Artist Gemma Danielle infuses reiki energy into mandala drawings at Skye Gallery
Special to The Aspen Times
IF YOU GO …
What: Gemma Danielle, “This Is Beautiful Because You Are Beautiful”
Where: Skye Gallery, 535 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen
When: July 20 – Sept. 15; opening reception July 20, 6-9 p.m.
More info: skyegalleryaspen.com
Gemma Danielle’s mandala art is an extension of her reiki practice, but you don’t have to be steeped in spiritual beliefs to receive the beneficial energy she’s transmitting through her artwork.
“There’s an unconscious transmission that sparks something within someone who sees the work,” said the self-taught artist and master instructor of reiki, a form of energy healing.
Danielle’s solo exhibition of 11 mandala drawings opens Saturday at the Skye Gallery in Aspen. Throughout the show, which runs through Sept. 15, she plans to offer events to further the connection between her art and her practice — such as a mandala workshop and a sonic reiki journey.
A graphic designer by training, which gave her a strong foundation in proportion and ratio, Danielle started drawing to relieve her own stress after long days at work at a Denver firm. She had been taught reiki, a practice that immediately and deeply resonated, and her first mandala “came out” after receiving a reiki healing.
Over time, explained Danielle, her drawings began to impact others. She sold out her first solo show in 2012, and then a second.
“As I was practicing reiki more and more, the work was becoming more and more profound, and I started to understand that my real art is the experience of the work, not the work itself,” she said.
Danielle eventually left her graphic design job, and after years of sitting at a computer all day, she wanted to prove the power of human hands — that there’s real magic in them when one uses focused intention to create.
Beginning with a circle drawn with a compass she builds herself, Danielle uses a ruler only for the underlying grid of the mandala, then free-draws the rest. With her art acting as a medium for the reiki energy, the lines she draws — and the spaces between them — are manifestations of her thoughts, prayers and mantras. And if they waver (as they all do if one looks closely) that’s the essence of being human, she said.
“Each mandala is completely unique,” said Danielle. “It’s based on a geometry that’s unique, and that reflects all of us: We’re based on the same proportions, the same ratios, but every human is completely unique.”
Asked what it is about symmetry and geometry that can be soothing or therapeutic, Danielle replied that it reflects the language of nature. Patterns, symmetry and geometric shapes are ubiquitous in nature — think about the veins of leaves, many types of flowers, hexagonal honeycombs and the swirl of a snail’s shell. But it’s more than just a shape.
“The feeling of peace and calm and energy that we feel when we’re looking at geometry is the same energy that nature gives us, when we’re standing barefoot on the earth or smelling a rose or witnessing the miracle of birth,” she said. “And I’m learning mandala by mandala to speak this language.”
The pieces on display at the Skye Gallery, titled “This Is Beautiful Because You Are Beautiful,” are works that Danielle created to be mirrors of self-love and self-empowerment, she said — tools that help us choose those values, which in turn can benefit those around us.
“If we all truly loved being human on this planet and found the true essence of joy every day, this world would be such a beautiful place,” she explained.
Danielle is not finished learning some of these things herself. The mother of a toddler, she’s still on a learning curve when it comes to balancing her “two loves,” she said. The Skye exhibition is her first in five years, and the ideal place for it, she said, because her dear friend and gallery owner Skye Weinglass has done a lot for women in the arts. The gallery, in the 13 months it’s been open, has provided a forum for prominent Aspen-based artists like Ajax Axe and Jody Guralnick, as well as national figures like Ashley Longshore, Mister Michelle and curator Danielle Krysa.
So, what’s next? A student of cultures around the world, Danielle is working on performance pieces that reference indigenous tribe practices and are coupled with sonic experiences: “I want to do my work on a larger scale with just as much refinement.”
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