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.

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