‘Art still has a profound place’: Gallery talking circles promote community healing
This week, eight women from the Sierra Foothills gathered in the Golden Lotus Gallery and Lounge to drink cocoa cacao and dance for joy.
“Dancing for joy” is just one of the 108 virtues that artist Niwan Yod explores via painting, talking circles and shared movement.
Yod and her partner Aeolius Alevizakis began hosting talking circles — a men’s group on Mondays, a women’s group on Tuesdays and a co-ed group on Wednesdays — in the Nevada City gallery last week. The intention of the circles in the space is to meditate on and activate healing, Yod said.
“We want to provide a safe space to connect to your heart with your voice,” Yod said. “Circles are important because they bring a lot of joy, and self empowerment.”
Golden Lotus Gallery and Lounge, at 421 Broad St., closed almost immediately after opening in February due to the coronavirus. Like many other businesses in the state, the gallery took a hit.
Alevizakis said the coronavirus has revealed the need for a new approach to yoga, one that offers therapy via dynamism.
“The sequences are being reformatted through the book of virtues she’s writing,” Alevizakis said.
Alevizakis said hosting the classes in the same space as the art elevates the spiritual frequencies.
The talking circles and yoga classes take a suggested $20 donation.
Yod said she felt a call to create a space that promotes vulnerability in the face of a mounting public mental health crisis caused by pandemic-related self-isolation.
“We have access to a lot of visuals — our phones, TVs,” Yod said. “What is a relief to me, is despite all these visuals, art still has a profound place in human connectivity. I can see that every day in people’s interactions with these paintings.”
Yod said she considered the power of online platforms as providing people with connection and beauty amidst the coronavirus, but said humans’ physical and spiritual selves are inextricably linked.
“The virtues are connected to sacred writings, sacred mathematics and universal truths,” Yod said. “They are divine expressions of love and non-love.”
According to Yod, Tibetan temples’ integrated relationship to visual art inspired her own gallery’s experience-oriented set up and purpose.
“The concept evolved from listening and seeing people express themselves,” Yod said. “It’s meant to be a place where you can just be human and connect to humanness, really,” Yod said.
Each piece featured on the whitewalls of the gallery’s Victorian interior focuses on a human subject in conversation with an animal and its specific healing powers, Yod said.
“When I explore an animal in a painting, it’s to understand their spiritual qualities,” Yod said. “What is their main trait? What are they teaching us as humans?”
Yod said for her, every animal and the discovery of its associated attributes, can be attached to an “evolutionary path.”
Yod referred to her own experience with frog medicine during a visit to Cliff Lake in Shasta. There, while watching a “king frog” from her canoe in the rain, Yod realized how tears and joy are the ultimate expression of love for life.
“You’re a rainbow — the rain and the sun at the same time,” Yod said. “It’s a bridge.”
Connecting with animals creates a whole other element of life, Alevizakis said.
“There are living signs all around us,” Alevizakis said. “Synchronicities are lovely.”
Yod said she feels as if she is in service of human’s spiritual potential, which is why her artistic focus is on real life, as opposed to still lifes and aesthetic rules.
“I share what I hear,” Yod said. “That’s why I’ve retreated from ‘the mission’ and just be more myself. What I see here is me. I create a space where I feel good, then people feel that, too.”
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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