, it had the same feeling as attending weddings and events for friends Stateside, in churches.  Though there are parts of the mosque that remain mysterious to me, I have come to see it as a place where community happens, a gathering place to rejoice together and mourn together, not unlike what I grew up with going to the Hindu temple with my parents or the Anglican Christian church I choose to attend now.

Open the windows and the doors. Welcome the stranger, the unfamiliar, the different. Across religion, language, culture, race, gender, oceans…distance dissolves into love.

To see this piece in person, visit the Asian American Resource Center in Austin, TX where it will be on exhibit with the rest of my solo show, And the Distance Dissolves Into the Love, until June 24, 2017.  Please contact me if you are interested in making this part of your permanent art collection.

Playing Checkers in the Street. 3×4 feet Oil on Panel. March 2017. $1,800

 

Just outside our apartment complex in the city of Urumqi, China, on a poor little avenue where very little traffic came through, groups of men would play checkers. Smoking, drinking, and gambling, they’d pass their days and go home to disappointed wives at night. I heard stories of financial distress and broken family lives from some of the wives. It wouldn’t have been culturally appropriate for me to hear stories from the men in this Muslim corner of China, but I often wondered. I only saw that the economic and social disparities gave them an unfair place in this province. Both anger and compassion compelled me to paint this piece.

To see this piece in person, visit the Asian American Resource Center in Austin, TX where it will be on exhibit with the rest of my solo show, And the Distance Dissolves Into the Love, until June 24, 2017.  Please contact me if you are interested in making this part of your permanent art collection.

And the Distance Dissolves into the Love 1. 8×10″ Oil on Canvas. 2015. SOLD

While I was living overseas working with a non-profit org, it was regular practice to take a step back and reassess our situation to make sure we were staying on track with our values.  It was an effective way to re-calibrate and keep the important things higher on our to do list rather than always reacting to the urgent.  It also kept us encouraged as we reminded ourselves of why the work we did was worth it.

I find this practice very effective in regards to my art career as well.  Here are 6 reflective questions I wanted to share with you.  They are by no means comprehensive, so feel free to add or take away from them.  I usually ask myself these questions during a transition time such as after the completion of a large body of work (I’ve just completed a series, “And the Distance Dissolves Into the Love,” which is up at the Asian American Resource Center in Austin ,TX until June 24, 2017).  It helps me stay focused on what really matters to me as an artist for the long haul, which in turn helps me say no to certain projects that don’t fall in line with those values and say yes to those that do.

After the opening of this exhibit, I took two weeks of deliberate quiet, rest time.  I took about 30 minutes to an hour after I dropped my son off at school.  I prayed, listened to the daily office reading from The Book of Common Prayer, and had my journal open and ready.  These questions helped guide my journaling time.

  1. Why do I make art?
  2. What kind of art do I want to make?
  3. What do I want my artistic legacy to be?
  4. How do I define success for myself?
  5. What are my strengths?  Where do I need improvement?
  6. What brings me the most stress being an artist?  What can I do about them?
  7. What are my goals for the next year? Five years?

After a mountaintop experience like having your first solo show, there is the inevitable adrenaline crash and, if you’re like me, feelings of aimlessness.  It’s so tempting for me to do one of two things, either get busy with the next project or stop working all together.

There is an endless list of household honey-dos that need to get done that I could easily tackle, but we all know this is really just a distraction from the fact that I have no idea what I’m supposed to create next in the art studio.

There is an endless list of ideas crowded inside my brain of what I could create in the art studio that I feel I should start working on right away, but this is also a distraction in a way.  Not all of those ideas are good ideas.  And not all those ideas are in line with what I want to say or be as an artist.

There is also the inner critic (who is a big jerk) telling you that it doesn’t matter.  Taking time to reflect will remind you of why making art is worth it.

Even though there is nothing being produced from your easel during this reflective period, I promise it is time well spent and will bring depth to your work once you get back to your easel.

You have permission to pause, reflect and contemplate.

 

Painting by Meena Matocha, "The Musician," 18x24" Oil on Panel.

Painting by Meena Matocha, “The Musician,” 18×24″ Oil on Panel.

We’ve been studying the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations in Scripture as a church on Sunday mornings.  As a person who is drawn to the melancholy, I get a sense of vindication reading Jeremiah’s words.  The world isn’t all rainbows and unicorns and it’s ok if you’re not happy all the time.  Jeremiah lays it out bluntly.  Pain and brokenness are reality and it stinks.  There is real hope, but we must dive into the pain to truly see this hope.

As I painted this musician, a Uyghur man living in a country whose goal it seems to be to destroy his culture, I fell in love a little bit.  His poverty is apparent as his over-sized, dusty jacket hangs loosely over his thin frame.  And, though I can’t understand his words, his song is clearly a song of lament, of pain.  He digs down deep into his ancient culture and his voice calls out passionately.  He reminds me of Jeremiah.

I’m a fan of the Netflix series Stranger Things, and feel it framed the idea of our paradoxical present world in “the upside down” and “the veil of shadows” so well.  We are in the upside down and it’s messed up, but the right side up exists right along side of us.  Pain and hope exist next to each other.  The musician is poor, but he is rich.  Jesus set up these paradoxes of reality in the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s a struggle to understand this, but the realities of the world are not simple…Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Been working hard on color theory and light.  Just so happy with how his skin came about out of the color and brush strokes.  I’m enjoying working with M. Graham paints and walnut oil without turpentine or other solvents.

Detail of painting by Meena Matocha.  "An Open Window" 30x40" Oil on Panel.

Detail of painting by Meena Matocha. “An Open Window” 30×40″ Oil on Panel.

Open your windows and your doors.  Behind and beyond the walls there is belonging.  Enter in.

The first piece completed for my solo show coming April 2017.  I was spending a lot of time looking at Robert Henri paintings while working on this one.  You can probably see his influence in this piece.  I reworked this painting a few times, ending up with a piece that is much less detailed than I had set out to create.  You never know where the painting will take you.

About the Artwork

 Creating art is about sharing my story in order to empower
others to share theirs, and through this reassure one another that we're not
alone in this world, and that no matter where we are on our life's journey,
we are accepted and loved by God.

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