Saturday, December 4, 2010

Creating Sacred Spaces - Medicine Wheel Productions

I'm just back from the American Craft Show NYC and
will share sights and impressions...but first want to
lift up Michael Dowling's Medicine Wheel installation
for World AIDS Day, December 1. Michael is an
artist of vision who believes in cooperative work
and community involvement. Medicine Wheel Productions
website gives a glimpse of his extraordinary vision and

For the past 19 years Michael along with many volunteers
has turned the Boston Center for the Arts' circular brick
building into a sacred space for a 24 hour vigil of memory,
sharing, and offerings of music, dance, and poetry.
The installations rotate focus on the four elements, earth,
air, fire and water. This year was fire. The image above
shows what greeted you as you walked up the stairs into
the cyclorama this year: self-portraits (of Michael's students)
carved into plywood, red ribbons, and shrines.

Each year the main element are the 36 pedestals with
shrines arranged in a large circle. Visitors are encouraged
to add photos or mementos to the shrines which are put
into the pedestals at the end of the vigil. The pedestals
contain 19 years of such memories and thoughts.

This year removable gray walls assembled inside the brick
walls were covered with black 1" mesh. Buckets of red ribbons
were set around as well as piles of red ribbon arranged
in the center of the space for people to cut into lengths.
Designs were started on the walls...but were added to
over the 24 hour AIDS ribbons shimmering
in the light holding the circular space.

Anyone could add their designs to the walls.

Over the 24 hours artists, musicians, and performers
share their work, food is served, and quiet conversation
and meditation takes place. I've attended the vigil every
year I've been in town since it began, have helped when I
could. Last year, I spent the entire 24 hours there. This
year I was there only a few connecting as always with a
small group of friends who celebrate another year of survival
of the daughter of a friend born HIV positive 21 years ago
and remembering my brother and so many other friends who
did not survive.

Michael works with many youth and in particular with
a group of young men in recovery. This year they created
these full clear body sculptures. They performed
with them early in the day - something I wish I had seen.
The sculptures are made of clear tape.. body part, by
body part and then taped together with some red ribbons
inserted inside. Simple materials, amazing result!

In our busy world it is often difficult to find venues
to share, stop and just breathe. Thanks to Medicine Wheel
Productions, I find a moment every Dec. 1.

Next week - New York show and New York moments.

Journey on! Wendy

1 comment:

  1. I have yet to attend a Medicine Wheel event at the Cyclorama but now that I know it happens every Dec. 1st I will put it in my calendar for next year. The tape figures were amazing. Such profound work from such simple and readily available materials! Art creations like these need to be put in visible store front and public spaces in every community.
    The opportunities for quiet communion are important as well. Thanks for sharing and for being an Artist with a capital A