Last month I was invited to China to join artists from around the world to paint on the subject of peace and transformation. The Miracle Mural project was located in Hua Quan Village, in the Jianxi province, in one of the largest art and cultural centers in the world. The village features stunning views of Dragon Tiger Mountain, which is a World Heritage Site recognized as the birthplace of Taoism. I was honored to be included in the ranks of the other world-class artists that participated in the creation of what will be a total of 100 murals around the village, 80 of which are now complete.
The plaque for my mural reads:
Nature is Home
Living in harmony – both with nature and each other – nourishes our well-being. The butterfly serves as a visual allegory as to how small, tender actions have a ripple effect that can transform the world. The blossoms symbolize the fragility of our human existence – and the power of love.
From the moment I was invited, I hoped that my meditation teacher, Roma Hammel, would join me on the adventure. It seemed fitting that an art project about peace and transformation should include my own unfolding towards peace and transformation as well.
I first connected with Roma about four years ago. I had started a daily meditation practice about a year earlier, and was feeling ready to take my practice to the next level. I was flipping through an Esalen catalog when a particular course caught my eye. In researching the teacher I discovered that we lived in the same town, and that she was hosting a satsang that week. It was the beginning of a regular practice that has led to a profound deepening of a felt sense of myself in my own being and as connected to fundamental consciousness. My time with Roma ranks consistently in the top ten of things I am most grateful for in my life.
In every sense of the word, Roma is a great teacher. As in, literally, "Teacher of the Year" great. She spent 30 years as a teacher at Los Altos High and developed English program curriculum that is still being used. She also served as AVID Coordinator, an internationally recognized program designed to prepare ethnic minority and/or low income high school students for success in four-year universities. With Roma, I feel like there are no dumb questions. Trust me, I have plenty. She keeps the pace just right so that there is neither boredom nor giving up. She is skilful at facilitating deep inquiry. Roma teaches a form of embodiment meditation based on Judith Blackstone's Realization Process. Every week is a unique, powerful experience for me. The caliber and commitment of the other students in the group is intimidating. On a typical week I feel totally out of my league but simultaneously experiencing profound interior resonance, so I continue to return. I am so grateful that Roma agreed to embark on a this China adventure with me!
We danced in the town square, a nightly village tradition. We meditated in sacred pagodas. I got sage advice on teenagers while walking a footbridge along the sheer cliff faces of Dragon Tiger Mountain. We giggled at our Chinese hosts attempts to serve a proper western style breakfast. And my artwork benefitted from her savvy contributions.
When she saw that I was not open to feedback about the map I was painting when I was up on the scaffold, she waited. That evening, after a hot shower and a fully belly, she broached the subject again.
“Morgan, maps are quite interesting. Did you know the map we typically use is distorted so the Northern countries all look larger? Here, look at this, this is what the world actually looks like.”
“Hmmm. That is interesting. But that map looks weird. Africa and South America look huge and misshapen because I am accustomed to the “Europe Central” map.”
“Morgan look at this, here is a map of the world from over the North Pole. This is an interesting perspective.”
“Yes, very interesting, Roma. But it’s kind of disorienting. I mean, it takes a bit longer for me to understand what I am looking at.”
“Take a look at this map, Morgan. When I look up New Zealand, it shows how our world map would look if China and the west coast of the U.S are at the center, instead of Europe.”
“Wow. Hey Roma, that is so cool! I'm having this great idea that maybe I should repaint my map tomorrow and put China and the U.S. at the center. I could even skew the U.S. and China a little closer, to enhance the perception of being neighbors. This would really improve the concept. Wow, I have the best ideas.”
I am grateful to Hua Quan Village founders for their mission and efforts to create a cultural destination celebrating art and inner transformation in such a sacred place. The village was co-founded by legendary music and film director Liu Jia Chang. Mr. Liu has composed over 2,000 songs and directed almost 100 films in the past 50 years. He has received three life-time achievement awards in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. In our conversations, I learned firsthand about the substantial resistance he has received from the Chinese government throughout his effort to bring his vision to life. This project has been over 5 years in the making. In a testament to the momentum the project now has, the local government offered up it's own real estate in support of the Miracle Mural Gallery project. The wall I painted on is actually the side of a government building. It faces the busiest intersection in the region, an ideal billboard and signage for the art village up the street. I love happy endings.
My favorite mural of the whole project might be the mural adjacent to my own, painted by a team of two women from Puerto Rico that call themselves Morivivi. The artwork communicates both vulnerability and power, and nails it on allegory, color and feel. It embodies both peace and transformation. It was a tough act to follow. The white panels to the right of the "Art Capital of the World" signage are being painted this week by an artist from the U.K.
I told Mr. Liu that for every project I have been a part of, there is someone who holds the vision for the transformation possible through art, despite the obstacles and resistance. This is the person who generously creates a container for the art and the artist to be their best. Art does not exist without art advocates such as Mr. Liu.
I am truly grateful for all the readers, cheerleaders, referrals, art advocates, friends and family who are helping me along this path. I am part of a beautiful web of support, and you are making my journey as an artist possible. Thank you.
More about the Murals
“The Miracle Mural Gallery aims to remind us that countless miracles occur in our everyday lives. It is only when we are able to stop in our tracks and appreciate the simplest things and the smallest gestures that we are able to find inner peace. When all our international artists came to this rustic countryside to complete this gallery, a true miracle occurred. It is our wish that these murals will inspire you to stop in the midst of your busy lives and take a moment to listen to your heart’s call. We believe that this single moment of resonance will have a deep and long lasting impact on you. Perhaps one day, miracles might begin to appear before your very eyes. It is when we experience this total transformation of the heart that we can come together as family and friends to make this world a better place."
Here are some of my personal favorites from the Miracle Mural Gallery: