The Artist and Bali...
Ubud is supposedly the artist's mecca of Indonesia's Bali. Not only is it home to a thriving art community, it is also the home of a main character in the book/movie "Eat, Pray, Love" (so I hear). Though it sounds like the perfect place for a traveling art teacher to find herself while visiting the wild and whimsical island, I must admit that I never set foot in the town. Or more accurately, I never made it that far.
This, however, does not mean that I didn't get my "artist's fix" in Bali. On the contrary. Staring into the hideous faces of ancient characters carved into stone and letting my eyes drift up to the mist-shrouded volcano Agung, the gears of that artist corner of my brain were constantly spinning. Everywhere I turned, there was an image of someone ancient and half-real - someone frozen from the words of story-tellers into the now still statues that adorn the cities of Bali. Thinking about these quiet citizens, I can almost smell the incense that burned at their feet, put there by devout Hindus two or three times a day. The people of Bali make these characters seem alive, as though there are glassy eyes buried beneath the stone, and real ivory fangs growing from curled lips.
And just as ever-present was that enormous green shadow: the volcano Agung. I wondered if its furious fires served as inspiration for the monstrous characters of the statues: evil spirits of sorts, somehow revealing their anger through the thunderous growling of a volcano. Or perhaps, deities who had come to call the volcano their home. They seemed connected.
I spent most of my time observing these things from a town not too far from Ubud called Amed. The town is tiny and the people are genuine, still fairly unaffected by the growing tourism in Bali. Their fear of the spirits is real. Their respect and pride for the volcano is real. As ancient as it all seems, these feelings still swim and throb in the people of Bali. Every now and then I stopped to talk with the locals about their rich beliefs.
It fascinated me and I could not leave. My two-day plan turned into a 10-day stay, leaving no time for Ubud. I listened and watched, and thought about how my own environment back home could be transformed into enchanting characters, just like Bali's environment has inspired countless statues and figures seen around every corner and at every temple. Somewhere deep in Bali's history the awe of a volcano began to manifest itself in the shapes displayed in temples. Perhaps the other elements of Bali's striking beauty also began to manifest themselves in the form of faces and figures.
The artist in me wonders what my fears and feelings of awe look like. What faces do they have? Perhaps one day I too will freeze these feelings into tangible images. Is that not, in part, what being an artist is about?
Caroline Yoder Macomber is the Arts Editor for Wandering Educators. She is traveling the world soaking up all that each culture and wilderness can offer. You can find more of her musings at www.carolinetakesflight.wordpress.com or tap into the thoughts she has to share with children learning about their world at www.connecttheclass.wordpress.com.
All photos courtesy and copyright Caroline Yoder Macomber