A CAVA Interview with Morgan Mandala by Seth Snowden.
This article is put forth as a prayer of inspiration and understanding, to all that may come in contact with it. May the truth of our expressions come through with purity and unified coherence. May the words fall gracefully into their proper placement.
Morgan “Mandala” Manley has great passion for her art and the fields that surround her practice as a visionary artist. This conversation covers a range of personal information spanning from studio practice and technique, to more philosophical and society-based views on the progression of the soul, the purpose and value of art, and aspirations for healing.
Atop her spreading popularity as a live painter, Morgan is often showing her work in galleries. The most recent show, “Eternal Mortality” at Denver’s Knew Conscious Gallery, displayed an elaborate collection of her work over the past year and a half, including featured collaborations with Randal Roberts.
Concerning the concept and name for the stunning show, Morgan offered the following text as her testimony:
“I chose the name ‘Eternal Mortality’ because I wanted to play with the idea of a never-ending phenomenon… Most of my paintings have things like skulls which represent mortality, but also life. The Trinity painting shows the cycle of life from birth to death back to birth, and almost all the other paintings express a general idea of change/transformation and beginnings with connected endings or cycles. I also thought it was a nice phrase to make people think a bit.”
Morgan has a unique way of speaking, jumping from the personal, to the general, to the transcendental. This introduces a refreshing perspective on the way we identify with the arts and creation as a whole. She considers how we can release the strict identification with our individual being so we can focus our thoughts and heart-felt efforts on the greater scope of community and our species at large.
Within this light of becoming increasingly more universally-identified, it is wise to still honor this individual self: our personal body and mind, for all its troubles, aspirations, and reflections. Balance is always a key factor in any practice, and really in any field of life in general. The more we can observe where we have come from and where we are going, the more the light of “all that is” shines through those very actions.
Morgan emphasizes a keen difference between the art and the artist. When inquired of her personal role as an “artist”, the following ensued:
MM–One of the biggest challenges is figuring out what is your artist statement? We make paintings so we don’t necessarily have to write or talk. My goal would be to make an image that can speak to the largest amount of people possible, and have them all interpret it a similar way, or at least get something from it that is meaningful… kind of goes back to why I think I was so interested in studying different primordial cultures and their imagery, and their similarities with each other. Even though they were in opposite parts of the world, many cultures where using the same or similar symbols to mean the same thing. And so I feel like there’s something to that, there’s something to imagery being able to communicate something that words aren’t able to, in a more complete way. I think that’s what a lot of visionary art, especially, tries to do, or it at least tries to show some type of feeling.
SS–Beyond this expression of your artist statement, could you shed more light on your intention as a painter as of recent?
MM– So many layers of reasons are involved in making art. From the beginning I do it because I’ve always drawn, it’s kind of an addiction, and that is a big part of its core. I’ve always felt like I need to draw something… it’s almost like this circle, you get the feedback of how it affects people, and that feeds again into your creation process. You think “Why am I interested in these ideas?” after having already put them out on display to the world. It all gets mixed up in how you boil it down to one thing.
Really my intentions are to inspire and unite people, that’s why I choose the ideas and imagery that I do, uniting us as a human race, all of our archetypes. Just creating the idea of opening people up to it, that we are all one human race. There’s only so much effect your art can do for that, Like Randal (Roberts) says “We’re not going to single handedly change the world” but sharing our love, of painting, life, Alan Watts, the mother goddess archetype, whatever, is inspiration. It’s all we can do really, and it’s something that’s peaceful, that’s not hurting anyone. So your life kind of ends up there. The artist, like everyone else, is beautiful, you can watch them go through life and their triumphs, their learning, and their struggles.
At our highest point it’s our gift to the world, our creation, it’s our hope for what we think the world can be and what we think the world is. It’s not like the artist is always that perfect Buddha they paint just because they painted it. It’s their wish, it’s their hope, it’s their vision for… us, for the world, so that’s at the root of it. And then we hope we can sell a painting or two and pay rent *laughs* crossing our fingers in the back. Hope that it sustains itself so we can keep on creating. But on some level you’d be doing it anyways, that’s what I always say, “it’s hard to be a painter but I’d be doing it anyways,” so I might as well go for it, try to get better.
SS—Symbols present themselves as important elements in your work, could you touch more upon your relationships with symbolism?
MM– Symbols: pyramids; eyes; can mean so many things, depending on your scope. The biggest problem with words is there’s all these different associations, I feel like at least imagery can break it down to a point, all depending on how you depict it. It’s a little easier with images, at least, to give a feeling.
