Giovanna Cecchetti: The Consciousness of Infinite Goodness opened Sept. 27, 2014 at the Hunterdon Art Museum. In the first part of our interview, she discusses the inspiration behind her solo exhibition — which runs until Jan. 4, 2015 — and her work.
Question: Can you tell me about the title of the exhibition and how it relates to the work viewers will see?
Giovanna Cecchetti: To begin to answer your question about the exhibition’s title, I would say it begins with a story, though I will not tell the story here. What eventually led me to use the phrase The Consciousness of Infinite Goodness began in the Amazon jungle. Nothing odd about that, right? However very unexpected. In 2008 I was in the Peruvian jungle, under the guidance of a local medicine man, and it was this person who introduced me to Śiva, who is most known as the Hindu deity of destruction. Skipping over the details of the story (the details are in a book I am currently working on), and jumping to the present, this introduction compelled me to further investigate Śiva, which opened a new perspective to absolutely everything. I really mean everything.
OK, back to the title. I sometimes listen to podcasts while working in the studio. Swami
Satyananda Saraswati, of the Devi Mandir, has recorded some really beautiful teachings
on Hindu practices. In one of his lectures he defines Śiva: “Conceive in your mind the
ultimate goodness and when you have your picture of perfect goodness, infinite
goodness, then make it better. That is the beginning of the understanding of Śiva.” So in
fact, when we say Om Namah Śivaya, we are also saying “Om we bow to the
consciousness of infinite goodness.”
Just think of it; this concept of infinite goodness. Now how do I integrate this idea of
infinite goodness into an art-making practice.
Several of the works in the exhibition are obviously devoted to Śiva because of the text of
written Sanskrit mantra being so evident; in others the text of the mantra is more
embedded into the surrounding motifs. And in one particular work on paper, Om We Bow
to the Consciousness of Infinite Goodness (Shiva/Shakti), the phrase is clearly stenciled
into the design.
Q: I understand your work emerges from your spirituality, sacred geometry and your
study of other cultures. What made you decide to take your art in this direction?
GC: Hmmm . . . yes, I do have a spiritual practice, which provides an abundance of ideas, and
visionary experiences that show up as motifs in the work. I also spend much time in
solitude in the woods; listening to the wind, observing color and light, listening to birds
and such. One very important aspect of bringing these observations into the work is
synesthesia – especially with sound. I look through the forest of trees, leaves in shadow
and light, layers of branches receding endlessly into the distance – I can say observing a
forest taught me how to create layers in my work.
Several other interests I study also inform the imagery I use. Theories of quantum
physics, shamanism and its visionary realms of multi-dimensional journeying, time/space
patterns, non-local information theory, and morphic resonance offer metaphorical
As an artist, I really stay conscientious about not controlling or planning the direction the
work goes in. I have a very high regard for asking the question of what needs to be born
here? What does this painting, drawing, whatever, want to become. Because whatever I
make must have meaning, and affect others positively.
But I like dealing with implications. And every element within a work has its
implications on some level. When viewed from an integral perspective, inspirations
drawn from both exposure to and a falling-in-love with indigenous art, such as the
paintings of the Australian Aborigine people, and the embroideries of the Shipibo women
– I mean I get what they are showing us; visions of the world as seen from a very
different perspective compared to my growing up in the culture of the United States.
During the late 1990s I spent many hours examining the paintings of Aboriginal
Australian artists at the gallery Robert Steele had on West Broadway. Just walking
through the galleries filled with these dotted and dashed fields of color, well I could feel
these primal surges of energy emanating from them. I understood the stories, the terrain,
the creation-dreaming going on.
The art I was making c.2000 – 2004 was more zen-based. I was looking at a lot of
Chinese landscape and ink-brush paintings; listening to a lot of Philip Glass and John
Cage music. The series I worked on during that time I called Circle Meditations and
made many scroll-formatted paintings and works on paper.
Between 2004-2007 the work was more ethereal; kind of like philosophical
physics/holarchy/I-Ching period pieces I called Frequencies.
Everything shifted in 2008 when I took my first trip to South America and spent time in
the Amazon jungle. I mean really way out there in the jungle living in hammocks with
medicine men. The plants I was drinking connected me to ancient ways; I was in Shipibo
territory. The jungle amazed me; the sounds, spirits, animals, insects, plants and all found
their way into my work. Revisiting the Amazon in 2009 and 2010 deepened the
experience. Currently I am working on a book based on the writings and drawings of the
journals I kept during my time there.
Sacred geometry is most evident in the use of a motif called The Flower of Life,
especially in the series of small drawings Bedtime Stories and this pattern also shows up
in the large red painting Serpiente / Roha (Red / Serpent). I call this series Bedtime
Stories because they were made in bed during a time while I was in recovery from some
health related surgery; simple play using a compass. Though I never quite go all the way
to grow the whole Flower of Life pattern here, these drawings show portions of the
pattern with additions of off-shoot motifs. There is such a universal classical beauty,
simplicity, and harmony to be found in sacred geometry. Sacred geometry is about
proportions. Proportion, when one really looks, is the basis of how every living existence
on our planet grows. I find that awesome.