This method came to me when I was looking for a way to merge art and yoga. During this time, my father was dying. Everyone who has lost a loved one knows how the mind obsessively confronts loss. I was saying to myself, ‘I am breathing. I have this moment.’ But then, that breath is gone, and there’s no record of it. So I started recording my breathing; one breath, one line, one breath, one line.
If you’ve been to a yoga class with a knowledgeable yoga teacher, they’ll instruct you to move with the breath. I pace the movement to match the breath, and move according to the breath and range of motion in my arm. I focus my attention on the physical action and on the energy of the breath. Working this way allows me to be meditative, and to construct a physical and visual bridge to the breath, as I record my breathing meditation and as I paint one line per one breath.
“Breathing Meditation” is made with oak gall ink. It’s the ink that was used from the 1100s to the 1900s in manuscripts and civil documents. It was known as ‘common ink.’ I make the ink from crushed oak galls and iron sulfate. I use this ink with a wide flat brush.
When I paint or draw on 24-foot long mulberry paper scrolls, it’s rolled up, only a sliver of paper exposed. Keeping the scroll rolled up is part of my method. It’s easier to handle, and protects the paper. More importantly, the rolled up paper conceals the progress of the image and prevents me from being distracted by the outcome. The breath, the physicality of the experience in the present moment is transferred to the paper without censorship.
Theresa Antonellis is the Director of the Gault Art Gallery at Slippery Rock University, where she teaches Art History. She earned her MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she was the Director of the Union Art Gallery. Ms. Antonellis graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She earned a dual degree in studio arts and art history and served as the Curatorial Assistant at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Ms. Antonellis worked with the curator to research departmental campus collections including cuneiforms, historic clothing, rare books, and archival materials as well as historical scientific instruments. This project formed the basis for grants to preserve these collections, bring them to attention of the faculty, and put them to use in the liberal arts curriculum. Ms. Antonellis attended Vermont Studio Center artists’ residency in two consecutive years, 2014 and 2015. Her artwork has been exhibited at universities and colleges in New England and New York. Ms. Antonellis’ drawing and painting of breath-generating marks using body centered meditations, culminates in organic abstractions that mark the time experienced in meditation and locate the space between body and mind, between the natural and the abstract.
Learn more about the artist at www.theresaantonellis.com