Sunday, November 13, 2011

Demonstrating Fusionart in the Inland Empire

Last Wednesday afternoon, November 9th, I was invited to do a paid demonstration at the Hemet Valley Art Association, attended by 40-50 members and fellow artists. This was my first demonstration in front of a large group, and I had no idea what to expect. Since the audience was unfamiliar with Fusionart, Richard and I agreed that he would give a few introductory remarks to prepare them for what they were about to see. This allowed me to focus on painting and stay in my creative zone. He began by showing them two of my earlier oil paintings (a realistic still life and an impressionist seascape) we had brought along to illustrate my evolution as an artist. He then showed them a piece I had recently finished. They seemed impressed because it established in their minds that I can paint well in traditional styles they are accustomed to, and helped them to understand that I had become a Fusionartist because it opened the door for me to paint fully from my heart and express my spirit with complete freedom. After some brief comments on the uniqueness and relevance of Fusionart and its insight into the nature of creativity, Richard started the music on my portable ipod dock and I began to paint.

Within five minutes we could feel the energy shift as the room became silent, focused on what I was doing as the painting emerged. I was applying paint with rags, paper towels, brushes from Home Depot and my fingers as many Fusionartists do. This was new to a lot of the members of the audience, and gave them a sense of the spontaneous nature of Fusionart. There was a coffee break after 45 minutes or so because the canvas had become too wet for me to continue. During the break, I was able to talk informally with a number of people. Their comments were all positive. There were appreciative remarks about the freedom of expression. Several audience members were attracted by the synchronicity of the music and painting, which was apparently new to them. Others sensed the spiritual overtones of the work, and were drawn to that. One woman even sang part of the song “Stairway to the Stars” to me because that is what came to her when she looked at my painting. I was also asked to judge a competition (another first for me) in which members of the association submitted their work. After the break, I worked mainly with brushes on greater detail for another half hour or so. Throughout the demonstration, I could hear cameras clicking as people recorded the progress on the canvas. I was pleased that I was able to stay in my creative zone even with all those people watching. A number of people told me how happy they were to be exposed to something new, some even found the demonstration “thrilling.”

There has been much positive fallout for Fusionart in general and me in particular. There have been 5 articles in the local press about my exhibit at the Banning Center for the Arts as well as this demonstration. There were 2 articles in the largest local newspaper, the Press Enterprise. A few days ago, to my amazement, I even received a letter from our California State Senator, Bill Emerson, (I had no idea who he was) congratulating me for being featured in the Press Enterprise and commending me for my “outstanding talent and commitment to the community”. More important for me is that 4 people signed up for the 3hr workshop on Fusionart painting I will lead in my home at the beginning of December. (4 is the maximum I can handle at one time). All in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to expose more people to Fusionart as a “satellite” in the Inland Empire.
Finished demonstration painting, Cycle of the Soul, 30" x 24"


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Join Me!

I hope you will be able to join me at the Banning Center for the Arts on October 22nd for the Artist Reception of my current exhibit (see flyer). Fall is starting out with a bang. New possibilities and opportunities are popping up. Movement, positive change is in the air. The world is sick of being stuck. The cries for a whole new approach are getting louder. People have had it. We are now more and more connected electronically, but less and less connected emotionally. The constant bombardment of information, mostly unnecessary, and nonstop busyness is destroying our inner stillness. We are more than extensions of our machines, more than puppets for politicians and corporations to manipulate. We need to find a way back to ourselves. That path home leads through our hearts, where our real strength lies. When we lose our connection with our inner selves, we lose our connection with each other as well. We are no longer whole; we have lost our inner compass, our sense of the deeper meaning and value of life. We need to turn down the volume of our minds until we can hear our unique inner voices, the source of our creativity and connection with the universe. Let’s learn to live our lives by surrounding ourselves with whatever we have created out of love. If it is in your heart to paint, for instance, soaring colors will bring you more joy than another techno toy. As more and more people rediscover their creativity and find the courage to express their truth to each other in whatever medium, the planet will begin to come back into balance and the downward spiral will be reversed. True transformation can then take place. My mission as a Fusionartist is to live my life creatively and to share my heart, my soul and my imagination with others through the fusion of painting. We can all become Fusionartists by simply keeping our hearts open, realizing that creativity is our essence, and letting it shine through whatever we do. Join me!

-Rickey Hoefnagel

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Studio in the Stars

Impressions of the First Rassouli Open Studio
Richard Buntin

Rassouli’s first Open Studio evening for Fusionartists was an event my wife Rickey and I had been eagerly looking forward to since receiving our “e-vite” 10 days ago. An invitation to Rassouli’s studio is a rare honor. The occasion was described simply as a “friendly gathering of Fusionartists to have fun and sharing.” The Rassoulis’ home and his separate studio are a secluded sanctuary, tucked away on a hillside high above the bustling San Fernando Valley. Walking up the long driveway one enters a world where beauty, love and joy not only survive but thrive. Protected by throngs of towering trees that give the impression of a sacred grove, it is deeply enchanting and peaceful. The love of beauty, spiritual sensitivity and the refined enjoyment of life are apparent in every detail, from the architecture, which flawlessly fuses Middle Eastern and Mediterranean elements, to the ancient statues and Italian Cypress surrounding the circular driveway to the mosaic tiles of the swimming pool. In short, it is the ideal soil for creativity to flourish.

We were among the first to arrive shortly after 6pm. The light, spacious, self-contained studio is a seamless synthesis of beautiful design and practical function. As we crossed the threshold, a powerful energy was palpable. It seemed to emanate not only from the large easel standing in the center of the room under a skylight, but also from the breathtaking paintings covering every wall. It is a cathedral of creative power. A table displayed an enticing array of delicious cheese, fruit, crackers and slices of cake. Bottles of wine and other beverages were lined up on the counter behind the table. The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming in the Middle Eastern tradition of gracious hospitality. The tempo of the evening became livelier as about two dozen guests eventually arrived, primarily members of the Fusionart community. The room constantly hummed with the rising buzz of conversation and outbursts of laughter. The intoxication from the energy in the studio was much stronger than any effects of alcohol. It is so liberating, and so creatively stimulating, to be in an environment where it is safe to be open and loving.

Around 9pm, I would guess, we all began migrating spontaneously to the large patio between the kitchen of the house and the dense vegetation on the hillside. A huge shade tree stands in the middle of the patio. We arranged our chairs in a large circle underneath it, enjoying the mild night air. A harpist, Karen, had come to play for us. She is a colleague of Gitty, Rassouli’s wife, who uses the harp as a form of therapy. Listening to the heavenly chords, we floated up through the thick branches and lacy leaves into the moonlit sky. Our reverie was interrupted, however, by the delivery of several large pizzas, which were surprisingly light and tasty. During the pizza break, Rassouli asked me if I would recite some poetry. With Karen softly strumming her harp, I read by candlelight a rendition I had written of a Rumi Divan. Felix followed with one of his poems. Rassouli then shared with us an invocation poem by Hafiz, which he read twice in English and once in Farsi. As the beauty of Hafiz’ words penetrated our hearts, in my imagination the evening had magically transformed itself into a gathering of Sufis around a campfire in the desert, guarded by an army of angels winking at us from the endless canopy of stars.

When I looked at my watch, the time had flown by, and it was already 11:30. Much as we would have liked to stay with the Rassoulis till the wee hours, as some may well have done, we had a long drive home and it was time to say good night. When I thanked Gitty, who had been such an extraordinary, attentive hostess, she told me that my face was glittering while I was reading. I assumed she was using poetic language, or perhaps she was able to see my aura. When we arrived home, I noticed tiny specs of sparkle dust embedded in Rickey’s face, and I realized that what Gitty had said was literally true. I can still see a few flecks on Rickey after several days even though she has washed her face regularly. We have no idea when or how it happened. It remains a charming mystery, and perhaps a material symbol of the evening.

All in all, it was a heart-filling, soul-satisfying evening, which certainly served to strengthen the sense of friendship and community among the Fusionartists who attended. In addition, for artists like Rickey who are very sensitive to energy, simply being physically present and absorbing the energy of Rassouli’s studio for several hours has been very valuable. I already see new growth in her as an artist.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Magic in the Mountains

Impressions of a Fusionart Retreat
May 20-22, 2011

Fusionartist Rickey Hoefnagel
as told to
Richard Buntin

That familiar feeling, a mixture of excitement, longing and anticipation, grew as we wound our way through the San Bernardino Mountains along the Rim of the World Highway to the Pali Mountain Retreat and Conference Center for a 3 day Fusionart Retreat led by Rassouli, the internationally acclaimed visionary artist and founder of Fusionart. I knew that this would be another extraordinary weekend of painting and poetry, music and dancing, talking and laughing around the campfire and over meals.
A cool breeze and clear sunshine kissed our cheeks as we stepped out of the car. We breathed in the crisp, fresh air. Surrounded by the timeless strength and beauty of the fir and pine trees, with vistas of mountains as far as the eye could see, the serenity of this spot was a perfect backdrop for creative magic to occur.

The two dozen participants arrived by late Friday afternoon. A large, light room in a rustic building with wooden decks overlooking the forest had been converted into our studio. The walls held our energy, while the sights and sounds of Nature flowed freely through the open doors and windows. Everyone gathered in the studio for the first time, sitting in a circle on folding chairs. Rassouli began by introducing what sounded like a contradiction: creation is destruction. He explained that nobody creates anything. Creativity is the process of destroying whatever is blocking our creative energy. When we destroy, surrender, let go of these obstacles, the innate wellspring of creative energy we all have overflows naturally and effortlessly from the heart, free of the limitations and attachments of the ego, in a state that is playful and powerful simultaneously. Rassouli then asked that each of us say something about why we had come. As we went around the circle, I felt an expansive, loving energy infuse the studio as if to bless our retreat.

Eating meals together around a large dining room table is one of the ways we get to know each other, create friendships and maintain our connection throughout the retreat. The flow of conversation frequently shifts from the profound to the hilarious. This is also true of the gatherings around the fire pit on the patio behind the dining hall after dinner. Friday night was chilly, and we were grateful for the blazing fire. We watched the sky slowly progress into night’s mystery as the sun set over the mountains. The group was invited to share, and several people read their poetry. Others offered stories about how their experience as Fusionartists had added a whole new perspective and purpose to their lives.

Rassouli gave an assignment for those of us who chose to return to the studio and paint that evening: destroy your canvas and in the process release any negative emotions you may have brought with you to the retreat. Kelly described the creative chaos that followed: “…we splashed paint in every which way, with every color, with brushes, rags, fingers, and even elbows, while dancing wildly to salsa music.” Gary, who had been experiencing a very frustrating conflict at work, attacked his canvas furiously. The thick, bright red spattered across his black canvas, accentuated by embedded objects, perfectly expressed his anger.

Laura, on the other hand, had less emotional baggage to unpack. Although she had never painted before, she found herself painting until 4am. Her friends urged her to stop and go to bed, but she was having so much fun and had become so involved with her canvas that she couldn’t stop. My experience was much the same. When the music began it awakened such happiness in me that I easily let go of illusory difficulties and became drawn to warm, soft colors. Absorbed in creative play, I will paint for hours in a meditative state with no sense of time. During this period I had a deep feeling of a Blissful Encounter
with beings in a realm of love and beauty that soothed and refreshed my soul.

I couldn’t wait to get back to my easel the next morning because I kept seeing a particular shade of blue/green, accompanied by a silent cry from within. After a riveting, impromptu demonstration by Rassouli, I began my second canvas listening to the soaring music of Kitaro. When I realized I was not sure how to go further, I became aware that Rassouli was standing behind me. I told him that I was feeling stuck, and he simply said that I could develop more contrast by adding a darker color. In doing this, I noticed a figure begin to appear with arms outstretched. I realized that the cry I felt was one of compassion for all those struggling to create a better world by Reaching Higher.

While taking a break, my eye was drawn to the subtle tones of blue on Bebe’s canvas surrounding a central figure perhaps entering a dimension of intense light. She had had a breakthrough in painting Destruction Precedes Renewal which she explained this way: “I was painting gleefully when Rassouli suggested I do something completely foolish – like throwing black paint all over the canvas. That’s when my symbolic renewal started.” This is how Rassouli guides the energy throughout the retreat. He does it intuitively and immediately in the moment. He does not give instruction per se, but he helps us to trust ourselves enough to let go and release our own creative power. He senses what each artist needs, and often it is the opposite of what the artist thinks he or she needs.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Fusionart retreats is the way the group bonds and the energy builds throughout the weekend. The music played continuously during the painting sessions is carefully chosen by Rassouli to take Fusionartists beyond the rational mind and open the heart. People respond spontaneously to the contagious joy of the music. Late Saturday afternoon, StellaMaris, who had been painting quietly near me, unexpectedly began singing so sweetly in her native Spanish that I thought I was hearing an enchanting angel. Her sister, Graciela, joined in the song. This awakened the Cuban blood in Felix, who started dancing with Graciela. Others swayed gently in front of their easels as they continued to paint, while some of us clapped in unison to the music. As Graciela said, “We completely surrendered to our space.” She was referring to both the inner and the outer space, which had become one.

Since the mission of Fusionart is to enhance creativity in all aspects of life, Rassouli enjoys bringing creative synergy to Fusionart retreats. We were privileged to have Kelly Sullivan Walden, the “dream doctor”, join us as a retreat participant and share with us her expertise and passion in dream work. Kelly spoke to us of the great value in the mystery of our dreams, particularly the “scary” ones, and the ways we can use our dreams to grow and reach our full potential as human beings. She explained how, among the Native American Iroquois and the aboriginal Senoi of Malaysia, individual dreams are often considered to affect the tribe as a whole. They may indicate a future direction, or they may present a challenge. To the extent that the dreamer is able to understand, accept and resolve the issue portrayed in the dream with the help of the tribe, this will benefit the entire tribe. Saturday evening Kelly led the group in a “dream theatre,” which is essentially a conscious reenactment of a dream. John bravely volunteered a disturbing dream which was reenacted, in an improvised fashion, by other Fusionartists he chose. I played the sun. This was a powerful experience for many in the group, and John found it helpful

Over breakfast Sunday a few of us had a fascinating conversation with Rassouli about the modern creation myth he is developing. This ignited my imagination and I began reworking an old canvas I had brought with me. Letting the music take me away again, I became immersed in imagery of primordial life forms evolving and gradually emerging from darkness to become transformed over eons of time into enlightened human beings. A feeling of awe came over me as I painted, and I bowed inwardly to the Source, eternally creating on an infinitely vast scale far beyond our comprehension. I titled this painting, Spiritual Alchemy.

Although we never discussed it, alchemy is also present in Carole’s vision of a journey which inspired her painting, Fusion Heart. She described the dramatic climax of the journey: “He (Rassouli) offered us a gift. It was the gift of alchemy. I saw a copper pot with rainbows of color and light inside. In the rhythm of unity of one heart we each dipped into the pot and began covering ourselves and the walls of the dark chambers with a vibrant prismatic light. The heart – Our Fusion Heart - became like a diamond of light and we became the rays of light shining into the universe.”

Usually the last activity is to review the works produced at the retreat. They often reveal tremendous artistic growth, even over the 3 day period. Each artist is encouraged to discuss the feeling process motivating the painting rather than technique. The rest of the group and Rassouli then offer comments on the feeling of the pieces. The atmosphere is very positive and supportive, which makes for a satisfying and fun finale.

The retreat is also a catalyst for deeper self understanding. StellaMaris’ experience reminded her of Santiago’s quest in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: “Every moment had a golden quality for me...It was like finding your personal legend.” Sylvia wrote this about what the retreat meant for her: “Realizing that the lightness of being is to merge with that love that creates all life, and only through innocent playfulness can this amazing energy exchange flow. It is that simple indeed. I wonder why I often so stubbornly try to block it since all that I want is experiencing this love… Being able to share vulnerability in such a safe and caring environment brings an awareness of unity with all that is.” A Fusionart retreat is about much more than painting. It provides us with a practical experience of the way creative energy can transform individuals and build communities. It teaches us that our lives truly can be beautiful, joyous and free.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sun Lakes Art Show

Last Saturday, March 19th, I was invited to exhibit at the Sun Lakes Art League. This was a wonderful opportunity to introduce fusionart, which was quite a contrast to the traditional works which dominated the art show. Most had never heard of fusionart and were very curious to know what fusionart is. Putting it as simply as I could, I told them that fusionart is the language of the heart. It has no preconceived rules or limitations. Instead, it arises naturally from the infinite creativity and imagination of our spirit when it is allowed to express itself. The heart and its creativity are what needs to be restored to our culture and all aspects of our lives. A number of attendees were able to connect with the feeling of the paintings. A group of Japanese visitors stood in front of the paintings for some time, discussing the paintings with animation. They were clearly fascinated with the fusionart approach. The owner of a local gallery was very drawn to one of my paintings, Earth and Sky, and asked if I would like to exhibit there. Another gentleman, who was moved by the freedom and inner vision expressed in the work, took the photo aboved.