Through studies of different ancient cultures/religious philosophy/art history… I was inspired to work with symbols and simple things, mandalas and color, color vibrational theory. So all these ideas eventually circulated me into finding visionary art. I wasn’t exposed to “Visionary Art” until after I started really painting mandalas and I went to Sea of Dreams in 2007, I got to actually see Martina Hoffmann and Robert Venosa live painting, and encountered the first visionary gallery I had ever seen in my life. I didn’t know anything like this existed or could exist, I was totally changed.
I kind of had a breakdown earlier that year, “Nobody really understands my art here, what is it doing? There’s people painting portraits and what is that!?!…” So then I found this “Visionary Art” and I was just blown away. I started to research into it a little more. When I finally got out of college I got to explore some more ancient cultures, went to Peru, brought it back to want I really wanted to do, which was combine geometries, these ancient symbols that all these cultures had discovered, that are related to our molecular structures and life in general, with more naturalistic things. Kind of brings all these things together. So when I started doing that, my art was labeled more visionary.
SS—You have mentioned Vibrational Color Theory in previous interviews, can you speak more of your understanding of these studies?
MM–There are a lot of experiments done that monitor people as they’re being exposed to colored light, studying things like blood pressure and activity of different organs, your temperature. Light wavelength, just like sound, affects you. Green is the middle, kind of the reset. Something like red gets your heart beat up, and your blood pressure up. Sometimes too much red can lead to feeling overwhelmed or claustrophobic. It gets really interesting when you start looking how to weave them together, like the percentage of green to red. You could put a little magenta/pink with green to get the benefits of all of those colors together.
So basically I strive for healing in my work by combining color with geometry to create balances to realign certain wavelengths in your body, whether it’s relating to chakras, or the heart, growth and regeneration. I use colors to relate to different parts of the body, and to have a cleansing and calming effect. That’s how I applied it, it’s more about the proportions, of colors to each other, and the effects on the body, and how that’s combined with geometry.
SS–From your viewpoint, is there a difference between painting for healing yourself personally and painting intended towards healing for the community? Do you use your own body as an instrument to measure how it will affect the community? Is there any difference between the two?
MM– I think every painter just basically tries to do the best they can, every painting is for you and for everyone. Our hope is obviously for the best, the best for people out there, but we also do it for ourselves. That’s the special thing about mandalas, is they are these beautiful things made from this self-healing practice. So you put it out there with hope, and let that be enough.
SS–What is a “Positive change” in the people?
MM–I think it could be anything, it is up to that person. Maybe a positive change is it just made them feel really good, or they relate to it in some way, or it made a dream they had more clear, or they like that color blue, brings understanding, or even they just like that one little brushstroke. Even if it’s just a little impact, like that one good wave length of sound that hits you and makes you feel good. If it can do any little good thing, than that’s it, I’m happy.
SS–In our community, I’ve heard the word “channeling” thrown around a lot. Would you view yourself as a channel?
MM–Channeling is an interesting word, just because it has a lot of interesting connotations. I like to think of it as just being an open space for something to come through. In preparing for paint sessions, to better become that open space, I’ve done a lot of different things, like at least a few breaths, or lighting palo santo, something like that just to set my time, like “ok, this is the ritual beginning, now I start painting”. At times you have to clean everything and prepare yourself to really dive in. Sometimes you’ll be painting for three hours, struggling, before you get into the space where you notice that your thoughts aren’t blocking your brushstrokes, you’re not worried about getting up and getting something to drink, you’re focused. That’s when we are open to anything to tap in.
You could hear “work over here right quick” or “make a white line there”, or you bump something and a color gets on there and you stand back and are like “oh my God” with excitement. Working through the hard part in the beginning, ‘cause there’s always that hard part, not judging, and really setting a little ritual for yourself, can help you open you up into that space where something else might influence you and you don’t even know what it is. Some people might call that channeling.
SS– Final words to those interested in your craft?
MM– I think everyone should create art at some point. Draw or scribble on a piece of paper and not judge themselves for what it looks like. The artist creates their message from all the things that they have experienced, it is their gift and their child, it’s a whole birthing process. It’s really worth it to look at every brushstroke, you can understand a lot about a person from that. I think the coolest thing about art is that everyone’s is different. There’s no one that makes art in the world that isn’t the most beautiful thing ever seen to someone. Creation is something to do for yourself, to feel open and to feel free.